Football, not soccer as our loveable US friends like to call it, is the name of the game. I love football, I can't miss a game even if it's not my team playing. I have played almost all management games from the highly accurate but very slow Championship Manager to this, the latest incarnation in the Football Management simulation, Player Manager 2000.
The aim of the game is to take your team to the top. Now this may sound quite easy, but its possibly the hardest thing you will ever do, if you succeed your will be branded a hero, fail and you've got a boot up your arse faster than you can say ouch!
In my typical playing fashion I always choose to start from the bottom, take a conference team (any will do) and help them get promoted through the leagues until they are sitting proud at the top of the Premiership. Oh, if you are sitting there going, conference? Premiership?, then what I simply mean is take the worst and make it the best!
Gameplay in these games is very easy, shuffle a few guys around, buy in some new people with better skills, chuck em on your team, play a few games and win. Well if it was that easy I would be doing it better that Mr Ferguson, but its not. First you have cash-flow problems, then you need to keep your players trained up. You also have to deal with signings and contracts, deal with tactics, problems in the team and generally live out a nightmare scenario!
The problem with these games is that theres so much you can do and so much you want to do, but you always forget before playing the match. Say you just bought a new player, you fiddle with the contract & sign him up, then have to sort out his training, now you also take a peek at the table to see how your team is doing then check the transfer market again for some good bargains. Ok, so far, you've wasted 20 minutes playing about with the transfer market and you have not even once thought of your new guy in the team. In a rush of time you choose your next match without your new star play in the squad. What fun, you lost!
Ok, that's not quite true, a dedicated manager would remember who does what and how the teams setup and where everyone needs to go, the new guys would be placed in the team and someone will undoubtedly go on the transfer market to make up for the cash you spent on the new guy.
This my friend is what footballs all about. Well really it's about 2 teams kicking a ball hoping to score, but not the management side.
Anyway, Player manager is very realistic, or as realistic as I know it can get, not being a Footy manager I would not know, but all the managers they say they have interviewed seem to like it, so it must be good.
Now everything in the game is easy to do. Taking a team at the bottom means that you have little pressure to do much, but it also means that you have very little cash and you can find yourself, just like me, running out of money very quickly, but so far in this season Im doing very well. Even on 0 cash you can still get players on a free transfer and while the top teams are chucking these guys out because the rest of the team is better, you at the bottom manage to grab them at a great cost of £0. Helping your team get to the top.
The tactics in the game involve you either choosing one of the pre-set formations such as the well known 4-4-2 and 5-3-2, etc. you can also create custom formations, these are usually necessary if you have a player sent off. You then need to reposition your team to take into account the absence of a player and usually means defending a lot.
Tactics also allow you to set what each player does, you can get a player to push up or pass the ball to another player, it all depends on the skills of the other players. You don't want a winger to go charging to the by-line while your forwards are all gasping for breath trying to keep up.
Training involve choosing what each player will train in, you can choose team training, fitness, resting and skills. The team training involves choosing skills such as penalty shooting, corners, free kicks or teamwork and you can set out how these are going to be done in each day of the week.
Individual training is a must as you want each player to train on a certain part of their game to improve them as a whole. Some forwards will need to be trained in finishing, while other will need power or creativeness. Keepers may need better reactions or better handling so they stop dropping the ball at the oppositions feet.
The game does not involve you in the building of your ground or the sponsors, it simply tells you you've got an amount of cash to spend and that's it.
The actual match can be viewed in 3 different modes, you can watch the match itself in 3D just like a manager would do so you can see how the passing is, who is defending badly and whether the tactics you are using are working. You can also choose commentary where everything is laid out for you to see on one screen and the stats are your main check on how the players are doing. The last option is an isometric view of the pitch with stick like players moving about so again you can see how they are playing and how your tactics are working.
When you do win you can find yourself getting quite attached to the team cheering when they go 2-0 up and screaming when they let in a soft goal of get hammered 5-0.
The in-game graphics are nothing special, they look nice, don't have display problems with the background images and generally do the job as they should. The 3D match option graphics are also nothing special, you get evening games that show player and ball shadows correctly but besides that theres not much to look at, the graphics generally do what they should and look quite good while they are doing it.
The stadiums do change depending on what team you have to play. If you goto Liverpool you will play in a big stadium full of cheering fans, goto Kidderminster and the stadium is small and not very packed.
The sound in the game comes from a bit of music that is quite good, but the pause while you play the actual match help it stay that way. The match effects are not spectacular, but they cheer and boo when needed and provide a bit of atmosphere that's needed.
Generally speaking I could write a novel here, but I wont, theres a lot to talk about and I think that I have managed to cover most of it without leaving important bits out. The game is good, in fact its so good I stayed up very late just to finish the first season and get some cash injection.
I recommend this to everyone who likes the genre and every football fan, show it to your friends, make a family day out of it, do something, its just too good for me not to play it, that's it Im done, Im off to have another go.