Football - it's a funny old game, isn't it? I mean, you've got twenty-two blokes on a field, hitting the ball with their feet into the opposing teams goals. It was also funny that we invented the bloody thing, only to be outdone by the Germans. Still, it's a funny game on the SAM, too. Only one commercial footie game has made it to the SAM - Football Director 2 (no FD 1 ..?) by D+H Games costing around £17 and was complete crap - like the Spectrum version (ho, ho). Still, this is the second game of it's genre on the SAM and it's a cracker.
I know what you're thinking. I did the graphics for the game, so I'll be raving highly about the graphics. Nope. When we went down to the 2nd Gloucester show, we were extremely lucky to obtain a preview copy of FLM from the author himself - David Handley. The actual review is for the game itself, which beats the hell out of Football Director 2 in more ways than one.
First off, an unseen addition thought up at the last minute allows you to play the Scottish League, and the option to play teams twice, all neatly presented (ahem) with a bog standard screen. Hidden gripe over - the actual game puts you in the shoes of one of ten managers, one of whom looks suspiciously like Alan Sugar. Still, after that, you are presented with a gorgeous (sorry for the self-praise!) menu screen with Wembley stadium in the background of nicely drawn (sorry!) icons. The whole thing is operated by either mouse or keyboard, driven by Steve "Wizard" Taylor's excellent Mouse Driver 2.0, so this adds to the control of the game.
First off, you can look at your players on a Mode 3 layout, with a Subs bench and spaces for extra squad members. You have to build up your team (which, incidently, you can train and build up yourself!). There's a bank for getting loans and looking at your balance, which you do so after each game. You soon learn that dosh makes the football world go round, as you spend a fair bit of your time searching the transfer market, and training your men. Training takes several forms, the higher the training costs, the better the training. Once you have assessed everything, the game can begin. A football diary gives you a look at the matches your team will be playing - your team's name, strip colours and player names can be anything, as (of course) your name as Manager. The actual matches are watched with the mouse pointer (conviently a football!) being "played" back and forth on an isometric playing field, a timer counting to 90 minutes or more if stoppage time comes into play. There are no corners, or penalties (only if an FA Cup or League Cup round draws) though the actual team's playing style can be changed while playing - your opposing team's style is also shown.
Then we come to the rewards of playing a team. First, there is the FA Cup and League cup. Advertising comes into play, with sponsorship of your strip, and also advertising hoardings (with many, er, Atomik products on them...) and this helps with the income, as well as your match income and sponsorship. You get a hefty amount of dosh for winning the cup, too. From there, you also enjoy being promoted (yey!) or relegated (arrgh!) in the Divisions. You start at Division 4. The rest of the game involves you managing all the team, keeping them fit and healthy. The players health is represented by percentages, and this in turn makes up the team's total percentages for Goalkeeper, Defence, Midfield and Attack. This also means you can play a Defender as Midfield, though the percentage will not be as good as if a Midfielder is there. As for the risk of injury and suspension, these risk factors are all there when the match is played.
A good feature is that after every match, a teleprinter (or fast results) tell you how every other team in that division played, and this in turn will be useful if you are trying to stay top of your division for promotion. This real-time feature is also promenent when your players age - above a certain age, they may decide to retire (yipe!) and leave you with a slightly depleted squad. Oh, I forgot! Your stadium can also be built up with the magic word "moolah", thanks to your builder, and this in turn gives you more capacity crowds in the long run. Yep, there is a hell of a lot for you to do!
Would-be football managers will be in for a treat. Graphically, the game is simply stunning (there swells up my head again!) while the music is good for the while (it's a collection of football anthems) before after 5 minutes you decide to switch it off permenantly. The options are also extensive, with plenty of options to choose from. Of course, you can also SAVE and LOAD games if need be, which will be the case if you want to play through more than one year.
Yep, this sure beats the pants off Football Director 2, though note! It is a managerial game, so no animations of players running around the pitch. But if you want to treat yourself to some excellent fantasy football, get this!!
Graphics - 96% Sound - 88% Playability - 96% Lastability - 95% Overall - 94%