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Most development teams have been striving to produce games for the Playstation that would stretch the graphical boundaries reached on rival systems. One casualty of this policy was that good old fashioned soccer management sims were left to gather dust in the annals.
For a very long time Anco's Player Manager sat all alone on the shelves until just over a year ago when Gremlin helped revive this popular genre. They released two soccer management games within a few months adding to their Premier Manager series already established as the benchmark in the early 1990's.
Impressive sales figures from these projects have led to further recent releases including F.A. Manager and LMA Manager. The latest addition for the budding statistician comes with the rather long winded title of The F.A. Premier League Football Manager 2000.
This is a soccer management sim that allows you to sample the pleasures and pressures associated with managing a real soccer club from the four English divisions. You will be responsible for hiring staff, balancing finances, expanding the stadium facilities, team selection, player coaching, game tactics, negotiating player contracts, transfers and sales.
Sound and Vision:
On past systems these types of management games have virtually ignored the sound and visual department and concentrated purely on the mathematical side of play. Will your 'Number Seven' rated at an 8 in shooting manage to score past the opposition keeper who is rated a 7 in handling? Wait for the result and find out! Riveting, huh?
If you haven't yet played one of the latest console games from this genre then let me inform you that we have moved forward into the 21st Century, hopefully never to return to that archaic system where a calculator could pick your preferred eleven. It's all very well being informed that your right-back was rated a five out of ten but what did he do wrong? Did he play too far forward... was he lacking in pace... or was he just tossing around and then claiming his overpaid salary? There can be no more satisfaction guaranteed than to settle back and watch events unfold on the field after ploughing through a mass of information, checking out injuries, playing the transfer market, balancing tactics and then fielding your strongest team.
The F.A. Premier League Football Manager 2000 includes the facility to instantly receive the result, monitor a fast view screen as the game is played or watch the game in glorious 3D. Using the FA Premier League All Stars game engine the action is compressed into a ten-minute game which you, as the manager, may sit on the sidelines and view. The main problem with past titles, which included this mode, was that the game couldn't be stopped when things were going wrong and tactical changes made to alter the result. Thankfully by pausing the game at any given time line up, kick takers, substitutes and formation may be switched allowing a certain defeat to be possibly avoided.
It all combines to offer an excellent management package but is not without it's niggles and annoyances. For example the number of times that a ball goes out of play for a throw-in is ridiculous. Furthermore, after carefully selecting my left footed players to play on the left side of the field the action is somehow mirrored showing them all playing on the opposite side. Weird!
Generally the visuals are very good with players gesticulating their annoyance at decisions, showing their frustration after near misses and over celebrating those golden moments when a priceless goal is struck. Sky TV's very own Martin Tyler professionally supplies the match commentary, with summarizing by Andy Gray.
There are always two ways to play any management game. First you may decide to run a club that is presently flying high in the Premier League. By choosing such a team the task will be to win honors and silverware. With a wealth of cash at your disposal to play around in the transfer market failure to reach dizzy heights will inevitably lead to the axe.
Surely the most satisfying aspect of this type of game is to take charge of a lowly third division side who is strapped for cash and inherits most of it's players through the youth scheme or loan deals. Battling for survival with this bunch of misfits should prove more about your character than your skills at accountancy and will look better on your CV. Simply running a string of good results together may lead to an improved offer from a club with a higher profile, thus working your way up the ladder to success.
Playing this game is simplicity in its purest form. Once a club has been selected the player must sign in and prepare for the season ahead. There are no complicated button configurations to learn, very few options to set up (sound effects) and the in-game game menus are easily accessible and simple to use. Moving across the screen is fast and efficient, as there is no cursor to drag around. Simply highlight an option and press the 'X button' to activate. The 'square button' opens a side menu, which may be scrolled. The 'circle button' offers further information on the highlighted item. The 'triangle button' switches back one screen and the R1 button proceeds towards the match day action.
Before a season gets underway it's possibly worth checking out the business side of things. Here backroom staff may be hired, ticket prices set, ground improvement built and financial overview studied. The accounts may be viewed at any time to check that you are remaining within the prepared cash flow.
The coaching side may not go as deep as some may wish. There is only a choice of three training methods being technical, character or physical, although a scale bar does allow you to decide on the amount of effort each player puts into the game. I would much prefer being able to concentrate on individual attributes such as heading, shooting, passing etc. which would gradually improve the players skill level over a season. The Team Order screen caters for the formation and style that your team will play. Once again scale bars are used to set attacking levels, containment, wing system, long ball or passing game. A single button press decides whether the offside trap and counter attack is implemented.
In depth statistics are available for each member of the squad recording every single range of ability from condition to intelligence. In the squad selection menu each player may be highlighted and checked out in closer detail. This is where a profile offers a snapshot of the player's strengths and weaknesses, status and current contract conditions. From here the player may be loaned out, transferred of offered improved terms and bonuses.
Finally the transfer section allows for trading between all clubs in the four divisions and a selection of European stars. A search engine acts as a tremendous help to seek out those players whose names may be known, but not their whereabouts. If a player does not appear on the transfer list then he may be approached through the clubs chief coach. Thankfully agents have yet to make an appearance in these types of games.
All transactions and information is relayed via an impressive email system. By checking your messages regularly you will be sure to not miss any happening that concern your club or players. When match day finally arrives all of your effort should be rewarded, while slackness will surely be punished. Of course it's only a game and mistakes can happen... but just try telling that to the board of directors after a string of poor results.
This is a 1 disk game for 1 Player. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (15 block per save).
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