I'm not in a very good mood today. There are several reasons for this, but two major ones: Firstly, I'm aching in places I didn't know even existed after venturing out and playing a proper game of football for the first time in eight months. Secondly, and slightly more relevantly, Tactical Manager 2 is one of the most infuriating and downright frustrating games I've played in a long time. Like I said, I'm in a bad mood.
You see, I like footy games (he said in a self-referential manner, pointing all interested readers to his little section in the footie feature on pages 20-25) to such a degree that even if one is as shoddily put together as Tactical Manager 2, I'll still keep playing it in the hope that it will get better. Or something. Which, although it sometimes pays off, is a policy that goes drastically wrong with Tactical Manager 2.
Still, the best thing about reviewing Tactical Manager 2 here, in this part of the magazine, is that on the two previous pages you'll have seen the beautifully structured and gorgeously presented Ultimate Soccer Manager. And the old saying that a picture paints a thousand words couldn't be more apt. I mean just take a quick gander around these two pages and compare.
On the one hand, with UMS, you've got carefully drawn offices and even a main stadium screen detailing all sorts of shops and things. Cute, isn't it? Well, sort of. But then this hand, Tactical Manager 2, you've got a pathetic sort of scoreboard thing and some boxes filled up with either cartoons or tons of text and/or figures.
And the worst thing is, it's like this most of the time. The whole set-up stays the same even when you're playing matches. The only breaks from this are the even more dull text screens such as league table and transfer lists. It's all so incredibly tedious.
Well, sort of
But, regular readers of a top quality and right-all-the-time magazine that you are, you'll know that graphics aren't everything. It's the game that counts. But unfortunately that's awful too. A question: What is the most annoying and stupid flaw a footie management can have? My answer would be predictability. Just what is the point in taking control over your favourite team, only to find that the odds are so heavily stacked against you that you can do nothing but sit back and watch?
It's common knowledge that Leicester City aren't the best team in the world, and after one season in the Premier League we're going back down to Division One. But that's real life, and I don't want real life. Yes, I want real statistics, but also want the ability to affect events, to alter the course of history. And without enough money or the chance of getting any I can't alter my squad, so I can't strengthen it, so I can't improve it, so I can't win, so I get sacked.
Now all this might sound like sour grapes, so I tried playing as Blackburn Rovers and, of course, the opposite was true. I was winning everything. With the odds so heavily stacked in or against your favour there's really no enjoyment to be had. There's a moderate amount of chance to the game (just how did Grimsby Town get into the final of the Coca-Cola Cup?), but not much and certainly not enough to dispel the overall feeling that you're just along for the ride until the end of the season.
But the reason I dislike this game has more to it than the fact that I can't get Leicester further up the table than 20th position or past the fifth round of the FA Cup. There's a distinct feeling of unfriendliness to the game that's partly due to the presentation and graphics, but not entirely.
There's a distinct feeling
The formation and team set-ups are ridiculously fussy with endless pointing and clicking to be done to get things the way you want them. Your physio can only treat ten players in a season. It can sometimes take forever to stop a game to change tactics. When a player is injured and has to be substituted the game doesn't stop, it just carries on regardless, leaving you one player short. You have repeatedly to go through the results of all the other matches being played instead of just having a list of them appear when your match is finished. And there are many, many more little niggles and annoyances.
It's titles like this that give football management games a bad rep, because it's tedious, action-less and downright frustrating to play. It's also dated - basically the same game as Football Tactician (AP29 61%) with updated data - and as such has been superceded by so many ideas and approaches that this really is bottom of the barrel stuff.
In fact I don't want to think about it any more. Just get hold of USM, Premier Manager 3 or something similar. Anything but this. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to lay down somewhere to rest my aching limbs.