Player Manager 2 logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Without a shadow of a doubt Sensible software are the definitive football game developers. Although, looking back over the years, Aco, the masterminds behind the Kick Off series have to be awarded the 'most consistency' trophy.

Kick Off was their first release when kicked up a tremendous following which inevitably brought around a sequel - namely Player Manager. Back then Anco was the only name that mattered within the football game industry. After the success of Kick Off 2 they looked unbeatable. Although it may not have had the polished graphics that Sensible Soccer had, for gameplay it could not be matched.

Player Manager 2 arrives five years after the prequel, Anco have had time to weigh up the competition, waiting, and only now deciding to launch their eagerly anticipated sequel.

When you begin the game you are allocated a club to run. This can be any team in division 2. At 28-years old your retirement is imminent, but you now have the opportunity to take on a job as Player Manager in division 2 - revitalising your football prowess. You can select which position you would rpet to play, from either a full-back to a striker, and can also select whether to control the entire team or just play as yourself in your selected position.

Once you enter the game and all the administration processes are sorted you will be on holiday. From here you can call people up - scouts, physios, specialists and coaches - and can assign them to your club before the game starts. Also, you must arrange five friendly matches to be played in the pre-season. Once this is complete you must speak to some companies who are willing to sponsor your club throughout the season.

You can access one of the rooms it takes you to a more detailed view where you can click on notice boards, drawers, telephones etc. This is much the same way as On The Ball is operated, only there are more pictures and items to select.

The idea is to get your team into a coaching programme and organise a training programme. You can select numerous ways to coach your team - from individual attention to five-a-sides. It is impossible to describe the coaching and tactical depth that is included in Player Manager 2 as it would simply fill up these two pages alone.


If you want a serious, statistical football game with plenty of frills then Player Manager 2 comes top of the list

From your office you can organise team selection and transfers. All transactions you make in here are relevant to the actual team itself. You can call up the transfer list not just to buy players but to loan them too. Also, you can view all the club and player statistics to see the current form. If you want to play the game in depth there are many screens you have to view before actually stepping out on the pitch and this is where the true managerial featured comes to play.

The actual players each have their own unique statistics which range from their nationality to individual player history. Their ratings are determined in stars, with white stars representing the best players in that particular league, and the darker the star is, the less likely the player is to cope at your club. All the basic football attributes and rules are included - red and yellow cards, injuries and suspensions are all recorded and affect the team accordingly.

There is a special room on the top floor of your stadium where all the club's archives are kept. You can study every club in the league, looking at their history, records and current statistics.

A trip to the physio can be warranted if some of your players pick up injuries during the seasons. If it is something minor such as the flu then resting them for a day or two will bring them back up to full fitness. However, if it's more serious such as pulled hamstrings or back muscles, then a visit to a specialist is required.

Player Manager 2 doesn't include real players' names as such. This is a shame because it's difficult to assess the true value of players and make it exciting. For instance, it would be more interesting if Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona were involved in a brawl rather than B McNeil and T Harkouk - it would've added to the realism immensely.

Player Manager 2 includes immense realism. Your players can get injured in car crashes and even resort to brawls in nightclubs - which at the moment is nothing short of unusual in today's game.


John Barnes still?

In Player Manager 1 - after taking your team from the depths of the, then, third division to the first - the challenge had basically disappeared. All that was left was the domestic trophy scene - there were no European competitions or International squads.

Being 28-years old in Player Manager, you are more or less 'past it' in terms of international football. Although boasting many caps from your earlier days, your international career is now believed to be over. But if you do manage to be a successful player in your last few years. It is is possible to receive a call up and within days you will be scooting off to Bisham Abbey to train with the newly promoted youngsters. With data disks arriving later on from Anco, what's next? The England job itself? We'll have to wait and see.

Final word

As it stands, Player Manager 2 certainly is better than Ultimate Soccer Manager and On The Ball. As for Sensible Soccer, it just cannot be compared. Player Manager 2 and Sensible Soccer are two completely different games. Sensible Soccer has to be the definitive arcade football game, but if you want a serious, statistical football game with plenty of frills then Player Manager 2 comes top of the list.

Last month, Tactical Manager received a healthy score for boasting its statistics, but Player Manager actually goes a lot further.

With update disks promised from Anco, your version will be continually updated with new competitions, tactics and teams. At £19.99, this has to add up to one of the greatest football games to be released. If you enjoyed On The Ball's graphics and Championship Manager's depth and gameplay, this is undoubtedly the definitive management sim.



Player Manager 2 logo

Steve Bradley takes the helm at Huddersfield Town and finds that there is rather more to the job then he'd initially anticipated. He got sacked.

