Fifa Manager 07 PC Review
In the football management genre of video games most people tend to opt for the goliath that is Football Manager, Championship Manager in its various guises, or LMA Manager. With three established franchises dominating the market is it possible for EA Sports to muscle in on the act with their latest incarnation of their own management simulation; Fifa Manager 07? In a nutshell, one could say they have indeed made a fair attempt. However, like Liverpool FC trying to win the Premiership in recent years, it is good attempt that is just not good enough.
And there’s the whistle to start the match
Upon loading, the game presents a list of possible scenarios to play through. The two that stand out most are firstly the standard management offering, whereby one takes control of a club and attempts to manage them to glory; the second scenario of real interest is the option to create your own club and start from the bottom of the FA divisions with a bunch of Premiership wannabes. This mode gives the player the opportunity to create the club’s name, kit, logo, stadium and much more. Both avenues have their merits; it is certainly entertaining to create not only your own team, but even the town in which it plays. Within these game modes both allow you to create a detailed profile of you, the manager. This not only includes standard details such as favourite club, but also there is a section for a personal life and even a family. While this may seem like a gimmick on the surface it actually affects the game. Much like your players, your relationships outside of football and with the board of directors have a confidence meter. If your team does badly it is not merely your job that is under threat! Aside from the personal areas there is also a useful page on responsibilities that precedes the beginning of your managerial career. This screen allows you to look at all the areas of your chosen club and choose which ones to manage from the start; this can be merely choosing the team, right down to the ticket prices. There is also no need to worry either, because you can easily take control of these areas once the game is in progress and you feel comfortable. From the outset FM07 offers a wide range of options and variables that bode well for the game as a whole.
The first foul of the game
However, for all the pros and cons of these sections, they matter little if the game as a whole does not come up to scratch. First things first however, licenses. EA Sports seem to have a monopoly at times of sporting licences, but this is not the case in Fifa Manager 07. The presence of the League Manager’s Association (LMA Manager) means that there are no “real” managers in FM07. This means one cannot have a personal dual with Sir Alex Ferguson, nor smile smugly if he gets the sack. Yet, while these licenses are notably absent, there remain many more that are present. There are correctly spelt player and team names throughout the many leagues available to play in. Kits, while not always perfect, are accurate. While this license imperfection may bother some players, it certainly does not make the game unplayable by any means.
How are they shaping up at the moment Trevor?
Coupled with details such as licenses, other first impressions are distinctly important in football management sims; you will spend a lot of time as a manger in the squad, training and tactics areas, therefore they need to feel comfortable. As with most EA sports titles the presentation is crisp and aesthetically pleasing. The menu colours are customisable, but default to your chosen team’s primary colour scheme. The whole system is also enhanced by instrumental versions of clearly recognisable songs; this feature is also added to with the ability to add your own music files to the playlist. The menus themselves are laid out logically; the first, reserve and youth teams are all grouped together for example. Financial matters are also grouped together as are most other areas. While this may seem a logical detail it is important to remember how horrible such a stats dependant game would feel without the basics in place. Within these menus there are a wide range of areas to dabble in. For example, within the training section there are a good range of activities that can be chosen from, but not so many as to over-complicate matters. There is also the option to simply let your assistant handle matters of course. Within the transfer menus there are options such as sending an agent off to inquire about the availability of a player and the transfer fee required. It is also worth noting that FM07 has not been left behind by Football Manager’s greater experience and consequently contains many of the same features. One of Football Manager’s proud new features is that of the “feeder” club. Yet, this is also present in Fifa Manager 07 under the guise of cooperation.
However, while there are definite levels of detail, therein also lie the first problems with FM07. Maybe it was the assistant manager in my employment, but I am not convinced his training methods saw my team improve in their weakest areas. For example, after a 4-1 drubbing I did not witness the training change from attack based practices to teaching my defensive players how to man-mark. Added to this, when sending an agent off to inquire about a player’s availability he did not seem to have to the intelligence to create himself a schedule. As such, if you send the agent to inquire about two players he will often not enquire about any at all! One at a time is the order of the day and means you find yourself visiting your shortlist far too often. These glitches mean that you have to inevitably take full control whether you are ready or not; it is very irritating not being able to entrust the staff in your club with anything but following direct orders. Yet, while this is annoying to say the least, most of these problems disappear when one fully takes control of the club; training suddenly becomes very influential for example. While some may scoff that the assistant was left in charge in the first place, there is little point in including this feature if it is not a fully functioning tool. It also makes the game arguably harder for those gamers who simply want to pick up and play a management sim without having to learn the ins and outs of every little aspect of the club.
