|Coming Soon > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||PREMIER MANAGER 98|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Management Sim||Memory Card 15 Blocks|
|Review Date:||July 1998||Mouse|
Setting the Scene
"... oh why are we waiting? Why are we waiting? Oh why are we waiting.. oh why, why, why?" "What's that, it's arrived?" "Nah, you must have made a mistake, Premier Manager '98 won't be out until at least the year 2,000!" It bloody well has and further more it's just in time for the brand new 1998/99 soccer season. The Premier Manager series established itself as the benchmark for soccer management sims in the early 1990's. Premier Manager 1, 2 and 3 have sold over 1 million copies, with the third in the series staying in the charts for almost two years. Premier Manager '98 follows on from these and is the second serious soccer management sim for the PlayStation (after last years Player Manager). It has been brought bang up to date with a completely new game engine, while retaining many of the popular features from the series.
Premier Manager contains the most accurate player data in any Football Management game. Gremlin has enlisted Goal! magazine to provide statistics for all 92 English clubs and a host of European and South American sides. Ninety two experts have been consulted to check the data for each team ensuring that the lower leagues will contain a few future stars and the Premiership, the odd old boot. In addition to this unrivalled database, PM 98 also boasts a vastly superior AI routine. All the statistical information provided by the individual players, team formation, tactic, etc is used to compute a real game of football, giving the most realistic results possible. The upshot of this is that players can watch highlights of the important incidents from each game they play. These highlights are created using the Actua Soccer 2 game engine and - along with authentic kits and obligatory commentary - help to up the realism levels significantly. All correct league and cup competitions are included with two modes of play. Premier Manager allows you to take control of any team in the league or to embark on a simulated career, taking control of a lowly 3rd Division side and trying to move them up the Divisions.
Okay, so you expect this to be the shortest section of the review because football management games simply don't offer much in terms of visuals. Wrong! Those clever chaps at Gremlin Interactive have combined the customary reels of head splitting statistical facts and figures with their Actua Soccer 2 game engine to provide a feast that looks as good as it tastes. This feature takes soccer management sims right into the 21st Century and 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 left-sided midfielder was rated a six out of ten but what did he do wrong? Did he play too deep? Was he lacking in pace? Or was he just tossing around and then claiming his overpaid salary? I suggest that on purchase of this title you drag the monitor into your garden shed, to recreate the surrounding of the dug-out, and then settle down to watch the game highlights. You can then witness first hand the number of stray passes your Number 3 is guilty of and then adjust his training schedule accordingly. If you have already witnessed the impressive visuals within Actua Soccer 2 then you will be aware that the graphical content in Premier Manager '98 is quite superb. It's those little touches that made Actua Soccer 2 something special. When the keeper bounces the ball in his box his shadow mirrors each movement of limb and when the opposition scores a goal your defenders drop their heads and rest their hands on their knees looking totally dejected. What makes it even more suitable for this style of game is that the camera angles have been set at a slightly higher level offering a wider perspective of the pitch. This offers a similar effect to that when watching your team play live on a Saturday afternoon and then experiencing a totally different game when replayed on Match of the Day in the evening. Concentrating on the few players around the ball may be fine for the regular supporter but what a manager needs to witness is those runs off the ball that don't quite come off, miss-timed tackles and even goal keeping errors that lead to a conceded goal. It all works as an excellent release after a lengthy session of studying the in-depth form guide. In fact it is just like getting a treat for doing your homework correctly.
Sounds and Effects
Of course the most important part of a soccer management game is that you are allowed a little peace and quiet when contemplating your starting eleven. You don't really want Uriah Heep or the Sex Pistols blasting out from the speakers while sifting through the players form guide, do you? Thankfully, the background music to Premier Manager 98 is relatively sedate and can be eased down or switched off in the options menu. Of course during the game you want the complete opposite. All too often soccer games are backed by a monotonous drone that is supposed to represent the atmosphere of a soccer game therefore it was nice to see that Gremlin have put a little extra effort into the crowd noises. As a player nears the goal the expectancy of the crowd raises with ooh's and aah's for near misses and the most deafening roar when the ball hits the back of the net. Barry Davies from the BBC sports team once again supplies commentary, who this time sits in the box all alone. The accuracy is remarkable as every touch is praised or criticized, be it skillful or lousy. Players on the ball are named, decisions are debated and constant references to the scoreline keep you updated.
