Premier Manager 2 logo

To be frank, I had some misgivings about this game before playing it. What, I thought, is a football manager doing dealing with ground improvements? What is 'The Boss' doing mucking around with advertising hoardings? Why would he (or she, good old Cheri Lunghi) be phoning the job centre to find a head coach? Surely the first two are jobs for the directors (those dear, dear enthusiasts who we terrace tearaways love and respect) and have no place in a management sim.

So, being Amiga Format born and bred, and having a yen for detailed facts, I phoned up the very affable John Ward ex-York City and how Bristol Rovers manager.

"Mr Ward," I said, "do you deal with all this guff and nonsense like they say you do in this game?"
"Yes I do. Well not so much ground improvement because we do not have our own ground, but when I was at York I was consulted on the new Family Enclosure."
"Oh, so that is a yes then?"
"Yes, that is right."

And with that I returned to the land of the simulation with proof that Realms of Fantasy do indeed know their stuff. This impression was compounded in the rather grammatically challenged manual. The lad who wrote it obviously like the game, unless he is lying about watching Mansfield Town. This boded well for a new, improved Premier Manager.

Got a match?
For those of you who have not played the original game, here are the highlights so you can understand why PMII is a slight improvement.

Start in the GM Vauxhall Conference as a manager with a team of carthorses. Train players. Buy players. Sell players. Arrange ground improvements. Arrange sponsorship. Watch results. Play games. Be disappointed with sounds. Scream a lot. Be disappointed with graphics. Try to remember stats. Get sacked. Start again. Play till 4 a.m. Curse a lot. Get promotion. Get beaten up by partner.

That is about it really. Well, PMII comes with a few added tweaks that enliven the experience. For example, the already strong team selection, tactics and formation options have been improved to a superb level. The only thing you cannot do is to tell each player individually what he has to do 'on the day, on the park'. I suppose that once the CD version is put together (and management sims are ideal fodder for the CD32) Realms can organise this. You can alter formations with left and right-side bias, create reasonably complex strategies, and mid-game you can even muck around with the team tactics.

On the downside, the in-game graphics and sound, despite what the manual would have you believe, still leave plenty to be desired. They also leave plenty of screen doing nothing in a blue-ish Everton-like manner. It is not good enough.

They have added some dot-graphics akin to those seen at American Football parks, they say Goal or Miss, but they are nothing special. That goes for the sound too, which consists of the occasional sampled 'Goal' (not "Gooooaallll!") and a wave of white noise that is supposed to emulate the roar of a crowd. I have been to Reading and even they make more noise than that.

Daft as a brush
These might seem picky points, but this is a football game, and football without atmosphere is like... Arsenal. That said, I was still playing PMII until 4 a.m. I was still berated by my partner, and I am still going home to play it tonight. The only other niggly point in this most excellent management game is the incredibly sexist depiction of the club secretary. That is just silly.



Die zweite Premiere

Premier Manager 2 logo

Noch nicht mal eine ganze Fußballsaison ist seit der Premiere des britischen Soccerpremiers vergangen, da präsentiert uns Gremlin bereits den Nachfolger - tja, Manager sitzen halt immer auf dem Pulverfaß...

...besonders, wenn sie so bescheiden auftreten wie der hiesige Vorgänger. Das galt allerdings nur für die Präsentation, inhaltlich hatte er durchaus was zu bieten. Doch auch wenn bloß noch zwei (statt ehemals vier) Rasenkapitäne mitmischen dürfen und grafisch nach wie vor keine Leckerbissen geboten werden, kann der neue Entscheidungsträger vieles besser: Sämtliche Optionen haben einen Feinschliff erhalten, wodurch die Komplexität des Games nochmals wahrnehmbar angestiegen ist!

Zunächst schnappt man sich einen der hierzulande völlig unbekannte Traditionsvereine aus der 5. Insel-Division, etwa "Merthya Tydfil" oder "Yeovill Town", um die bis zu 24 Spieler mit Hilfe der vielen, übersichtlich angeordneten Menüs zum Spitzenteam zu formen. Jeweils am Saisonende muß der Vorstand seine Schandtaten verantworten; war er besonders erfolgreich, darf er dann auch den Wechsel zu einen großzügigeren Club ins Auge fassen.

Selbstverständlich steht für die Vereinsarbeit wieder das gesamte Instrumentarium zur Verfügung: Frischfleishsuche auf dem Transfermarkt, Vertragsverhandlungen, Mannschaftsaufstellung, Stadionausbau und -werbung sowie der Eintrittspreis. Außerdem gibt es sechs verschiedene Pokalwettbewerbe, Freundschaftsspiele, umfangreiche Statistiken, den Onkel Doktor und unterschiedlich streng pfeifende Schiedsrichter.

Geändert haben sich z.B. die Trainingsmöglichkeiten, neuerdings ist für jeden einzelnen der sechs Kicker-Leistungswerte ein speziller Coach zuständig; separat kann noch die Übungsintensität bestimmt werden. Bei der Action am Rasen hat sich ebenfalls Erstaunliches getan, statt der alten, grafisch erbärmlichen Spielszenen-Ausschnitte gibt es nun völlig neue, grafisch erbärmlichen Spielszenen-Ausschnitte!