It's frightening to think where Amiga gaming would be without the football management sim. No, seriously, even if you loathe them with passion, they've kept the market reasonably buoyant, ensuing that Amiga games still outsell their PC counterparts, despite the fact that non-one has been able to buy the essential hardware for a year.

And we're the first to question the software houses' motives for producing these games. Two issues back, when Impressions' Ultimate Soccer Manager arrived (AF72 85%), I took a cynical glance in their direction - but in truth it's a tremendous game, mixing Theme Park-esque ground building with realistic player information, and a couple of weeks ago it hit the top of the Home Computer Charts. Can't be a bad thing.
So we'll agree that footie management (and arcade) games have been an essential ingredient in keeping the profile of Amiga games high.

On to Player Manager 2. Five long years ago, Anco released Player Manager to an ecstatic press (AF10 93%). It was the first Amiga game to successfully incorporate arcade action with management statistics and five years on, cue short trumpet fanfare, we have the sequel - and remarkably, it's the same price as its predecessor.
Bigger, better, faster, more?

Well, firstly this is a huge game, again incorporating arcade action with management tactics but with the emphasis on the latter. You can choose one of four options when it comes to playing matches; predict (simply watching referees cards and goals in a text format); watch game or play game (in each case, three minute arcade games); or watch on the fast scanner (which shows the players as dots darting around a small pitch).

There are four arcade views to play or watch including top-down (Kick Off 2 style), mini-isometric, sideways and above sideways. SWOS players will find the arcade section tough to get used to.

But fear not, for the management side is far more detailed than that of the illustrious SWOS. Each player is rated from one to five stars in his particular division and each has 15 attributes. There are basically two types of stats: personality and curving. Personality stats are the ones a player is born with and therefore don't change much, whereas curving stats can change with age, coaching, opportunities and experience. With the stats ranging form one to 50, you can appreciate the amount of practice and playing required to learn the ins and outs of the game.

You, then. You're a 28-year-old capped player who has just been offered a player manager job with a Second Division team. You have to employ coaching staff, a physio and a scout and shape a team capable of rising through the ranks - all this on a limited budget.

Importantly, one to four human players can play, so you can battle three mates in the same league, an option which would have been most welcome in SWOS. You pit your wits both on and off the field - so you might be a better tactician, but if your mate is a handy arcade player, you could get stuffed.

The teams and players are an odd mix of fantasy and reality. All the team names are correct, though the divisions don't reflect real football. Players are fictional, but you'll recognise surnames - you might find a K Cantona playing for Preston North End. Or something. This is a good thing, because when real players are involved you always have preconceptions about their ability. Here you rely on your own guile and nous.

Another clever touch is the team talk, during which you can instruct each player by selecting any two from six instructions. If, say, you've got a skillful full back, you can tell him to, 'push up' and 'run with the ball'.

Anco have gone the whole hog, here, including as many elements of football management as they could cram on to three disks. Alan Hansen imparts pre-match predictions, while the Anco Times reports on your matches.

The stadium has eight rooms: board, press, archive, physio, coach, finance, manager and boot rooms. Whether you get tired of clicking around the place after each game depends on how dedicated a manager you are.

Player Manager 2 is certainly not for the faint of heart. Whether you're worrying about upgrading your stadium capacity or getting a 'vote of confidence' from the board, you can be sure that you have to really graft to get something out of this.

The arcade section is a little pointless, simply because none of the views, nor the arcade game can hold a candle to Sensible Soccer. The isometric view is unplayable, though great to watch.

No, this is a management game, and one which requires both application and patience. Thankfully you can glean satisfaction from buying, selling and managing, but to get ultimate control of your club you'll have to work hard.

Certainly impressive and £10 cheaper than most, but you may end up with more grey hair than Bobby Robson.


MY WORD, FOUR VIEWS

Player Manager 2
Isometric": unplayable, but great to watch the games, if you've got the time.

Player Manager 2
Sideways: simply a smaller version of the arcade game Kick Off 3.

Player Manager 2
Perspective (as it's called): quite fun when you're actually playing.

Player Manager 2
Top-down: the same view as the original Kick Off 2. And the Coverdisk demo.

FIVE TREMENDOUS FOOTIE MANNIE SIMS TO CONSIDER.

On The Ball: World Cup Edition is the soap opera of the management sim.

Sensible World of Soccer is the ultimate arcade/management game. The Guv'nor.

Ultimate Soccer Manager is the Theme Park of footie sims. Entertaining and realistic stuff.

Super League Manager. Role-playing management game and a breath of fresh air.

Premier Manager 3. Heavy going, packed to the gills with stats, but a real stalwart.



Player Manager 2 logo

Wait too long and you come up with too many ideas.

