by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Taking the field
Every year, when the football season is well underway, there is one league that starts late. This league has only four contestants, none of them human, each entering the field on a shiny silver disk that holds the latest data of numerous real-life football clubs. The contestants of course are four football management games; Football Manager, Championship Manager, FIFA Manager and LMA Manager. With Championship Manager becoming something of a soap opera and LMA Manager having a database that is severely limited, the struggle for 1st and 2nd place in this league is mostly between FIFA Manager and Football Manager. Well? Maybe not, but read on and find out why FIFA Manager is worth checking out as well.
Sim City: Football Manager
Fans of the many iterations of Electronic Art's attempt to put a dent into Football Manager's rule, know that the biggest difference between their offerings and Sport Interactive's, is the ability to control the fate of your club. Where other football management games hand you a budget for salaries and transfers, FIFA Manager gives you total control over your club's finances and grounds. Sure, you may overextend yourself every now and then, bankrupt your club and have to start all over. At least you don't have to deal with the frustration of not being able to afford that great player you found while the club is swimming in money that -you- earned for it last season. This years FIFA Manager is no different. Great!
The ability to add new club facilities is still around, even if represented differently. In the past you simply purchased a new building and this building would make training more efficient, decrease the chances of youngsters leaving the club or give you more space to store your club's merchandise in. Nothing new there, were it not that you can now place these buildings on a Sim-City like map. Fun, but not particularly groundbreaking.
The Sims: Football Manager
A truly new feature is 'Personal Life'. When you create a new game, you are asked to pick a wife and even children. Throughout the game you will be asked - Partner or? - questions where you have to make a choice between going out with your wife or doing something club related. These questions have -no- relation to the actual game whatsoever (okay, so you can *beep* -off a journalist once in a while). This is by far the most useless new feature I have ever seen added to a sequel. Oh wait, I almost forgot to mention that you can use your hard earned money on cars, houses and other stuff -or- you can donate it to your club. Pffft...
The game engine
The match engine itself seems to be pretty much the same as last year. In fact, all the basic parts needed before a game can call itself a footy manager have hardly chanced at all. After you have created your line-up and finished determining the formation and tactics, you enter the match as you have before. But wait, something is different here. Remember how Electronic Arts added the 3D match engine in one of the earlier versions? Well, this time you get to go hands-on with a player of your choice, without having to install FIFA itself. Fun? It is definitely wasted on me but I won't hold it against you if it is something you appreciate. I did try it however and the controls seemed a little shaky to me, so be forewarned.
Of course you can also just sit and watch the game in 3D. As with everything else, you are in complete control over what you want to see. Do you want to see the entire game, or just the goals? Do you want time to fly by so you can get on with managing the club, or would you rather take it slow and micromanage your tactics? Whatever your preferences may be, you will almost certainly find the exact mode that you would like to experience the game in.
During the match, if you so choose, you will be asked to make manager decisions. Most of these decisions are pretty useless but some are a little bit more interesting like for instance how a penalty should be taken. Substitutions and tactical changes can also be made and these, together with the half-time pep talk, do give you a sense of being able to influence how the game is progressing. Your assistant manager will occasionally give you advice as well, advice that you can chose to either follow or ignore.
The interface has received some improvements that make life a little easier. A number of settings allow you to fine-tune the interface to your liking. One such setting causes the engine to show small pictures of real-life players on the Formation and Tactics screens. While this only works for players that have their photos in the database, it does give you more of a bond with your team. The colors of the menu and backgrounds are initially taken from your team's colors but you can override these easily using 'html' colors. On the Tactics screen, each setting now has a small icon that helps clarify what each setting does. Hardly necessary for the veteran football manager, but a nice touch for new arrivals nonetheless.
The 'too many open windows' problem that plagued FIFA Manager 06 is still there and is every bit as annoying as it was last year. When viewing player details, you will occasionally see a different player than the one you selected and not all the sort options work properly. Fortunately these issues are all minor and none of them are showstoppers.
FIFA Manager is a Vanilla football management game. It does not pretend to cater to the hardcore fans that have been loyal to Sports Interactive's brilliant Football Manager, nor should it. You see, hardcore fans of football management games are not likely to seriously reconsider their choice for Football Manager but many people do not mind Vanilla. It is a flavor that may not carry the approval of the real connoisseur but it works great for ice-cream and milkshakes, so why wouldn't it work for wannabe football managers?
No Pros and Cons at this time