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Football Manager 2006 PC/MAC CD-ROM

Published by SEGA
Developed by Sports Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Football Manager 2006, an introduction.

Last year Sports Interactive created Football Manager 2005 and it surpassed any of their previous football management simulations. Almost a year on and here we have Football Manager 2006. The fans of Sports Interactive's games are a demanding bunch though and simply creating a seasonal update isn't going to be good enough to satisfy them. A cursory glance at the screenshots might tell you that the game hasn't changed that much but you'd be wrong. There are plenty of new features that actually work very well and most of the features that haven't changed have been refined and now work better.

What's the game about?

As with the previous couple of Sports Interactive's football management simulations, the focus in Football Manager 2006 has been on creating a more immersive experience and giving you better tools with which to manage your team. The game includes many new features of which this review covers some, but not all. It's fair to say that the game is a lot more than just a seasonal data update and it's quite surprising how much the game has been improved in a fairly short space of time.

What's good about the game?

There are quite a lot of new features here that not only make the game more immersive but also help you to manage your team. Each player now has a preferred position screen that enables you to see which positions your player will perform best in. You can make tactical changes in a match without having to stop the action. Half-time and Full-time team talks (but as of yet no pre-match talk) can be issued to not only your team as a whole but on an individual basis. You'll find that certain players are really sensitive to your comments whilst others don't seem to take much notice (which is probably the case in real life). When a player is injured your physio will sometimes give you the choice of issuing an injection to allow your player to participate in the next game and risk a lengthy time out later or receive treatment right away and possibly minimise the long term damage. Usually you'd opt for the treatment but if you have a cup final as your next match you may want the player in question available. You now have height and weight attributes for each player which should make it easier when deciding who you want to mark the opposition's tall centre forward amongst other things. Attributes are still from 1-20 but now you can switch to bars instead of numbers if you wish. Player comparisons are now easier to decipher and the training too is now much simpler than ever. Sports Interactive decided to use slider bars to formulate a training program and it makes the whole process much easier than in previous games.

Other new features include manager contracts, in-game tutorial, a manager home screen, player advanced statistics screen and adjustable news ticker (it can even be turned off if you don't want it). When you first start a game you'll be given a one year contract and how you perform will determine the length of your next contract or indeed if the club want to keep you. Contracts range from 1 to 5 years and you can have rolling contracts too. It's now easier to keep track of the effect of training on your players thanks to new screens that have been added. You can easily look back over recent months and see what progress has been made. It's quite obvious that the 2D match engine has been refined over the last 12 months or so and now player movement seems better and more realistic than ever. Whilst the text commentary has been said to have improved it still seems to fall short of the quality that we were used to in the days before the 2D match engine was added to Sports Interactive's games. The in-game tutorial works really well. If ever you are on a screen where you are unsure of something you can press the F1 key and a full description of that screen and its functions will appear which is very useful. The manager mind games feature has returned but this is an existing feature that has been improved. When replying to comments made from other managers you're now told what comments are negative, positive, angry or neutral which is much better than simply having a guess at it. Of course the press can still take your comments out of context.

What's not so good about the game?

My main disappointment with the game is to see the fictional Harchester (from Sky One's Dream Team) included in the game. It was a silly idea to include a fictional team in a game that strives to be realistic. Why not include Melchester Rovers and Danefield United (from the Roy of the Rovers comic) for good measure too? Yes, the team can be disabled (they remain in the game but their players are not available) but the method for disabling the team is crazy. You have to leave the EDT and DDT files for them ticked instead of unticking them. After unticking them and dropping a dozen hours into a game, I now find that I'm stuck with a team in my game that completely ruins any illusion of realism. I still think the player comparison feature could be improved. When you want to compare a player you're looking at, you should be able to pick any player from your first team using a drop down menu. As it stands you can only immediately compare a player you have recently looked at so you'll have to look at the player you want and then go back to a player in your team who you want to compare him with, which is time consuming. The hotkeys (the functions that are bound to the F keys) have been changed from last year's game. This isn't much of an issue but it's a bit annoying although some changes were going to have to be made as the F1 key now brings up the context sensitive tutorial messages.

How does it look?

As you'd expect the game doesn't look all that different from last year's game. Three new interface skins have been added (along with their right handed alternative version). One of these is basically a slightly modified version of the original skin whilst the others have been created by fans of the game. The Cappuccino skin is very hard on the eyes and I found it unusable. The Chameleon actually looks quite good although there is still room for improvement with it. Within days of the game being released other skins have been released by fans of the game (such as the Aurora 2006 and E2 skins) that look better than any found in the game so you may want to download them. During a match you'll notice that players who have taken a knock now have an icon next to them (whilst they are moving around on the pitch) to inform you of this. When you look at your squad you'll see a PR icon to show you what players have reacted to recent media comments which is a nice touch. I would have liked to have seen an option to disable the flashing text that occurs when a goal is scored. Whilst I don't suffer from epilepsy myself, if I did I would want to disable the flashing.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The only thing I can say here is that the game, as with all other Sports Interactive titles, delivers all information via text. As a result of this deaf gamers will have no problems at all with Football Manager 2006.

Final thoughts.

Football Manager 2006, like Football Manager 2005 before it, manages to surpass all football management simulations to date. The new features, of which I've mentioned only some, all add up to give a more immersive experience. From the screenshots you may think not much has changed but play the game for a few hours or so and you'll realise how different the game is. Having gone back to Football Manager 2005 for a while to make a comparison it just didn't feel right and suffice to say that for the next 12 months I'll only be playing Football Manager 2006.

 

Overall Game Rating: 9.3/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:


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Football Manager 2006 successfully builds upon the excellent Football Manager 2005 and adds features that make the whole experience better in every way.