Total Club Manager 2003
1 April 2005 | 0
Soccer management games have traditionally been heavy on strategy and low on eye candy, though this did not seem to deter people from buying them. EA Sport’s latest offering joins a well populated shelf, but will it proudly wear its sheepskin coat, or will it be sent to the stands?
The first thing that struck me about this game was the impressive scope. Covering the English Premiership, the French LFP and the German Bundesliga among others, it includes more than 25,000 players. Now I’m not a soccer expert, but even I know that’s more than you need to play a game of football.
The game starts with the basics in the form of a youth development feature. By building youth academies, you pick the cream of the crop and sign them up early allowing you to catch a Beckham when he’s as young as nine. This increases the number of potential players from which you can select, adding depth to the game in terms of future. It also helps on the financial end of things as you can pick young talent up cheap and if they develop well, you make a packet when you sell them on.
Once you have some up and coming talents, you will need to train them. The training system is very accessible and customisable to a high degree. If you feel that players need a bit more work in certain areas, then you can micro manage the process and make sure that they get what they need to win. If you don’t fancy getting your hands sweaty, as it were, then you can just leave it up to the computer. I found it all a bit daunting here though and confess to letting the computer do the work.
But what a soccer management game is really all about is the transfer market. There are all the usual features you would expect here with the nuances of negotiation well portrayed. Watch the media for rumours and see a player’s value fluctuate as their performances vary. But be careful, EU regulations govern all transfers and no shenanigans will be tolerated. All this is done rather well and is easily manipulated through a set of slick menus and lends an element of intrigue worthy of any game of conquest
Following other recent EA Sports titles, you can select your own music through a built-in MP3 decoder. While music is included, it often feels wrong for the game. To me some Manchester sounds just seemed more appropriate for the Premiership.
A new addition to the game though, is the FIFA game’s 3D engine for the game play. After you have trained your men, bought your stars and unwrapped your spearmint gum, you have to let them at it. And when they do, they are rendered in gorgeous 3D. While most management games rely on cut scenes in 2D, Total Club Manager plays it all out in 3D, but the best touch, perhaps of the entire game, is the ability to stand on the side lines and shout orders to your players. If a playmaker has set up a striker, you can shout an order to shoot and he will shoot. But like a tilt warning on a pinball game, use the direct order too much, and the ref will have you removed to the stands.
The strategic planning is deceptively simple. There are the usual plays that you would expect, with many formations to choose from, but there is also the ability to design your own plays and be creative with your team. It all seems very easy, but as most people who follow ‘the beautiful game’ will know, it does look simple.
All of these features combine to give a rich experience, with few weak elements. The added depth provided by features like media coverage, where you can give interviews and comment on your player’s performances, make this more than just a cold simulation. This is about as close to the real thing as you can get really. The addition of the 3D engine brings even more of the pitch to your desktop. In the set up of a new club, the computer asks for a name for your ‘wife’. This is later used in the media in the way that spouses are often mentioned in the soccer press. With the game editor thrown in, this is truly a game of more than two halves.