• Anyone with even the faintest interest in games will be aware of the Football Manager series and it’s impact on the PC market. Formerly called Championship Manager before creators SI Games split with Eidos (Eidos now have their own inferior Championship Manager game out) crucially, Football Manager has retained the code of its older cousin, if not the name.

    The premise is simple. You are a football manager and your job is to guide the team of your choice to glory. Of course, whichever team you choose to manage will dictate the terms of that glory and the scale of your likely achievement, but like 99 per cent of players, you are likely to start with the team you support.

    So, if you pick Torquay, you will have no money, a crap squad but a supporter base that demands survival in lowly League Two. Choose Chelsea and you’ll have almost unlimited transfer funds but a chairman and owner who will want nothing less than Champions League glory. Therein lies the dilemma, because as you will no doubt find out, the satisfaction of bringing together a group of lower league players and organising them so that they avoid relegation and then challenge for promotion is huge and you will form genuine, if slightly worrying, relationships with players, refusing to drop them if they play badly just because you like them. Of course you could pick an obscure team from India if you really wanted a challenge.

    Football Manager 2006

    I am getting ahead of myself though. Let’s start at the beginning for those who know nothing of the series.

    You are responsible for everything you would expect a modern manager to have to deal with. That is, picking the team, choosing tactics, dealing with transfers, choosing staff, setting up training, dealing with the media. Thankfully, what you won’t be doing is setting the prices of hot dogs, as some management games would ridiculously have you do.

    However what really sets FM apart from other series is the level of detail. Players – and there are thousands of them in the game – are rated in every possible category you can imagine, from composure and anticipation to creativity and pace, allowing you to gather as much information as possible about players before choosing your team and tactics and who you should buy and sell.

    Buying and selling is a complex affair, with an agreed fee obviously required between the two clubs before you enter contract negotiations with the player. All sorts of incentives can be offered to both parties, with sell-on and relegation release clauses available to help sweeten the deal to get that 25-goal a season striker to your club.

    Meanwhile, you must sort out the training schedules of your players to help improve their skills, make derogatory comments about Jose Mourinho to the media (something I have to do every now and then) and figure out just how you want your team to play. Narrow or wide? Pressing game or sit back? Full-backs overlapping or wingless wonders? Frankly there’s too much to go into without slowing the totally360.com server so it’s probably best for you to find out all the game’s intricacies.

    To guide you through this is an interface that has been heavily adapted for the 360. The PC version naturally uses a point and click method with a mouse but SI have done a very good job of utilising the the 360 gamepad. It takes plenty of getting used to, especially for those players used to the PC version, but after a few sessions it should start to become easier to navigate the various menus. It basically just takes a bit longer to do everything than if you had a mouse.

    So what else is different? In truth, remarkably little, and SI have done an amazing job in porting such a detailed game over to the 360 in such a faithful manner. There are little tweaks to screens here and there, but in essense it is the same game. One major difference is the number of leagues that can be run and consequently the size of the database in the game. SI has limited the number of leagues to 10, which ensures the game runs very quickly but does mean that those PC users used to huge databases, where obscure players from South America and deepest Asia are included, will be disappointed. However, with 10 leagues running, there are still thousands of players to pore through.

    The other major difference, and the most disappointing one, is the online aspect. While most 360 games thrive on their online experience, FM’s is actually worse than the PC, because there is no opportunity to run a full season with a friend. Instead there are mini-seasons and cup competitions, where you ‘import’ a team from your own games and pit them against a friend. This is a shame, because the chance to slouch on the sofa for hours chatting to a friend while you pit your wits against each other in a full-on season would have been incredible.

    So, in effect there are two reviews to be done here. If you want a football manager game and don’t have FM2006 for your PC or have never played FM, go get this for your 360 now. It’s an incredible console football manager game that blows all the others out of the water. To those of you who already have it on your PC, stick with that. If you’re good at multi-tasking, you can play it on your laptop while beating the crap out of someone on Fight Night. Happy Days.

    Score: 8/10

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