by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
On the battlefield of football (soccer) management games, things have changed considerably over the last two years or so. The absolute king of football management games, Championship Manager, was divided up between its publisher and its developer, the first keeping the name, the latter everything else. The Championship Manager game that publisher Eidos came up with was... a laughable attempt that had more bugs than it had players in its database. Former CM developer Sports Interactive dubbed their engine Football Manager but scarcely did more than updating their player database and designing a new cover for the game. The lesser known but cute and fairly playable LMA Manager again couldn't compete with the grown ups with a database that didn't span more than a handful of countries. In the midst of this much turmoil, it's hard to believe that publishing mogul Electronic Arts yet again failed to deliver a finished product with their Total Club Manager when not one of the 2005 versions from the competition could cut the cake. I guess the EA product managers forgot to read their horoscopes or something because all the stars were in the right place to finally become a serious contestant in the genre. The obligatory single patch attempt hardly did more than make the game stable, so a full year later, Total Club Manager 05 is still hardly worth the trouble of installing the game.
Enter FIFA Manager 06
I guess it was only to be expected, but Total Club Manager (TCM) is no more. Its spirit is still alive but the name has been buried forever. The game will continue under the moniker FIFA Manager. I'd have to agree with EA's decision to change the name of Total Club Manager. It was a dumb name. It's only logical that they milk their FIFA license a bit further so I'll try to go easy on that decision too. What worries me is that they didn't bury its past of bad quality games along with it. That sounds like an early conclusion, but it's not quite. Let me continue.
For starters, the game's interface has received a major overhaul. It's not my cup of tea as it looks more like a website than a computer game, but that's perhaps a question of taste. Everything can be found fairly easily and were it not for a couple of glitches; it would have been a big improvement on its predecessors. What glitches? Well, the most annoying one involves your news reader. It continuously sends you updates and in it, often mentions players. Now, a simple right click on the name of the player shows you their details. At the bottom of the page it shows a row of buttons that 'should' let you have a chat with them, engage in contract talks etc. These buttons don't work. Seriously, they don't. They do work when you go to your team overview page and right click there. Yes, this is after installing the (likely to remain only) patch. There are a number of other problems in there but I think you've read enough of the game's less stellar points by now. Lets us have a look at its good qualities.
3D Matches, finally
It was possible to integrate FIFA 2005 with Total Club Manager. A fun feature but EA must have realized that a lot of its fan base consists of people like me who don't play the soccer game itself. Many, like me, just want to manage the club, not play the game. FIFA Manager 06 has the 3D feature fully integrated and I must say that it's a lot of fun to see your people play. Football Manager 2006 still lets us look at some dots moving around the page although they proudly presented their biggest features this year: dugouts where dots can sit while they're not playing. Fantastic don't you think?
FIFA Manager gives us a full fledged 3D match that is actually fun to experience and will, just like a real match, have you at the edge of your seat. You don't have to watch the full game as there are a wide variety of match settings that will let you watch only commentary, just the goals or everything that's exciting enough to warrant your attention. This works quite well and it is by far the most elegant feature of the game.
Running the show
It's not the main reason why I chose to put my cash towards Electronic Arts for the second year in a row though. All things considered, Football Manager is a superior game but it still doesn't allow me to start my own club and fully manage it. These two features could be found in TCM and have returned in full with FIFA Manager. Running an existing club is only so much fun but nothing beats the feeling of the former amateur Hooked team kicking the pants out of Ajax, Arsenal or Real Madrid. Of course I haven't managed to do that yet, but I'm getting there in my current game. The fact that my board was not complaining that I was overspending on players proved instrumental to my success. The player determines how money should be spent, as long as there is cash in the account.
No Pros and Cons at this time