Okay, enough about how pretty it all looks. If all you wanted was to sit back and watch graphical representations of soccer games then you may as well purchase Actua Soccer 2. Management games are a strange breed; you either love them or hate them. To be honest I fall into the first category and have even been known to keep bookkeeping records to help me decide which player to purchase. I constantly keep a note pad by my side and am forever scribbling down opposition ratings, transfer fees and positional changes. Sad, isn't it? There are two modes of play and an option to allow the soccer players age with time, adding further realism. Up to four human players can take part in either game mode, which works, on a turn based system. For a short term view into soccer management there is the Career Team selection. Here you must sign on as a manager and from a list of ten take control of one of the lesser fortunate clubs from the lower divisions. Selecting Brighton, Chester, Darlington or Hull City your aim is simple - avoid relegation over a season. A choice of Cambridge, Exeter, Mansfield or Shrewsbury Town beckons a mid-table placing while Lincoln and Mansfield must strive for promotion. The Career mode is a great deal tougher than the standard Management mode and boy are those directors tough. My first effort involved saving Darlington from the dreaded drop. "Clear out a few players!" boomed the command from the top. I sat for hours checking out each of the player's strengths and weakness before deciding on giving three the boot. I then played one pre-season friendly and was duly dismissed for using an under-strength squad. Management mode allows you to select any team from four English 1997/98 divisions. In effect you can make your life as difficult as you wish. Most players will probably first decide on handling their home town team or possibly a big name Premiership club where you will have millions of pounds at your disposal and the chance to choose your first team from a squad of players that are household names. With the aging process switched on you will also be able to see how Liverpool's Michael Owen flourishes over the years, how David Beckham performs after his recent World Cup incident or indeed if Paul Gascoine is fit enough to play out an entire season. However, the real challenge with soccer management sims is attempting to bring one of the minnows through the divisions over several seasons without being given the sack. Once decided on your team you will want to view the squad of players. This is accessed from the main menu, which is divided into five categories - transfer market, daily news, squad, memory card and options. It is worth noting that saving any game takes up an almighty 15 blocks on your memory card, therefore make sure you have completed Gran Turismo or Resident Evil 2 before starting a season. The options screen offers the facility to adjust sound volume/effects and decide on the match length. Each match may last up to two minutes or, should you prefer, provide an instant result. Within the squad menu each player is rated using a five star system. Their match fitness is recorded in percentage terms while their preferred playing position is color coded for easy use. Similar to all management games there are menus within menus within menus and Premier Manager 98 is no different. Formation may be adjusted depending on your tactics. Tactics range from man to man marking to how hard you wish your players to tackle. Training facilities allow you to offer specialized practice for each individual to improve on their lesser abilities. Contracts may be scrutinized allowing you to offer an increase in salary or sack the lot. The final option shows a detailed statistical analysis of each player's skill level. This covers passing, tackling, shooting, heading, pace, stamina and control. The Daily News section is packed with a wealth of useful information. This includes league tables, results, fixtures, top scorers, a weekly dream team and the dreaded boardroom. Inside the hallowed office you can view the money available for transfers, adjust ticket prices, view attendances and adjust your backroom staff funding. The transfer market shows the players presently available for purchase but you may also approach any league team with an offer for an unlisted player. I tried to prize back Darren Huckerby to Newcastle United but Coventry's board were not having any of it, no matter what price was put in front of them, but the option is available should you wish to persevere. Each team is allowed four friendly games before the season begins to get their squad match fit and for this there are 127 European and World teams to select from. Once a season begins the usual program will be interrupted for League, F.A. and European Cup competitions including the Super League for Europe's elite. Before each game begins you can visit the 'view and change squad' menu to select your starting line up. You may also make final adjustments to your tactical plan. The game can be viewed in two ways. Skipping straight to the TV menu allows you to watch the Actua Soccer 'live' highlights. I use the term 'live' meaning that the game is already over but you do not know the score. The problem with this is that you cannot make tactical changes during the match should your game plan blow up in your face. The only way this can be implemented is to watch a text screen running of the game and view the highlights later. After each game you can view all of the match statistics showing ratings of each player, goal scorers, bookings and sendings off. All red and yellow cards are carried on through the season with the David Battey's of this world experiencing one or two suspensions.
Value for Money
Gazing at a screen packed with numbers and players names for hours on end may not sound like much fun but Premier Manager 98 succeeds in being a right riveting good read. The depth of gameplay is phenomenal and proves to be the icing on the cake while the Actua Soccer highlights are the cherry on top.
Premier Manager 98 has proved to be well worth the long wait there is a
couple of little niggles I would like to get out of my system.
After playing a few games in a season I found that I had stopped watching the game highlights. Now seeming that this is the feature that makes the game stand out from the crowd I was slightly disappointed to see this spectacle go to waste. If you are going to take each match seriously then you will want to watch the event as it happens. Surely there must be some way that you can stop the camera action, throw on a couple of subs, adjust your formation and then continue with the TV action. Alas no.
The second gripe is that when playing a season with more than one player only the first players seems to be allowed access to the main menu screen. Because of this the second player cannot enter the transfer market, browse through the squad menu or adjust their club finances, which is rather unfair.
That aside and even though we really know that these games are constructed by using a simple mathematical formula - will your twin strikers, who are rated as a differing 82 and 71, score a goal against the oppositions' keeper who is a commendable 80 - Premier Manager 98 is the best available game of it's type by a long shot.