Tactical Manager 2 logo Amiga Computing Silver Award

Take control of incomprehensible Kenny's champions or forforn Ferguson's unavailing United, leading only one to Premiership glory. Andy Maddock gives it a go.

INTRODUCTION

Tactical Manager dates back to 1992 when Talking Birds released a very statistical football management game under the name of Football Tactician. This was a fairly exciting introduction by a relatively new company who had planned to be a huge success in the Amiga market.

The amount of statistics and detail was almost certainly the main attraction - followed by intense gameplay and lastability. The idea was to produce an in-depth, realistic football management game which was more like a database of statistics rather than a presentational feast littered with gorgeous graphics and sound. A no-frills management game was their aim, and their aim has just been reached.

ADDITIONAL INFO

The game is already very successful among Play-By-Mail users. This is a postal football management game which hundreds of people enter, trying to take their team to Premiership glory. This is how it works.

The author of a Play-By-Mail will recruit managers to play in the league, appointing them to various teams. The idea for the public is to transact through the author to win the league. Once the public has selected their team formations and changes they return the information back to the author - who inputs all the data on to Tactical Manager 2. The results will be determined and then sent back to the public to inform them of their position within the game.

Why? You may be asking. Well, it's a special blend of the love of English football and money. Yes, it does cost to take part in these leagues - something as little as £1 every week. Tactical Manager can be used as a starter to help you run one of these leagues. Instead of the usual four-player option you find in the football management games of today, 40 people can easily be entered to play one game of Tactical Manager 2.


 

SOUND

The sound merely consists of either huge cheers when your team scores or a small beep when you select various options. Once again, basic, yet effective in its simplicity.

48%

 

GRAPHICS

Although football games don't always require amazing graphics, they do add a little spice to the overall finish. They are certainly not the main feature in Tactical Manager 2, but serve their purpose adequately - ranging from clublogos to main pictures which accompany the action as you battle out the match sequences.

If you wish to set up an entire fantasy league of completely ficitonal teams then you may do so using the edit clublogos option.

Incidentally, you can completely alter each players' statistics in the Premier League and Division 1 - their age, nationality, morale and fitness are only a few which can be changed. Also, any transfers that may take place in the future can be entered with the utmost of ease, meaning your version of Tactical Manager will never fall out of date. Overall, the graphics are simple and relevant to the action, and display the information suitably as when it's required.

51%

 

OPINION76%

Although the graphics and sound are of an average standard, the sheer depth of the game is where it all begins to change. The intensity to which Tactical Manager stretches is enormous. You'll spend endless hours searching through the many menus to change various aspects for you next game. Everything you find in real football is here - and very realistically too. All the basic aspects of football are obviously included, and team selections and transfers are just the tip of the iceberg.

You can select any players on your team to act as either ball-winners, playmakers or goal-hangers,and you even get to select one of the opposing players to mark - to completely put him out of the game.

One strange feature that has never been included in any game of this genre before is the Pools - you can choose home wins, away wins and draws to come up with the jackpot. The amount of detail in this game is unexplainable and cannot be described on these two pages alone, and this is what makes it so special.

Most people will turn their nose up at the first sight of Tactical Manager 2 and the immediate impression will be reasonably bad because of the way it looks. Anyone who takes the time to get into the actual game itself will realise what hidden talent it possesses.

Real football fanatics who would be interested in all the realism and statistical features of football will love it to death. The amount of detail is astonishing, probably the most in-depth I've ever seen in any football management simulation yet. The presentation may not be as polished as say, On The Ball or Premier Manager, but for detail, Tactical Manager comes top of the league.



Tactical Manager 2 logo

"English teams only use one leg, but the Europeas use both, in different ways."Hmm. You too can talk drivel in post-match interviews, as Steve McGill shows.

It's called 'conceptual grouping' and it's a theory of logic, which is a discipline related to philosophy. The idea is that groups of related items should be placed together in a rational, associative manner.

So, for example, if you choose 'File' on a pull-down menu in a word processing package you'd expect to be offered related options for loading, saving and merging files, just as if you choose Edit you'd expect to see Cut, Paste, Delete and so forth.

Conceptual grouping makes for ease of use, ease of learning, and ease on the nerves. In fact, it's the software equivalent of good manners.

Given the layout and design that the game's faced with here, an accurate description of Tactical Manager 2 would probably be 'conceptually unhinged'. Just about every part of it seems to be rude and unhelpful.

