One of the best ever PC titles has finally made it onto a console. With the power behind the Xbox 360 and the necessity to have the Hard Drive (required for this game), the means to play Football Manager on something other than a PC is here at last. Yes it may not have good graphics, but it never needed them, the amount of detail the game has for soccer fans is immense, from real players to the most detailed of stats, career details to the being able to play in some of the lowest most unknown leagues in the world. Support a team? chances are that no matter who it is, you'll find them here.
For the first time on Xbox 360, Sport’s Interactive present Football Manager 2006. A complete recreation of the PC game, the game also offers exclusive Xbox live online features and gameplay.
Football Manager is one of the biggest selling titles in the United Kingdom, it comes under different names around the world, but this is the version I am reviewing here today. As I have already mentioned, the game requires the use of the Xbox 360 Hard Drive, this is because the save game files are over 60mbs in size and the game needs to do a lot of saving and processing on the hard disk.
You can take control of nearly any football team in the world, to give you an idea of how detailed the game is, I stated with Histon Town - A team who play in the English Conference South, the game had all the correct player details and staff information it should do. Once you take charge of the team you will need to build your squad up to try and compete in the division you are in for cups and the league title or just hope for promotion through the play offs. Starting with a smaller team gives you a much better feeling of accomplishment than going with an already established large team such as Manchester United (they large anymore??) or Real Madrid.
Building your team up doesn't just involve buying new players on the transfer market though, you need to bring in good coaches, setup a training system for your players and try and keep them happy and injury free throughout the season by giving them the right contract that will benefit both you and the player. Picking the right players is entirely up to you and for you to decide on whether they will fit into your tactics, maybe you like playing the long ball game and want a tall player who is excellent at heading on the ball, maybe you want fast wingers who are good at crossing, but remember they may have aggression problems or not be a team player. There are just some of the decisions you will have to make. The game is packed full of stats, from player stats that go from telling you how well they head the ball, how well they finish, to aggression levels, stamina and general fitness, there is so much detail it will make your head spin.
Now in the PC version, you only get the option to check out the detailed stats of the players in your squad and in the game, with the Xbox 360 version, SI have added a quicker way of checking out a players states in a bar style graph, while this may be good for newcomers to the game I prefer the old more detailed way and unfortunately although you can still view those stats by pressing up on the D-Pad, there is no option to save that view, thus you have to press up every time you are on a player page.
Obviously the control method on the PC version was via mouse, with the Xbox 360 the mouse had to go and the controller had to take over this massive menu controlled game, at first you may find the controls overwhelming, but my view of it is that you must keep going, within a few hours the controls start to become easier and easier to remember, yes its hard going from the PC version to this one and it would have been nice if a USB mouse option could be added to the Xbox 360, but right now this almost as perfect as SI games could get it to work with the Xbox 360.
Credit also has to go to Sports Interactive for not only making this one of the few games with very hard, but very good achievements, but also for getting the game running so fast compared to the PC version. I have been playing Football Manager for years, and the Xbox 360 version is the fastest one I have played, I was playing Football Manager on my Athlon 64 4000+ PC before this, but I won't be going back to that now. Xbox 360 users also have the "advantage" of Xbox Live! play, now this is one area that really excited me, finally getting the chance to play other Football Manager fans over the net via Live! should be excellent, unfortunately the game suffers the most here, its hard to get games working as connections drop very easily, also for many users they will find they are just sitting there at home for minutes at a time doing nothing while waiting for the other player to sort their team and tactics out, I have been told the connection problems will be sorted out in an upcoming patch, so there is still hope there.
So what downsides are there? Well there are a few text commentary errors in the game that have followed over from the 6 month old PC version which shouldn't have happened, the game sometimes suffers from a bout of slowness in the news section for no apparent reason, loading save games takes a bit too long and I had one crash during a save which nearly crashed my whole season (thankfully auto save fixed that). Apart from that the game is almost the perfect football management title.
Graphics & Sound
There is little to talk about in the game graphic-wise, this is because the game is basically a more attractive version of Microsoft Excel. The game is full of menus and stats, with only a splattering of player/coach/manager photos added onto profiles. So it does what it needs to do well, if I have one problem with the game here it is that I found the text too small on my 26" HDTV upstairs when running in 720p, whereas if I went down and used my 32" HDTV, it looked perfect. Sound is ok too, you hear various cheers and shouting from the stands when playing the main match (which is done via a top down 2D view or via text commentary), but apart from that there isn't anything else. Not that sound plays a major factor into why this game is so popular around the world.
Overall for new players entering the Football Manager craze, 2006 is an excellent start, the game is massive and i'm not making it up when I say that you will still be playing this one as the next version hits the streets. The only letdown for me is the price, you could get the PC version for £9.99, yet the recommended price of the Xbox 360 version is a massive £49.99. I can't fault the game, I haven't had a crash, it runs fast, has some amazing amounts of detail and the control method becomes natural the more that you play it. This game will eat up your life.