Let’s see what they’re really made of
While the menus are well presented and very workable once the player takes control, the match day and all that comes with it are arguably the main areas of interest. One area that Fifa Manager 07 excels in is the build-up to this match day arena: the ever important (yes I said it) loading screen. While this screen appears every time you want to proceed through the game it is a valuable tool in the lead up to any fixture. Rather than staring at a loading bar the player is presented with a wealth of information to occupy themselves while the computer processes the necessaries. Within this screen one can see the calendar for the week, the news, the training schedule, the league table, fitness and energy information and the top goal scorers plus more. This means if your squad lacks fitness, you have been notified and can amend the training scheme accordingly. While not a seemingly vital screen at first thought, this screen can prove highly useful especially in pre-season. If nothing else one can compare the team’s overall fitness to the rest of the league and this is most certainly useful in judging the pre-season training efforts.
The use of this loading screen data is crucial to preparing your squad physically and planning properly. However, tactics and match days are the bread and butter of any management sim; they decide whether you will adore the game or hate it. The tactics screen prior to entering the match is excellent with clear layouts and detailed information just a click away. Formations can be chosen from the usual presets or customised to your liking. There is also the usual array of team tactics, plus the option to assign individual player strategies. But, alas, the tactics are not without their flaws. When using a standard 442 with Spurs and a “Normal” mentality I struggled to win and was very frustrated. When I cranked up the tactics to “Attacking” sure I conceded more goals, but I was finally scoring them. Unfortunately this leads to many matches ending in cricket scores, even if there is only one actual goal between the teams; it becomes common to see 4-3 score lines. The actual selection of players is also sometimes frustrating; an apparent glitch sometimes means you cannot simply swap two players, but one has to deselect one player in order to select the other. While only taking a few seconds it soon becomes a rather annoying bug that surely should have been ironed out in testing.
Once into the match itself the promise of 3D graphics (although simple text options are available) sounds enticing. Yet, here is where the real problems begin and FM07 has most flaws. The two main problems that spring to mind are substitutions and simple player stupidity. Firstly, substitutions can be somewhat of a nightmare. Once into the substitutions and tactics screen itself there are no problems. However, one issue lies in that goals seem to appear from nowhere! As the tactics button is pressed a goal maybe scored. This is nothing crazy, but as the tactics button has been pressed no highlight is displayed. It is therefore very easy to miss a goal and not adjust your team accordingly. The second problem is that I am simply not convinced 100% that the tactical changes made during a game have any affect. When playing the rival game Football Manager 2006, making a substitution or tactical switch made an obvious difference whether positively or negatively. With Fifa Manager 07 I find myself simply substituting my most tired players and hoping for the best; this reduces the actual management involved. However, we must not dwell and therefore move onto the second main problem with match days as mentioned above, sheer player stupidity. While watching your team concede you are bound to get angry. But, when many goals seem to involve the goalkeeper wandering around in a circle, or the defender waiting for the ball to sail past him before he starts running, it becomes exceedingly irritating. But, this is perhaps a lopsided and unfair point. There is certainly nothing better than watching your attacking midfielder smack one in from thirty yards, or watching their keeper perform a circular dance allowing you to equalise even if it does feel like cheating. The 3D animations also certainly provide a break from the stats and words driven game of Football Manager; I never did warm to the 2D pitch either. When things are going well the 3D graphics are certainly a satisfying aspect of Fifa Manager 07 if also highly frustrating at times.
Surely that’s got to be the final whistle
To conclude this review of EA’s Fifa Manager 07 it is fair to say that FM07 deserves an opportunity. It is true that it lacks the mammoth database of Football Manager and some of the lesser licenses, but this does not make it terrible effort as regards resources. The menu systems are pleasing to the eye, well laid out and there are certainly more than enough of the menus to give options and depth galore when managing your club. Unfortunately, where FM07 really falls down is the football matches themselves. It appears possible that many of these issues could be sorted out with a couple of patches. However, this does not excuse the release of a game that has been poorly tested in perhaps the most significant area of all. These problems aside, it is arguably the second best football management simulation out there at the moment; if the statistics driven, silent nature of Football Manager bores you or you simply want a change, Fifa Manager 07 is the one for you. If Football Manager is the champion of football management simulations, then Fifa Manager 07 comes in a comfortable second.
Reminiscent of a sponge cake that has not risen; it has promised so much, but ultimately has left you thinking it could have been better.
7.5 out of 10