Holidays are great. Probably not the most shattering piece of news you've ever read, but an indisputable (and personally, new-found) piece of information. They relieve stress, you (hopefully) experience new erm... experiences and generally life becomes a lot more bearable than it was before you went away.

I'm telling you all this because I've just had my hols. It involved a long transatlantic flight, walking round lots of universities and museums and also a couple of music festivals. It was great.
And I came into work this morning an invigorated and enthused man, fired-up and ready for the next issue of AMIGA POWER. And ready to play Player Manager 2.

Unfortunately, because until I went away on holiday I'd been playing a 95% finished version of the game, I wasn't bowled over by the excitement of having a new game to play. In fact, without the benefit of my holiday, I would have tried to throw this little footie management game over in the direction of Steve, but with his obvious hard-man status (enhanced by his fraying denim shots), I thought it best not to bother him and just get on with it. So I did.

KICK IN
And what a sickening jolt back to a working environment this is. It's SOOOOO boring. Come on, stop accessing the disk every time I flip between menu screens, I only want to have a look at my squad and move a few players around.

Oh please! I've looked at the chance of buying a couple of players from the transfer market, and just seen an interesting little proposition at the bottom of the page, but because I've already looked at two players this week you're not going to let me buy him are you? And for some reason when I try and renew someone's contract you either accept or decline - I don't know why. WHAT'S GOING ON, you stupid game?

PAUSE
There are enough annoying or frustrating points to comment on to fill around four pages of non-stop ranting. I reckon, but you'd more than likely lose interest or get the point soon enough, so there's no need for that.

All you really need to know is that Player Manager 2 is probably the most tedious and downright least-fun-to-play game I've endured in a long time. And readers familiar with my work know that I've played a lot of crap stuff in my first year on AMIGA POWER (yep, it's my anniversary next week).

Although the game is massive, and covers every angle possible in a footie management game (and that's no exaggeration, there's absolutely EVERYTHING in here), sifting through seemingly endless screens of bland menus and decisions (all of which access the disks) just to be able to buy, train, select tactics and play a game takes too much time and kills off any flow that the game might have once head.

I mean, it's all very nice having rendered 256-colour screens for each of the rooms you can go into, but what's the point in having a great looking board if you're only going to have three very dull and boring charts to look at?

Yes, it improves the presentation of the game, but looks don't make a game and when, by importing pretty piccies, you actually slow down a game this much you really begin to just ask yourself why they bothered.

ACTION
I really don't want to harp on about the speed of the game, as footie manny games aren't exactly famous for zipping along, but there's a difference between a slowly paced game, and a game whose mechanics make everything chug along depressingly slow.

After reading through the manual, discovering the sheer number of options and choice the game offers the player, the management lobe of my brain was gasping to play season after season after season. But after the slow and very dull start, a failure to spot any effects of my training schedules, buying foreign players and mysteriously watching both their abilities and value alter as soon as they became part of my squad and actually playing a few matches to see if I could salvage a few vital points (only to find an incredibly simple and boring arcade football game), I was just thoroughly annoyed that a game which apparently had so much to offer turned out to have very little. If you get my meaning.


THE GAME BOLTED ON TO THE END

There are several ways to sit back and chew your fingernails down to the knuckles in Player Manager 2. You can just predict the score of the match and leave the decision up to the game. And you can even watch the action all the way through or use the scanner for a high up point of view to see what your players are doing in relation to where the ball is on the pitch. But if you're on a losing streak, desperately needing to get past the third round of the FA Cup or just fancying a bit of arcade fun, then you'll probably select the Play option.

Unfortunately, there's not that much good stuff I can really say about the game. There are a few different viewpoints you can choose from (but you can see that from the screenshots, right?), but it's a very poor kick and rush game that even after a great deal of practice still doesn't come up with the goods. Shame.



Player Manager 2 logo

Price: £19.99 Publisher: Anco 01322 292 513

Football management games are like washing powder. There's always a new one on the market but it's never that much different from the rest... Will Anco's new formula break the mould?

We took our copy of Player Manager 2 around to several local housewives to test it out. A week later the results proved that it indeed get their teams higher up the league than any other known brand of football management sim. However, this could have something to do with the fact that you start off in division two, unlike most games of this ilk, where it's just an option.

In the running
The look and feel of Player Manager 2 is similar to On The Ball, which, if you're not familiar with, is basically more accessible and arcade orientated than the likes of Domark's Championship Manager series or Gremlin's Premier Manager titles. It's closest to Audiogenic's Super League Manager though, as you can actually play games via the included Kick Off 3 game engine as well as manage them.

As a newly appointed manager and still international player of a second division team the aim is to create a team capable of winning promotion to the Premier League as well as challenging for European honours.

