When I was still a kid, I played some football manager games on my old pre-pentium class pc, so when Fragland asked to review Soccer Manager, all those good memories of wasted time in my childhood came back to me.
With high hopes I installed the game but was immediately disappointed when watching the intro movie. First of all, the graphics of this movie were really poor and made me check the release date of this game. 2002 it says, but the graphics remind me of the time I played Space Quest. Another strange thing is that the movie is situated in space. Strange location for a soccer manager game. First we follow a satellite in space and then some planet changes in a football. The guys from heart-line got there hands on some good stuff when creating this movie it seems …
But, okay, you can’t judge a game by it’s intro movie. For a game like this, without a real story line, an intro movie is kinda obsolete anyhow and rescue is only one Esc away … The in-game graphics are satisfying. It’s a management game, so it’s just a bunch of menu’s anyway. Only during the matches I expected some more detail and maybe differences between players, but that’s just me having high demands.
The sound could be better. The only option for the background music is on or off and after hours of playing you really get bored of hearing the same tune on and on again. More variety in the background music would be better or an option to select your own directory with mp3′s would be a good alternative. The sound effects during the matches are ok, but some matches, the sound effects are missing for no obvious reasons. Just one of the many bugs in this game, it seems to me.
Most important off course is the gameplay. The purpose is to manage one or more soccer teams. There are about 8 countries you can choose from (Belgium is not one of them) and each country has one or more leagues you can play in. In England you have the most choices, from Second Division to Premier League. As manager of your team, you’re in charge of the finances, stadium, advertisement, transfers, training, tactics and so on. As you can see, there is a lot to take in concern, which makes it a fun game to play.
The main concern is, as always, money. You can loan money at the bank, but there is the interest and you’ll have to pay back your loan after a while. Your income comes from advertisement and admission money. With that money you can build a bigger stadium, buy better players or train players. Each player has a certain strength that can be increased by training and experience, a maximum strength and can also learn certain talents, like penalty specialist or giving great passes. Training a player to gain strength or learn talents costs money and if you train to much, the fitness of your player drops. You can always visit a training camp to boost up fitness and morale of the team, but that is also gonna cost you some.
Before every match you can see the total strength and talents of the team as well as that of your opponent. You can adjust the formation of the team and the game strategy based on that data. During a match, you can adjust your tactics at anytime, keep an eye on the fitness of the players and even follow the score in other matches in your league. It’s not possible to control the players individual however. The strength and talent of the team together with your tactical decisions during the match are what make you win or lose a match.
Besides the normal league competition there are also the cup matches and the Champions League, at least if you’re able to qualify. In lower divisions, there are other side competitions that can make you earn some extra money. Another possibility to earn some extra is to hire talent scouts and replace your expensive western players by cheap African talents.
The gameplay is what keeps the game together, because there are a lot of annoying bugs in this game. For example, when, during a match, you substitute a player by one of your reserves and the new player on the field gets a red card, the next match your original player that was on the field is suspended and not the substitute that got the red card. Also, the opponent team’s player often have the same names as your own players, what makes following a match rather confusing. And the names are not really realistic. I can’t say I’m a real football expert but for example when playing with the German team Schalke 04 I didn’t recognize any of the names while in real life I know at least 4 players of Schalke. However, there is a game editor so you can add your favorite players by yourself.
My conclusion is that Soccer Manager is a fun game to play if you like the genre, but its not really a game that meets the standards of this day and age. Especially owners of older PC’s will welcome it because it’s not demanding the latest in hardware. A patch to fix some bugs would be nice but a new and better Soccer Manager 2 is probably needed to make this a really great game.