Auch der Sound ist nach wie vor driftklassig, doch immerhin darf man nun während des Matches drei Ersatzleute einwechseln und die Taktik (Angriff, Paßspiel, Härte...) sowie das Spielsystem (3-4-3, 4-4-4, etc.) jederzeit abändern.

Und falls jemand mit dem Cheat des ersten Teils versuchen sollte, sich am Managertelefon über die Nummer 000123 feine Extras zu erschummeln, erwartet ihn eine böse Überraschung. Dann landet er nämlich bei einem einarmigen Banditen, dessen "Gewinnausschüttungen" aus so aufmunternden Mitteilungen wie "Ein Bulldozer ebnet gerade dein Stadion ein!" bestehen...

Okay, die Maus-/Menüsteuerung wurde auch verbessert, und die Geschichte läuft jetzt sogar komplett deutsch ab - jedenfalls äußerlich, denn gekickt wird wieder nach dem britischen 3-Punkte-System. Und schon deshalb wir auch der zweite Premier Manager den einheimischen Spitzenprogrammen "Bundesliga Manager Pro." und "Anstoß" den ball nicht abjagen können; zumal es da immer noch etwas komplexer und wesentlich schöner zugeht. (md)



Premier Manager 2 logo

Football games, eh? Some folk can't get enough of them.

PROLOGUE: I gazed at the package of my desk. "Have fun, now!" chirruped Stuart, skipping out of the room, as every reviewing instinct told me to run away as quickly as possible.

Right. A football management game, then. Premier Manager 2 is the sequel to what's widely regarded as just about the best football management game there is. That fact, and Tim Tucker's unquenchable joie de vivre, netted the original Premier Manager an unprecedented 80& in AP22.

But what's so good about it? And - more to the point - what's so good about the sequel? And is what's good about the sequel better than what's good about the original? And, furthermore, are there things that are good about the sequel that aren't even in the original?

First, the basics. You're the manager of a lowly Conference football club (having initially been torn between Dover Athletic, Woking and Merthur Tydfil, I eventually plumped for Bath City - ever the patriot), and by managing it in the correct fashion you've got to try to get it promoted to the 'F A Carling Premiership', or whatever they're insisting on calling it these days.

'Managing' involves buying and selling players, choosing team tactics, recruiting trainers and physics, looking after the ground, jiggling finances about, and a host of other responsibilities.

And there's football in there too. Each time your team participates in a match you'll be given a blow by blow account of the action - "Brown moves forward", "Smithers shoots", "Ferguson deflects" etc - along with animated sequences on one of those illuminated scoreboard things to illustrate the really exciting bits. It's not quite match highlights in the traditional, stick-men sense, but it's exciting enough, and it'll do. And it's rather amusing to bump the speed up to ultra-fast and watch the match pass in a blur.


It is rather amusing to bump the speed up to ultra-fast

There are a few things that make Premier Manager 2 special. It's accessible, for one thing. Aside from one or two daft clicking-on-obscure parts-of-pictures bits, it should be possible for anyone with a working knowledge of the football league system to pick the game up and play it.

It's also nicely presented. The inevitable lists of numbers are displayed clearly, attractively almost. There's even a fab tune at the start, with samples like "What a lovely bend on that ball", and "Goal!".

It avoids over-complicating things, providing enough to make an absorbing game without going into tedious detail. And it's fast. Some football management games lock up for whole minutes at a time while they do their sums; with this you're barely aware it's doing any.

If you've already played the original, don't expect any surprises. Premier Manager 2 is more of an update than an all-new product, and you'd have to be alarmingly serious about the game to want to own both.

Oh, and look out I you're part of a football management-loving gang of chums - the original's four-player option has been reduced to a still-optimistic two-player one.

EPILOGUE: "Well, I suppose that wasn't too painful," I admitted grudgingly, as I handed the three disks (hard drive installable, mark you) back to Stuart. "But if it's okay by you, I won't be reviewing any more football management games for AMIGA POWER." Stuart smiled knowingly.



Premier Manager 2 logo

GREMLIN OUT NOW £25.99

It's been said a thousand times, but football management games have really come as far as they can. There are only so many things a manager can do before it all starts getting silly, and I for one thought that Gremlin's Premier Manager had just about everything. When I heard that they were doing a sequel, I honestly couldn't see how they could have built upon what was already there.

Seeing the finished result, I have to say that it's more than a little overwhelming. Premier Manager covered every conceivable angle, from basic team management, right down to ground improvements, booking ads to go on the hoardings and full accounts control. Premier Manager 2 has all of this, with a little bit more, and everything in so much detail it'll take you a week just to find your way around the game, let alone playing it properly.

Over eighty options let you guide your team through six different leagues, battling through six different cups against every team in Europe, while you try to keep the ground in a fit condition and keep the board of governors confident in your ability. Plus there's the bank to deal with, the scouts and coaches to work with and, of course, the matches themselves to play.

I have to say, though, that it does play slightly differently to most managerial games as the focus does seem to be more on the running of the club than the actual games the team plays, leaving you with a lot more to do off the pitch than on. No bad thing, but moving a little too off centre for my liking.

It's a good game, excellently presented and well thought out, but I can still only give it an average mark, as it doesn't really do it any better than any of the other four million managerial titles that are out there.