Football Manager 2006
As you’ve probably guessed, be it from past reviews or just general rambling, that we love our Football Manager games. The brilliance in the way you can lay siege to the opponents goal, outplay Man Utd, man mark Thierry Henry out of the game and stuff Chelsea 3-0 has literally thousands of fans jumping in the air in front of their PC’s, wearing away the carpet as they trudge up and down during the course of 90 minutes and sinking down in floods of tears as that bloody striker who hasn’t hit the onion bag for 3 years scores in the last 5 seconds to put you out of the cup. We’ve all experienced the fixture congestion around Christmas time at 2 in the morning, daring not to come off the computer until we’ve finally won a bloody game. Girlfriends, wives, drinking mates and jobs have come and gone in the quest to finally knock Ron Abramovich and Joseph Mourinho off the top spot in English football.
And it’s about to get worse.
Si Games, creator of the bastard devil child of addictiveness that is Football Manager, have been snapped up by their publisher for the past few years, SEGA, who wants to take the PC franchise further by releasing the series on home consoles to further sever relationships and social lives. With this news, Football Manager 2006 arrived in the office, complete with Xbox 360 case and instruction manual. Time to kiss the girlfriend goodbye. Again.
For those who don’t follow football, this is Fulham FC - the greatest team that the world has ever seen.
Previous versions of the franchise, Championship Manager 01/02 and 02/03, landed on Microsoft’s debut console in a stripped down format, with no 2-D match engine, only a handful of leagues playable at any one time and no Live features to talk about. This time round we’ve got an almost complete version, the match engine making a nice entry on the scene and the ability to beat friends and foes with the wet end over Live.
The main concern of the past adventures is keeping the game updated. Us PC gamers have the luxury to either download updates of the latest transfers, kit changes and team promotions, so that the version never goes out of date, or make our own fixes. With the Xbox 360, there’s no such luxury, which means the cash vaults at SEGA should become pretty loaded with a new version each year that you have to buy to keep update with the constantly vibrant world of football. That sucks a bit.
Paris; the city of love, and crap training schedules.
My main complaint however, and this is a biggie, is the removal of player attributes. What the hell where they thinking? Instead of a glorious spreadsheet, detailing a players work rate, first touch, his agility etc, we’ve a spider diagram in return with 8 paltry attributes detailing if the player is worth muchos gratis or not a pot to piss in. This makes quick comparisons between squad members or transfer targets extremely hard, even with the comparison tool within the game, and eventually I was left to buy players purely on name and experience of the PC version. The loss of such detailed attributes takes away the personalities of players, such as when you could determine who was a target man and who was a quick striker, for example. And as much as we know how much time should be dedicated to something like Football Manager, you’ll be sitting there for days on end trying to figure out who’s better than who.
Next complaint then, and this time it’s the loss of the pop-on, pop-off sidebar of the previous console versions. Now we have to press the left and right bumpers to trawl through menus, trying to find the one option that eludes us. I don’t like the way options are hidden away, requiring map reading skills to find and execute when the PC version had this down to a tee. Mapping so much to a controller was always going to be hard, but the removable sidebar not only kept in with the heritage of the series but also had everything you needed in one space. It was our navigation point, our tourist centre. Now we’re being let loose in town to find our own way around.
You just can’t beat 4-4-2. Unless you’re Brazil.
Despite these complaints, Football Manager 2006 is just as good as its PC counter part. Tactical decisions can easily sway games, players have full-on tantrums when things aren’t going their (or their agents) way, the media flock to situations like flies around muck and yes, you will be punching the air and popping champagne corks when the results come flying in, and expletives will be muttered and controllers thrown around as everything goes tits-up. The beauty of Football Manager shines through, I don’t need to spend 20 paragraphs treading over old ground and detailing every single little feature, all you need to know is if your PC can’t handle it, the 360 sure as hell can, and you won’t be missing out on much.
There are achievements to collect through your career, like player hat tricks, winning runs and silverware which add to your gamer score, and of course the Live play will last a millennium as gamers pit their first eleven against each other for real FA Cup Final drama. The loss of player attributes is a huge negative point for a fan such as myself but certainly isn’t something that should sway the buying decision of someone new or inexperienced to the series.
The verdict? A bit like Manchester United this season. Great, but could improve in quite a few areas.
Eight out of ten