There's a neat twist in that as well as more general opposition you are directly playing against three other managers who can be either computer or human controlled. Expect these guys to give you grief in the papers at every opportunity. You can also call upon Alan Hanson for advice but whenever I played his comments were about as reliable as someone desperate to seel you some life insurance.

Part of the team
It's odd that you're a player who's only 28, still an international and yet a manager. I could understand if you'd suffered an injury but this isn't the case and every so often you have to depart with the rest of the international squad. This leaves your team in the thick of it, as to begin with you're by far the best player in your squad.

Commencing in the second division rather than the third with the real dregs is a good idea, at least the team you begin with are semi decent. Teams from all four divisions are present but it's a poor show only having 16 teams from each.

Anco have presumably done this to increase competition and, because of the way the game engine, money and promotions work this no doubt makes sense, but it does detract from the overall reality of the game as Premier League teams are forced to take place in the lower rounds of both the League and FA Cups.

Great tactics
Options wise all the regular footy sim features are present, from dealing with sponsors to creating new tactics and carrying out detailed training programs. Dealing with players forms the game's crux of but there are limitations put on these aspects. For instance,you can only renew one contract or buy one player per week and there's no option to give a player a free transfer: someone has to buy him no matter how piffling the amount offered. Neither is it possible to say, buy a player for money as well as conducting a player swap. These aspects are irritating.

Each section of the game from the board room to the manager's office is represented with artwork featuring a number of hotspot options scattered around the room. The actual layout of these screens is somewhat poor at times though. For instance, when bidding for players there's no indication of how much money yo have to spend. It's a case of either remembering how much you have or leaving the transfer screen and going into the accounts. Hardly user friendly.

It is worthy
Player Manager 2 has great depth and lastability and this is reflected in the fact that if you take the time out to develop gifted youth players they will blossom and take on major monetary value. Equally they will fall to pieces if left to rot in the reserves. In the majority of footy sims if a young player starts off crap he tends to remain that way.

Anco have produced a second game worthy of the name Player Manager. Realism, lastability and playability were the hallmarks of the original and PM2 has upped these stakes. If you are as interested in creating and implementing tactics, like a real player-manager, as you are in the mountains of statistics which dominate other management games then this is the one for you. It also doesn't suffer from those odd German translations which confused On The Ball.



Player Manager 2 Extra logo AGA

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

Player Manager 2 was released last year sometime and to be honest it was nothing short of excellent. It received 94% in our September issue. Now comes the pseudo data disk - well completely new version actually.

I mentioned in my previous review that the player'snames were truly awful, especially as they kept real life teams and then invented completely fictional names. I don't know whether Anco acted upon my criticisms, but in the Extra version all the names are updated. Obviously there's no Juninho at Middlesbrough, because for a start they still haven't managed to assign the clubs into their proper division, but a rumour did occur that it all the real life teams were included it would take too long for a season.

Most of the differences that have been added to the Extra version are quite in depth. To begin with there is a knockout and challenge mode where you can take on other human opponents in a league just to see who does best. The challenge option is to see how many points you can possibly get, with the more points gained resulting in better offers being received from other clubs.


To be honest Player Manager 2 received 94% only because of the management part being so realistic and detailed

The other changes are more or less cosmetic. Instead of walking around an empty stadium, you will know find the chairman sitting in the correct seat and secretaries where they should be, but there's still no-one in the treatment room!

To be honest, Player Manager 2 received 94% only because of the management part being so realistic and detailed. The actual arcade action was pretty pathetic. I suppose I could have marked the game down slightly because of this, although you could switch it off and just watch or manage.

Although this option is still present in the Extra version, there is also the addition of two new features. One is a scoreboard which shows rubbish pictures of various incidents happening on the pitch all the way through the game. To be honest it's slightly long winded and when you've seen one animation you've seen them all.

The second feature is by far the best. The highlights option splits the screen into quarters and every now and again you will be sown still pictures of rendered footballers controlling, shooting, passing and fouling. And although they're only still pictures, it presents more of an atmosphere than any other options.


How many?

All these changes haven't really made the game better because under all the make-up there are quite a few changes which are pretty annoying.

Firstly, when you are ready to go off and head for the boot room, a long wait follows while all the results are calculated. When each wait lasts around two minutes, at the end of the season you will have waited well over an hour. Surely there is something else worthwhile you could be doing. If you try sitting absolutely still for an hour, you'd probably go mad!

The last annoying feature is probably the worst in the entire world and was fairly well hidden in the last version. There used to be three disks - one to load the game, the second for the management, and the third for the arcade bit. Consequently, if you wanted to just play the management side it was no problem because you always kept one disk in the drive.

Now, disaster has stuck. The introduction of another disk has had disastrous effects. For example, when you want to visit the boot room you have to insert disk 2, and if you want to quickly check your bank balance insert disk 4. God help you if you click the wrong button.