As an example of the unfriendliness of the program, take the club selection screen that a new manager is faced with - though admittedly it isn't too bad so long as you stick only to Premier League teams. The manager is taken to a screen jam-packed with the 24 teams of the First Division, 15 of which don't have any indication of who they are. When I tried to select Tranmere Rovers, it took several guesses before I got it right.

The question that inevitably pops into your head at this point is why did the programmers choose to do things this way? Why couldn't there simply be a little line of text underneath each icon to let you know who the team is?

Now it may seem as if I'm labouring the point on a small detail here. I am. But there are so many instances of this happening throughout the whole program - transfer of players and selection of managers, to name but two - that you end up not wanting to play the game because it's so annoying.

And if you want really annoying, you have to wait anything from 40 seconds to two minutes of dead, completely non-interactive time watching results from the Premier League and First Division. That's enough time to strangle both Jimmy Hill and Alan Hansen.

If you want to enjoy yourself playing a football management game, go for Ultimate Soccer Manager, Premier Manager 3 or Super League Manager. Tactical Manager 2 isn't different enough from Football Tactician 2 to justify looking at.


ACTION REPLAY

Highlights are a key element of any football management game - they should enhance the atmosphere as well as provide the manager with positive feedback about the performance of the team. Tactical Manager 2 uses pictures as well as some text that quickly becomes boring. The football pitch has a small animated rectangle which represents the 'flow' of the game. Wow.


Tactical Manager 2 logo

Teil eins dieser strategischen Soccersim wurde von Black Legend hierzulande als "Der Trainer" veröffentlicht und mit der (zu) ähnlichen "Italia"-Variante fortgesetzt. Jetzt erst kommt der wahre Nachfolger des englischen Originals.

Daß die vor anderthalb Jahren erreichten 80 Prozentpunkte heute nicht einmal mehr ansatzweise zu halten sind, hat natürlich etwas mit den zwischenzeitlich gestiegenen Ansprüchen zu tun - und noch mehr mit der mangelnden Bereitschaft der Programmierer, den neuen Zeiten durch entsprechende Verbesserungen ihren Tribut zu zollen...

So besteht der dramatischte Fortschritt hier darin, daß jetzt statt 38 gleich 46 menschliche Trainer ihr jeweiliges Team aus den Niederungen der englischen 1st Division auf die Höhen der Premier League führen und mit ihm alle gängigen Pokalwettbewerbe absolvieren dürfen.

Wer seinen Job gut macht, kassiert dafür Punkte, die ihm dann auch bei renommierten Vereinen eine Karriereperspektive eröffnen. Zuvor ist freilich erst mal Knochenarbeit angesagt: Jeder Kicker zeichnet sich durch 30 Eigenschaften (Kondition, Technik, Verletzungsanfälligkeit, Aggressivität etc.) aus, die alle berücksichtigt werden wollen.

Zudem hängt die Leistungsfähigkeit der gesamten Mannschaft auch von der nun feiner regulierbaren Aufstellung und der gewählten Spieltaktik ab.

Von Zeit zu Zeit sind neue Vertragsverhandlungen mit den Jungs fällig, und falls es die Finanzlage erlaubt, kann man darüber hinaus auf dem englischen und dem internationalen Markt nach interessanten Helden des Sports Ausschau halten.

Bei den Begegnungen selbst wir jeder Ballkontakt unter Heranziehung sämtlicher Spieler- und Teamwerte berechnet, das Ergebnis sieht man zusammen mit einem Textkommentar auf einem stilisierten Mini-Rasen. Alternativ dazu kann man auch nur die Highlights zeigen oder ohne Umschweife das Endergebnis mitteilen lassen.

Will sagen, auch die optischen Neuerungen beschränken sich auf ein paar leidlich nette Bildchen im Briefmarkenformat, die vom Stil her an die japanischen Manga-Comics erinnern; dazu hat man den Spieltag-SCreen und die kargen Menüs geringfügig überarbeitet.

Musik gibt's bloß zu Beginn, an FX ist lediglich das gesampelte Tor-Gejohle zu vermelden. Immerhin wurde aber das feine Handling noch weiter verbessert (der nächste Spieltag kann nun z.B. ohne Zwischenspurt in das entsprechende Untermenü aktiviert werden), die Statistiken hat man auf den aktuellen Stand gebracht und die CPU-Trainer ein wenig cleverer gemacht.

All das zusammen reicht aber selbst nach Meinung des Herstellers nicht für eine offizielle Veröffentlichung in Deutschland aus, wer das Teil unbedingt haben will, muß es sich daher über den Import besorgen.

