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LMA Professional Manager 2005 PC CD-ROM

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Kuju Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

The PlayStation console had many failed attempts at football management games before Codemasters finally gave owners of the console a game that used the strengths of the console instead of trying to make the game feel like it had been taken from the PC. Since that first LMA Manager game, the LMA Manager series has gone from strength to strength on the PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and more recently the Xbox. This year sees the LMA Manager series attempt to take the genre on to the PC too. This is a brave thing to do because the PC has always had football management games of a higher quality. Last week we looked at Football Manager 2005 which has to be the best football management game we've seen to date on the PC and we also have Total Club Manager 2005 in for review too, so it's fair to say that we can compare LMA Professional Manager with all that the PC football management genre has to offer this year.

LMA Professional Manager 2005 allows you to manage a team from either the English, Scottish, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch or Portuguese leagues. The English leagues on offer range from the Premiership to Conference. The Scottish range from the Premiership to Division 3 and the other countries simply have their top two leagues. If you were hoping to play in the lower leagues such as the Serie C leagues in Italy or the Regional Divisions in Germany you're going to be out of luck. On starting a new game you'll get to choose whether you want to play as a fantasy team or choose a real team from one of the divisions on offer. You'll also get to decide what level of assistance you want from your staff. You can choose to have full help, help with the financial side of running a club or have no help at all. Finally you can choose whether to take part in all the pre-season build up or just jump straight to the competitive matches by choosing the Quick Start option.

You can probably tell from that last paragraph that LMA Professional doesn't aim to be 100% realistic because of the options to have fantasy teams and the fact that you can have a say in the financial running of a club (something management games have offered in the past but in real life no manager would ever have such control over a club). On beginning a game you'll find other discrepancies with real life too such as players being worth a lot more than they should be and seemingly every club being ready to offer large sums of money for your rubbish players. I've had Dundee United offer me £2-3 million pound for players who in real life wouldn't fetch over £200,000 and I seriously doubt that Dundee United (and other lower league clubs who've made silly offers) would offer that kind of money anyway because apart from Celtic and Rangers money is in short supply in the Scottish game. It's fair to say then that LMA Professional Manager 2005 is more of an arcade football manager experience.

If you're used to the LMA Manager games on the PlayStation/PlayStation 2 or Xbox then you'll be surprised by the visual differences between those games and LMA Manager Professional. Surprisingly the game doesn't look as good as it's console counterparts. Kuju decided to restrict the screen resolution to 800x600 which looks appalling on a TFT screen and even on a CRT monitor it only looks moderately better. The bars that were used to display the player ratings etc., have been done away with and have instead been replaced by numbers. Whilst this allows more data to be placed on screen it does give the game a rather basic appearance. Worse still the interface feels very out of date. Kuju went for a Windows style task bar with the Index button replacing the Start button. Clicking on the Index button brings up a menu that allows you to navigate to the information you need. On opening an information screen a task bar button will appear on the task bar and it will remain there. The problem is that you can't remove any of those buttons. In total you can have 8 buttons at any one time on the task bar and the idea is that you can simply flick between the most recent ones you've used instead of having to click on the Index button and navigate the menus all the while. If you've finished with a screen though, it would be good to be able to remove the button all together but you can't.

Of course the important part of the game in any football manager game is the match engine. LMA Professional Manager offers you the chance to either watch the match in 3D, have a 2D Quick Match or just skip the match entirely and go straight to the result. First let's take a look at the 3D match. Graphically it's poor and looks like a quick port. The player's animate OK but the speed of the game is just too quick (and that's not taking into account the increased speed option). Out of all the 3D match engines I've seen, the LMA one has to be the best but it's far from perfect. The ball at times has balloon like physics and seems to do a lot of rainbow like arched movements. The same shots and saves are regularly seen throughout a game and to make matters worse there's no radar view so you can't see the movement of all your players which means that you can't see how effective your tactics are. That said the 3D match view is preferable to the 2D Quick Match which is even more disappointing. There's no text commentary simply, a 2D side-on view of the pitch which simply shows you the percentages of possession in each area of the pitch. The game desperately needs feedback during a match because as it stands you just can't see how effective your tactics are which undermines the whole experience.

LMA Professional Manager, as you might expect, is mostly in text and is therefore OK for deaf gamers. There is some speech in the game such as the highlights introduction by Gary Linekar and commentary by Barry Davies which isn't subtitled but this isn't really a problem. When changing tactics during a 3D match the tactic is shouted out but it also appears on screen in text too so that's not a problem. The game manual does a good job of explaining what's what and any questions you have about the game should be answered by looking at the relevant section of it.

The LMA series has finally arrived on the PC and like a team arriving in the Premiership from Division 1 (or the Championship as it's laughingly called now), it's going to be in for a rough time against it's opposition. To be completely honest it wouldn't compare favourably with Championship Manager 2 although on the face of it the game has many more options than that game. Bearing all this in mind though it's not a complete disaster. Those who find games such as Football Manager 2005 too complicated and who don't mind results on events happening in the game being completely unrealistic, might appreciate it's simplicity. The game also zips along on even a low specification PC which is good to see. Personally I'm a little frustrated by the game as I think the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of LMA Manager have always been quality titles. LMA Professional Manager 2005 doesn't bring this quality to the PC. I played LMA Professional Manager 2005 alongside LMA Manager 2005 (PlayStation 2) and in all honesty the difference in quality in terms of presentation etc., was shocking. I hope the game does well enough to get a second crack of the whip on PC because it would be tragic if this was the only time PC gamers got to see what, until now, has been a series of high quality games.

Overall Game Rating: 5.6/10
Having been used to the LMA Manager series on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox it was very disappointing to see such a poor arrival on the PC. The game has a few things going for it but on the whole it's weak competition for other football management games on the PC.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No real problems although some speech is not subtitled.