At first, I thought I could sneakily get around this problem by only visiting the rooms from one disk, but eventually I was told to report to the boardroom. I felt my stomach almost dissolve into nothing as I worried about my job security. I put on a brave face and knocked on the door only to hear a manly voice sounding extremely disgruntled. Oh no, I've finally entered the world of football management!

I came out of the room somewhat peeved and also relieved because not only had I had a warning about turning up to a match ten minutes before kick off, I'd also had messages from my scouts and coaches complaining that they had no work all season. And this was all because you have to insert a disk every time you want to visit one of your employees.

What's the problem, I hear you ask? Why didn't I just install the game to resolve all these problems? Well, this is the worst piece of programming in the entire world. Usually, when someone writes a program that has to use more than one disk they'll think to themselves, why don't I just write a nice, easy install script so they won't have to lift a finger? Marvelous.

You don't even get a sniff of hard drive all the way through the manual - apart form the PC version! Typical. "That's alright," I thought to myself. I'll do it the long way by going through Workbench, copying all the various files into a directory, and then assigning the volumes, it would take time of course, but at least it'd be better in the long run.

What do I find when Workbench loads up? 'DF0: Is not a DOS disk'. Excellent - I'm not playing this anymore.

Final word

If you're a very patient person who would wait a lifetime just for a beloved management simulation to finish mulling over some simple calculations, then Player Manager 2 would be a great purchase. If some extra thought went into the actual technical side of the game it could have been absolutely excellent, possibly even the greatest ever football game in the world. The game is there, the statistics are there, everything is almost there, but the lack of thought spoils everything.



Player Manager 2 Extra logo AGA

Anco have called extra time for one of the Amiga's best football management sims. David Taylor sorts his team out.

Real Players, Real Teams, Real Stats. So boasts the box, but frankly I don't care because in every management sim I've ever played, one training session with my coach is normally enough to reduce a Cantona to a Can't-ona. The attraction of having real players is certainly worthwhile for some, but I'm more interested in how the game plays. And this one plays very well.

As with every section of the game, the start is fronted by a lovely rendered scene. You're relaxing by the beach, but by your side are a laptop and mobile phone. Time to end the holiday and arrange some friendlies and sponsorship. Up to four humans can compete in the league against the other teams and each other.

There are three skill levels: normal, easy and very easy. Before you start to get anywhere in the proper level, expect a few votes of no-confidence in the other levels, because you have to really work at the game to succeed. Oddly (and thankfully) though, despite the complexity of the game, the balance between "realism" and playability has been maintained. There are all the options you want from a simulation game of this type, but accessing them and more importantly understanding what they are for, could hardly have been made easier.

Each area is represented by a picture from which you choose the action. So to sort out the coaching the group train sessions). This is one of the areas that has been given a face lift since the original Player Manager 2 (can you say that - an original sequel?)

Once you have ordered the training and maybe started some ground improvements, you can select the squad from your office and choose the formation to be used. Rather stupidly you can only have four formations available to you at one time, which means trashing a formation and loading another from disk if you want to change, which seems unnecessary.

With these formalities out of the way, you can go to the boot room for the match itself. Alan Hansen can give you a pre-match prediction and you then choose how to watch the game match. It's more interesting that the pure text view and more watchable than the fast scanner. Although you get used to the pictures after a while, you can still be kept on the edge of your seat waiting to see if your boys can pull it off.

The option to play the game yourself (hence the title Player Manager) adds some fun to the game but as it's not in the same league as SWOS for playability, you won't feel the urge to play every match. This game is much more tailored to management sim fans who wouldn't mind playing the odd game.

After the match, the Anco Times will report on the proceedings and you can check out your ratings: managerial, financial and the game attendances. The computer calculates the results form the other matches and also does the "Managers wheeling and dealing" (sorting out transfers and loans). This actually takes a minute or two, even on an accelerated A1200.

Which brings me to another gripe. The game comes on four disks and can ony be played from floppy. As this is an A1200 only game and many people have RAM expansions or accelerators. I would have thought that the game should make some system analysis and use any extra RAM to cut down disk swapping. It doesn't, which means that owners with one floppy drive have quite a bit of swapping. This doesn't make the game unplayable, even on just one drive, but a little consideration would have been nice.

Also, there is no option to format a save game disk within the game. So, you must make sure you've formatted a disk beforehand of you're stuck.

Considering some of the terrible management sims that have been inflicted on us, this new version of Player Manager 2 builds on the strengths of a good game and results in an even better one. It's addictive and slickly presented and if you were tempted by the original by resisted, then I recommend you give in this time, because it's a lot of fun and has the staying power to keep you playing for quite some time. Even when you keep getting beaten and sacked and beaten again you want to come back for more.