Wir wissen zwar nicht, was der freundliche Direktimporteur empfiehlt, wir raten jedenfalls, lieber den bereits angekündigten dritten Teil abzuwarten - vielleicht gibt's dabei ja mal einen wirklichen Fortschritt? (mic)



Tactical Manager 2 logo

And you can only make one bid a week. Aaarghh.

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

OWN
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

GOAL
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.


TEDIOUS TRANSFER TIME

In most management games I've ever played you just take a look at the transfer list (or even define the parameters to look at certain players), click on the player you want and make a bid. It's simple and effective. But also way too easy for Tactical Manager 2. (The reason I'm showing you this is because I had to go through it, and I don't see why you shouldn't too.) The process is as follows:

  1. Right, select the transfer list option.
  2. Look at the list and see if you can spot a player you want. Well, Colin Hill looks cheap. We'll have him.
  3. Right, back to the main menu and click on your team logo.
  4. Now click on the phone marked 'Approach'.
  5. Ooops, I forgot to switch over to Premiership on the main menu.
  6. Right, that's done, click on the team logo (again).
  7. Click on the phone marked 'Approach' (again).
  8. Now choose the team the player you want to bid for plays with.
  9. Choose the player you want to bid for from the team for which he plays.
  10. Er, let's process with negotiations. (I think that means we're going to try and buy him).
  11. It says he's worth £200000, so we'll bid £250000.
  12. Nope, too little and we can't make any more bids. Nnghh.

Imagine going through all that malarkey every time you want to buy someone. Personally, I'd rather have my fingernails ripped out one by one.



Tactical Manager 2 logo

Price: £29.99 Publisher: Black Legend 01438 840003

In the light of reports of magazines rating unfinished copies of this game, we check out the final version.

You own an Amiga. You walk up to me in the street and prod me gently but firmly in the chest with a well manicured forefinger "Hey fella," you demand aggressively, "which is the best football management sim currently available on God's own recently resurrected computer platform?"

I would have no hesitation in recommending several recent releases to you. On the Ball, Premier Manager 3, even Ultimate Soccer Manager (at a push) but crucially, I would stop short of urging anyone to go out and spend a penny on Tactical Manager 2.

Out of date
Tactical Manager 2 is the follow up to Tactical Manager, which most people rated quite highly. The 'new' game (not my word but Black Legend's) shows few signs of having developed graphically and one's first impression is that Tactical Manager has managed to survive the appendage of the sobriquet '2' without bothering to change its gameplaying underwear.

What has changed are the stats, which I suppose, if one ignores everything else about it, a game like this really stands or falls by. A pity then, that they are completely out of date. I chose to manage Reading, who appeared without Lee Nogan and a cursory glance at the team I am silly enough to support, Aston Villa, revealed that Guy Whittingham was still on the books, while Tommy Johnson and Gary Charles remained at Derby. As did Gordon Cowans, who has been at Wolves for Yonks. Oh, Andy Cole is still at Newcastle United! I am sure you will spot many more such howlers.

Now call me Mr Pernickety, but the football season is over. All the players I have just mentioned completed their transfers several months before the game was due for release. Surely the clever thing to do, at the very least, would be to include the squads as they stood at the end-of-season?

With the promise of a free update disk after the next transfer deadline? Please may I use the word 'ARSE' in CU Amiga? Even Sensible World Of Soccer has more up to date stats than this!

On the positive side, Tactical Manager 2 is easy enough to find your way around and in this sense it is playable, but the graphics and in-game screens/menus look tired and creaky. Take the play match window and compare it to OTB and Premier 2/3 and the game fails to cut the interactive mustard.

Data problems
Finally, and in my view, crazily, Tactical Manager 2 only has data for the Premier League and the Endsleigh Division 1. As the new manager of Reading, I should liked to have strengthened my squad by cherrypicking from the lower divisions, but they aren't there, so I can't.

Surely the omission of Divisions 2 and 3 saps the game of any pretension to realism? What's the point of including the FA Cup and denying me the opportunity of managing the majority of teams who play in it? These omissions also mean that you can't learn management at a lower level and for all you romantics out there, you can forget about steering Lincoln City or Kidderminster Harriers to the dizzy heights of The Premiership.

Is it finished?
Publisher Black Legend has just taken an enormous ad in the computer trade press, under the banner headline, 'A whole new ball game' to promote the release of Tactical Manager 2 and counter an earlier review which awarded the game 25 per cent. The ad explains that the magazine in question reviewed an unfinished copy.

What I wonder will it say to retailers now that the final version is released to cat-calls of derision from the consumer press? Something along the lines of 'I'm taking my ball back'. I shouldn't wonder.