Chris Sell
09 Jun, 2006

Football Manager 2006 Review

360 Review | Why not win the World Cup while you're watching it?
The life of a football manager can be a very stressful one. Your responsible for millions of pounds of money, thousands of fans rely on you to succeed and dozens of players for you to care for and nurture. Not only that but when you’re winning the players receive most of the praise while it’s you held to blame if things start going wrong. Despite all this the Football Manger series (previously known as Championship Manager) has, over the years, proved that there are fewer things in gaming that can be as addictive and rewarding as managing a football team. So with the Xbox 360 version of Football Manger 2006 promising to be everything the PC game is it’s time for console owners to finally experience everything that makes Sports Interactive’s management games so special.

My first season in charge of Liverpool FC was never going to be an easy one. 2005’s Premier League form was inconstant at best and only a large improvement with myself in charge would be tolerated. Expectations in Europe were even higher following Champions League success while the early exit to lowly Burnley in last season’s FA Cup meant there was pressure to do well there also. Although all transfers are up to date as of the January transfer window there were still many ways of improving the squad upon starting the 2005-2006 season. With Djibril Cisse and Fernando Morientes banging in goals for fun during the Champions League qualifying rounds I turned my search away from a goalscorer and towards finding a right winger and a young centre back. With a modest £15m transfer kitty I had money to spend, but not enough to be silly with. Initial targets Ledley King and Joaquin Sanchez, despite showing interest, couldn’t be prized from their respective clubs for whatever money I offered. Further bids for Phillippe Mexes and Maxi Rodriguez also failed and I was running out of time.

How you train your team is completely up to you.

How you train your team is completely up to you.
Success! Benfica agreed to sell Simão Sabrosa for £7.4m and my winger problem was solved as he could play either wing which was especially useful with Harry Kewell injured until mid-October. Bids from other clubs came in for Steve Finnan and Luis Garcia but with both players being important parts of the first team the temptation to sell was never there. Loan deals for young players were always welcome though as I sent promising goalkeeper Scott Carson to Sheffield Wednesday for some regular first team experience while other players who I deemed surplus to requirements were duly transfer listed as I organized rigorous training schedules for the current squad.

After breezing through the Champions League qualifiers it was time to spend some time organizing my tactics and formations as the Premiership season began. The depth of options you have here are simply incredible. There’s a stack of preset formations to choose from, or you can go hands on and make any formation you could possibly dream of. With the first game being at home to Portsmouth I went with a pretty standard 4-4-2 setup. Given their weakness in the air I started with the 6’7 Peter Crouch up top with wide-men Luis Garcia and newly acquired Simão Sabrosa instructed to bring width to the team and aim balls into him. Yes, you can specifically instruct certain players to aim crosses toward a particular player. In fact, there’s a whole host of orders you can give. There are sliders you can adjust to give a player more creative freedom or tell him to keep it simple. You can make them run with the ball more often, tell them whether to cross early from deep or aim for the byline before delivering. With Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard knocking it around the middle of the park I was bound to win surely? Of course 20mins gone and I was 1-0 down and constantly under pressure. A quick look in the stat menu show Portsmouth playing 5 in midfield and exposing the space behind in the wingers. By reducing the attacking bias and creative freedom of my wingers, as well as putting Xabi Alonso in more of a defensive role meant things tightened up a great deal and my fortunes soon changed. Luis Garcia stuck back just before half time while Steven Gerrard made the game safe around the 75minute mark with two deadly strikes.

The style of football your team plays is highly adjustable.

The style of football your team plays is highly adjustable.
That is one of the things that has always set the Football Manger series apart from the rest. If things go wrong it’s not only often easy to see why, but there’s enough settings and options you can tweak to turn things around and the feeling you get when you do so is like you had actually saved your team from defeat in real life. Of course, with the good comes plenty of bad in football management as I lost Sami Hyypia on Boxing Day for the rest of the season through injury (I knew failing to get that centre back would come back to haunt me). Jerzy Dudek put in a transfer request during the January window and went to Valencia meaning I had to prematurely recall Scott Carson from his loan and both my Champions League and FA Cup runs were both ended at the quarter final stage by Lyon and Bolton respectively. On the plus side, with 3 games to go I’ve all but sewn up second place in the Premiership so European football next season is a certainty (providing I keep my job).

Assuming I do there will be some big changes planned. In the past it’s been said that actual managers have used Sports Interactive’s management games over the years to unearth hidden talent such is the diversity of the database and the accuracy of the stats within it; and I can certainly see where they’re coming from. With hundreds of teams and thousands of players to search through there’s no excuse in not finding the right player for your team. With clever use of a wide selection of search filters you can look for players of a certain age, height, international experience, etc as well as things like their contract status and estimated transfer fee. The game has literally everything you could wish for in a football management sim and more. Of course, given the vast selection of teams within the game you can theoretically set the game difficulty to be as hard as you want. With each team having their own players, salary caps and transfer budgets playing the game with Manchester City would be a whole different experience than it would be if you were in control of Manchester United.

Football Manger lets you create practically any formation you want.

Football Manger lets you create practically any formation you want.
Its only real faults stem from it coming from a PC heritage. Without the use of a mouse the controls are awfully fiddly for a long time until you learn the menus and button presses off by heart. With various sub-menus on the shoulder buttons things are probably as straightforward as they could have been on something as limiting as a joypad given the wealth of options buried deep within Football Manager. It’s also worth mentioning that this game will not work without a Hard Drive so you Core owners are out of luck. Given the wealth of dumbed-down Football management games we’ve had on consoles in the past I think it's good thing that bringing a higher quality product was a higher priority than a few extra potential sales. The other major complaint, and perhaps the most disappointing one, is the online portion of the game. With no option to run a full season with a friend you’re instead left with mini-seasons and cup competitions where you import a team from your own games and pit them against a friend. It’s still enjoyable but it’s far from the fully fledged experience that was expected.

For a game that’s effectively an interactive spreadsheet I’m not even going to waste your time going into any great depth on how the game looks and sounds. The menus and clean, crisp and clear, the 2D overhead match highlight engine does a more than adequate job and the various crowd cheers and groans all serve the add to the atmosphere. It’s a superb package that finally brings to consoles what the PC has enjoyed for years. The same compelling addictiveness that can have you playing for 5 minutes or 5 hours is as unexplainable today as it was nearly a decade ago. If you’ve already got the PC version then there’s obviously nothing here for you, but for those have never played the series before, have given up with PC gaming or just want the extra of laying on the sofa in front of the TV while winning the league with your favourite team Football Manager 2006 is the game for you.
The Score
Football Manager 2006 is everything console owners have dreamt of in a football management game. There’s no ‘watering down’ going on here with all the stats and options of its PC brother making it the ideal time filler between World Cup matches and beyond. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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