Alle gegen Willi

Willi Lemkes Fussballmanager logo AGA

Virgin hat Ancos "Player Manager 2" komplett eingedeutscht und veröffentlicht die Kicker-Sim nun hierzulande unter dem guten Namen des Managers von Werder Bremen. Also Meisterliches im Zeichen des Vizemeisters?

Der legendäre Dino Dini ("Kick Off") entwickelte anno 1990 den ersten "Player Manager" und erfand mit dieser Kombination aus Fußballmanagement und Action-Soccer zugleich ein neues Genre.

Für das Design des Nachfolgers zeichnet dagegen Dinos ehemaliger Playtester Steven Screech verantwortlich, der zuvor schon das unter Fans nicht gänzlich unumstrittene "Kick Off 3" fabriziert hatte. Es ist also nicht sooo verwunderlich, wenn hier ein Willi allein noch keinen Meister vom Himmel fallen läßt.

Zunächst einmal kennt das Programm mehrere Spielmodi: Im Normalfall treten ein bis vier menschliche Manager (nacheinander) gegeneinander an, die sich in vier Ligen sowie zwei deutschen und drei europäischen Pokalwettbewerben behaupten müssen.

Alternativ dazu steht ein k.o.-Modus für zwei bis vier Teilnehmer zur Verfügung, wobei der jeweils am schlechtesten Plazierte nach jedem Auf- oder Abstieg ausscheidet. Schließlich gibt es noch die sogenannte Herausforderung, bei der ein bestimmter Punktestand in der Saison erreicht werden muß.

Und für Leute, denen das zunächst alles etwas zu kompliziert erscheint, ist auch ein Demomodus enthalten. So oder so muß man seinem Alter ego aber erst mal einen Namen und den gewünschten Arbeitgeber verpassen. Außerdem darf man den zu erreichenden Score für die Herausforderung einstellen und festlegen, ob man auf dem Rasen alle Kicker im Team oder nur einen bestimmten übernehmen will.

In der Vorsaison geht's dann so richtig los. Hier entscheidet man sich für einen Sponsor, organisiert Freundschaftsspiele, stellt Talentsucher, Masseur sowie Trainer an und schließt Verträge mit Jugendspielern ab.

Sobald sämtliche Manager dieses Pensum erledigt haben, darf man endlich das alles entscheidende Bürogebäude betreten, in dem sich acht Räume befinden: Archiv, Pressesaal, Präsidiumszimmer, Umkleideraum plus die Büros für Schatzmeister, Trainer, Masseur und eben das Reich des Managers.

Dort betreut man nun seine (16 bis 24) Spieler, bestimmt die Taktik für das nächste Match und behält dabei auch immer die übrigen 63 Vereine im Auge.

Im Vergleich mit dem aktuellen Konkurrenten "Sensible World of Soccer" sind die Entscheidungsbefugnisse deutlich umfangreicher. So bewertet der Spieler hier z.B. jeden einzelnen Kicker und darf dabei sogar die Gewichtung der Beurteilungskriterien abändern. Auch das Trainingsprogramm läßt sich sehr detailliert aufstellen, während man dem Masseur besser nicht ins Handwerk pfuscht - er weiß selbst am besten, wo er die Fingerchen ansetzen muß.

Mit Infos wird man ebenfalls geradezu überschüttet, denn das Fernsehen berichtet über die neuesten Skandale, das Fax spuckt regelmäßig Stellenangebote aus, auf dem Laptop wird der Manager des Monats/Jahres gewählt, und im Archiv schlummern wesentlich mehr Statistiken als in der gesamten Welt der konkurrierenden Sensibelchen.

So weit, so gut, und bei der Rasenaction hätte es nahegelegen, einfach "Kick Off 3" einzubauen, um alle glücklich zu machen. Leider mußte es statt dessen eine Neuentwicklung mit tausend verschiedenen Grafikansichten und Spielmodi sein: Leute, die aktiv ins Geschehen eingreifen wollen, können dies in der Draufsicht (mit vertikalem oder horizontalem Bolzbetrieb), in Iso-3D oder in der Seite-ansicht tun.

Und wer die Action lieber dem Computer überläßt, hat ebenfalls diverse Varianten vom kompletten Match bis zur Darstellung ausgewählter Höhepunkte zur Auswahl.

Dabei kann man jedoch allen Sportsfreunden nur dringend raten, den Rechner an den Ball zu lassen, denn das verkrampfte Gehampel, das man sonst erlebt, ist unter aller Kanone - völlig unabhängig von der gewählten Perspektive.

