World Tour Soccer 2006 First Impressions

We get our first look at Sony's next EyeToy-compatible soccer title.

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At a recent SCEA press event, we were afforded our first look at the recently announced World Tour Soccer 2006, which is currently in development at SCEE's London Studio. We'll bring you hands-on impressions of the game in the near future, but right now we want to tell you about the presentation on the game that we were given, the primary focus of which was its new EyeToy functionality.

Plot points are used to map your face onto the 3D model correctly.

World Tour Soccer 2006 won't be played with the EyeToy camera, of course, but the peripheral will let you put your own likeness (and those of up to 10 of your friends as well) into the game more quickly and effectively than any conventional editing tool. To substitute yourself for one of the game's existing 19,000-plus players, all you need are two snapshots: one of you looking straight at the EyeToy camera and a second one of the side of your head. To make getting the shots easier, the EyeToy will actually record around 100 frames of footage as you look at it and then slowly turn your head to one side. Once this footage is recorded, you'll be able to go through it frame by frame to select the least goofy shots for your in-game doppelgänger.

With your two photos selected, your next task will be to place a number of markers on different areas of your face to ensure that it gets skinned on to the 3D head model correctly. This is a surprisingly simple process that requires you to mark about a dozen key features, such as the corners of your mouth, your eyes, the end of your nose, your earlobes, and suchlike, with "plot points." The results that the "EyeToy Cameo Creator" came up with during our demonstration were actually quite impressive, although it appeared that the lighting in our demonstration room wasn't conducive to realistic flesh tones when the snapshots were taken. The most impressive thing about the EyeToy functionality is undoubtedly that, like the rest of the players in World Tour Soccer 2006, your doppelgänger will boast a number of different facial animations designed to reflect emotions, such as disgust, joy, sadness, anger, and rage (as well as let you wink at the crowd). The quality of said animations was actually pretty good, and we imagine that younger players in particular will get a real kick out of seeing themselves playing alongside their favorite teams.

You won't like this guy when he's angry.

For the remainder of our demonstration, the SCEA representative talked mostly about improvements that are being made to last year's World Tour Soccer game, which will purportedly include much more realistic, "unpredictable," and "unscripted" artificial intelligence. Perhaps the most interesting feature discussed, though, was the new challenge mode...in which you'll be awarded points based on your playing style. You'll then be able to post your highest scores on an official Web site. We've not yet had a chance to try out the challenge mode, but it appears that you'll be rewarded for passing the ball a lot, in addition to retaining possession of it and not fouling the opposition.

World Tour Soccer 2006 is currently scheduled for release in North America on March 22. Expect some hands-on impressions of the game in the near future.

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