Ein Playermanager mit einem derart verpatzten Actionteil wird es natürlich schwerhaben, viele Freunde zu finden. Die Soccerstrategen bekkomen ja nicht nur bei Vollwertkollegen wie "Anstoss" oder "Bundesliga Manager Hattrick" wesentlich mehr geboten als hier; auch das in dieser Ausgabe getestete Game von Sensible Software hat die Nase da deutlich vorn.

Für die optische Präsentation gilt das freilich nur teilweise, zumal sich bei Willi laienhafte Zeichnungen mit ordentlichen Rendergrafiken abwechseln - insgesamt sieht die Geschichte damit schon etwas schöner aus als die textlastige (allerdings auch übersichtlichere) Menü-Wüste der Konkurrenz.

Mit der Maussteuerung kann man ebenfalls gut leben, dafür hat die übrige Handhabung noch ein paar kräftige Fouls auf Lager. So lassen sich die vier Disks nicht auf Festplatte installieren, was ohne Zweitlaufwerk wahre Diskwechselorgien zur Folge hat.

Außerdem muß man selbst auf dem A1200 minutenlange Lade- und Berechnungszeiten ("Manager feilschen") in Kauf nehmen. Musik ist überhaupt keine vorhanden, und die enthaltenen Sound-FX sind kaum die Rede wert.

Kurz und traurig: Der Mix aus Action und Strategie krankt vor allem am verunglückten Actionpart. Und wer braucht schon einen "Fußballmanager Light", wenn es komplexere und auch sonst bessere Genrevertreter (wie ein paar Seiten weiter nachzulesen) bereits auf einer preiswerten Compilation gibt?!! (mm)



Player Manager 2 Extra logo AGA

"Football isn't a matter of life and death," said Bill Shankly, "it's a game. Of Football. What are you, stupid or something, or what?"

Football. Like it? Me too. But let me indulge in a thought for a moment. What's the worst thing about football? Not secondary elements like the gentrification of the audience, bribery and corruption, or the fact that your team's crap - the actual game itself. Let's face it - it's offside. The crappiest, cowardliest, most negative and most pointless rule in the game. I mean, what's the point of it? Presumably, the idea is to stop a team gaining an advantage by constantly having a player hanging around the opposition goalmouth, waiting to latch on to big ugly hoofs upfield and stick them in the net.

But why is that an advantage? For a start, if you've got a player constantly goal-hanging, you're going to be a man short in the rest of the pitch. Secondly, if you do it anyway, what's to stop the defence negating the whole plan by simply having a defender stay back to mark the goal-hanger at all times?

Being offside grants you NO UNFAIR ADVANTAGE WHATSOEVER. So why do we need a stupid rule that does nothing except encourage tedious sides to thrwart attacking play ona ludicrous technically? One of the reasons why football is the best game in the world is its utterly simplistic rules - it's all obvious, straightforward, common sense. You can graps the idea in seconds - kick the ball into the net, don't use your arms, don't kick the other players. That's it.

Other sports are welcome to crap, artificial rules invented because of obvious flaws in the basic premise of the game (the six-tackles rule in rugby league, the truly ludicrous 24-second rule in basketball), but football doesn't need them, because it was PROPERLY DESIGNED IN THE FIRST PLACE. Offside is the only anachronism, and the sooner it's done away with, the better.

Guess what the pivotal force in Player Manager 2 Extra is. Go on.
Offside. (Drums roll, cymbals crash, crowd cheer.)


Drums roll, cymbals crash

Whether you're playing in matches yourself or just watching them as manager, the game will be interrupted every 10 seconds for an offside foul. There are a couple of reasons for this - one is that computer-controlled forwards take up ridiculously offside positions as a matter of course (see SURELY THAT'S GOING TO BE A FOUL, REF?), and the other is that the program SIMPLY DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE RULE.

If, while I'd been playing the game, I'd docked 1% for every time an offside was awarded WEITH THE DEFENDING TEAM IN POSSESSION OF THE BALL, AP would have had to award it's first-ever negative score, and extend the Bottom Line box to encompass a few extra digits to boot. Even when the offside is given when the attacking team has the bail, it's usually given for an offside that happened five seconds earlier and 20 yards back.

0-0 AFTER EXTRA TIME
And that's not all. When the defence go to take the free kick, they invariably bring a player back to tap it straight to the player about to take the kick, and he invariably then fluffs it straight to the nearest opposition forward. Who charges unopposed straight at the goal, and frequent scores. So in fact, being given offside very often puts the attacking team in a better scoring position than they would have been if the game had just carried on. For Christ's sake.

I'm harping on about this because, for one thing, it completely obliterates the point of playing Player Manager 2 Extra. In player-manager mode. The game is so incessantly interrupted by stupidly wrong offsides that you'll give up in apopleptic frustration within two matches. It also destroys the point of watching managed matches, as the same happens - only without you being involved in it. You can still watch the 'highlights' mode, or the misleadingly-named 'predict' mode (which, in fact, does no such thing, and is simply a truncated and pictureless version of 'highlights' mode), but you've already been deprived of several of the most interesting features of the game.

And what of the management side itself? Well, Paul gave the original Player Manager 35% in issue 53, and very little has changed. There's still tons of disk accessing (there's three minutes between one match ending and the next one starting), it still takes an age to see any effect from strategic changes you might make, everything's still described in endless charts of tiny, almost-impossible-to-read numbers (and if you're using a TV instead of a monitor, make that "actually-impossible-to-read"), and there's still nothing here that you can't find in half-a-dozen better footy manny games. Is that a foul, ref? I think so.


WATCHING THE DEFECTIVES
With all footy manny games, the best bit is watching all your plans come to fruition (or not) in the match sequences, and to its credit, PM2E at least provides plenty of options here.

Player Manager 2
As with the original, you can watch the full game in isometric, side-on, vertical overhead and horizontal overhead views. Hey, look - I'm offside.

Player Manager 2
Or there's highlights, where you watch little comic-strip sequences of exciting moments from the game, accompanied by amusing (text-only) commentary.

Player Manager 2
Predict is like highlights, but without pictures. And not, for example, any kind of prediction.

Player Manager 2
Scanner mode is the best - you watch the whole game rendered in dots, you can give the whole team or individual players instructions at any time, and the stupid ofside bugs don't intrude. Unfortunately, though, the teams are practically indistinguishable (dark blue dots versus black dots, for example), and IT DOESN'T TELL YOU WHICH DIRECTION YOU'RE PLAYING IN. Argh.


OH! I THOUGHT IT WAS IN!

At one point, I'd given up on fiddling with my training schedules and tactical planning, and was just robotically playing matc after match. After a couple of weeks, I was summoned to the boardroom and threatened with the sack if I didn't start playing the game properly. I thought this was fabulous, and was about to award the game another 10% on the strength of it, but afer flagrantly disregarding the board's demands and continuing to skip straight to match day for another 10 consecutive weeks, only to keep getting the same threat rather than actually being entertainingly sacked, I changed my mind.

SURELY THAT'S GOING TO BE A FOUL, REF?

I'm shooting up the pitch. The ball is well out of the way, yet all three of my strikers are loitering a good 15 to 20 yards ofside. As soon as the ball gets anywhere near them, the game's going to grind to yet another offside-induced halt. Telling them to hang back with the tactics manager simply makes them take up positions only 5-10 yards offside. What are they, stupid or something? ("Or what?" - Alan Hansen.)



Player Manager 2 Extra logo AGA

Price: £25.99 (AGA) Publisher: Anco 01322 292 513

When this game arrived in it was hard to find any difference, apart from the obvious graphical ones and a bit more speed in the player section, between it and the original.

In PM2 Extra they've really gone to town, with higher resolution rendered laptops and secretaries, all intended to look cool, modern and sophisticated (presumably). But in fact they succeed only in looking like they are dressed up plastic mannequins: If you're going to use renders they have to be used in the right place.

Player Manager 2 is most similar to Ascon's On The Ball, but the biggest difference is the fact that you can sit down and play the game properly with a joystick if you want. Your aim is to raise a team from division 2 capable of winning promotion to the Premier League as well as competing in Europe. You are pitted against three other managers who can be either computer or human controlled. These guys are pretty smart too.

In terms of options you can do everything from dealing with sponsors to creating new tactics and carrying out specific training programs. Like On The Ball, dealing with players forms a central part of PM2 but there are limitations.

You can only renew one contract or buy one player per week and there's no option to give a player a free transfer. It's also not possible, say, to buy a player for money as well as conducting a player swop. These aspects are irritating.

The big change in PM2 Extra is that the graphics have all been upgraded. Each section of the game from the board room to the manager's office is represented with artwork, accessed through the open side of a building and it;s all that bit brighter and cheerer. I'm still not happy with the layout of these screens, though,. Some of the rooms have very few objects to look at and are a bit of a waste of time, it could have been done much more compactly.

The tactics editor is still brilliant though. If this is your area of interest then PM2 stands out as the best. Tactics can be created from scratch and it's also possible to move players anywhere on the pitch in a very precise manner.

All in all, PM2 is a very competent management simulator and if you like the Kick Off series, then you'll enjoy the Kick Off playing engine. However, with SWOS now even more management orientated and Ultimate Soccer Manager still high in the charts, PM2 Extra has a tough battle ahead. Though still a solid game it's not that much better than the first version to warrant an upgrade unless you're a real fan.