Sports Interactive's best title to date combines stability and variety in an immersive football experience.
- Top-notch realism
- Great use of Xbox 360 controls
- Fast processing suits the platform.
- Sounds and looks bland
- slow and unwieldy online games.
Football Manager 2007 is Sports Interactive's third game since leaving the Championship Manager name behind, and while it's a case of evolution rather than revolution, it turns screens of statistics into something so absorbing that it is possible to lose entire hours, days, and weeks of your life analyzing.
The game, like most of its genre, thrusts you into the front line of football management at a club of your choosing. Where that may be is entirely up to you, and FM 2007 provides an almost endless list to choose from. You can go for the glamour of Barcelona or AC Milan, head to smaller clubs such as Accrington Stanley or Worksop, or take a punt with clubs from leagues you've almost certainly not heard of, such as the Hong Kong First Division. You can manage any of these clubs, and even international teams, should you so desire.
There are several options that you face when starting up a game, and those are based upon the number of leagues you want to activate. You can opt for four branches of setup: any nation, from a choice of more than 50, with the top two divisions active; any nation with the top four divisions active, where available; a combination of preset nations, grouped in twos or threes, with all divisions active; or a combination of preset nations grouped in fours and fives with a varying number of divisions active. The choices aren't as extensive as those on the PC--for example you can't simply make up any combination of nations or activate more than five at any point--but they do give you more than enough to be getting along with. The next step involves setting up your manager's profile, and because several of the divisions included in the game are fully licensed and contain player pictures, it's possible for you to add your own picture into the game, which is a nice touch.
After you're installed in your new job, you'll need to inspect your squad to work out where your team's strengths and weaknesses lie. That's something that may be much easier to do with big clubs, especially those with players you're familiar with, than it would be in lower league teams. So if you're a beginner, you might find it easier to start off with either a top team or one you know well.
You'll also start your management job with some idea of what the board and fans of your chosen club are hoping you'll achieve over the course of the season. Managers of football clubs live and die by results, so if the board is expecting promotion and you're delivering losses, you may find that your first contract ends prematurely. However, if that does happen, it's not the end of the game; you can apply for jobs with other clubs that have vacancies at any time, and you can even throw your hat into the ring anywhere if an incumbent manager's position is looking shaky.
It won't take long to learn your way around the game, although for anybody that's transferring from the PC, reeducating yourself on the location of various information screens might take a little longer. However, once you've played a few matches, it really does become second nature, and that's thanks largely to the well-used trigger buttons on the controller. At any time the left trigger button will bring up an overall menu that lets you continue, view your squad and its tactics, and so on, while the right trigger will show options more localised to the screen you're currently on. Pressing the start button will bring up the load and save menu, while other context-sensitive options can be found using the A, B, X, and Y shortcuts. It's all been configured in such a way that it doesn't take long for you to get to any screen you can think of.
Once you have a feel for your players, either through real-life knowledge or some careful inspection of players' relative statistics, you can begin to construct your title-winning team, choosing a formation and tactics that best fit the level at which you're playing. This can change from division to division, but while world-class players might prefer slick, fast passing manoeuvres and elegant counterattack plays, you'll probably be happy for your inexperienced, unfit, part-time lower league players to just lump the ball unceremoniously up the field at any opportunity--hit and hope.
As well as deciding whether to play 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or one of any number of other formations, you'll need to keep an eye on the financial state of the club, as this will give you an indication of what your transfer budget might be. Again, this reflects directly on the level at which your team competes, but unless your club is in debt, there's usually something in the kitty.
Having financial acumen is crucial, especially at smaller clubs, and you'll want to send out scouts to watch prospective transfer targets. FM 2007 introduces a new format to this section of the game, adding in knowledge bars for scouts based on their past experience. Some of them will specialise in certain countries or regions, and while smaller clubs might confine missions to a relatively local area, you'll want a good depth of global knowledge at your disposal if you want to compete on the world stage. Particularly important are staff members with South American experience, which may let you tap into the potentially priceless players of the Brazilian and Argentinean leagues and uncover the next Pele or Maradona before anybody else--and before the price gets too high.
Larger clubs will also have youth academies, which will give you an influx of youngsters each year, some of whom may make it through the youth and reserve teams and even break into your first-team squad over time. And another nice addition this year is the option to ask the board to consider setting up a formal arrangement with another club to send or receive players on loan. These agreements, known as feeder or parent clubs, can be very useful for big teams, letting them farm out promising youngsters for valuable first-team experience, and for small teams that would never normally be able to attract the young talent. It's something that has been around for a few years in real life, and it's great to be able to see the relationships transfer into the game.
The matches themselves are where the real action happens, and FM 2007's match engine has been refined further to create the most realistic player activity to date. The games are presented in a top-down view, with players as numbered circles moving around a pitch, which is usually green but can deteriorate into patchy brown to give you an idea of conditions on the ground. It's not the most sophisticated method of displaying a football match we've ever seen, and other games such as LMA Manager 2007 certainly pull it off with more aplomb, but the crucial aspect of it is that you can learn something from watching a match. The movement of players is almost bulletproof when compared to watching a real-life game, and it's incredibly easy to forget you are watching a bunch of circles move around inside a green rectangle.
- Player Reviews: 6
- Game Universe:
- Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 (PC, MAC, PSP, X360),
- Worldwide Soccer Manager 2007 (PC, MAC, X360, PSP),
- Worldwide Soccer Manager 2005 (PC),
- Football Manager (PC, AMI),
- Football Manager: World Cup Edition (C64, AMI),
- Football Manager 2 (C64, CPC, PC, ST, ZX, AMI),
- Football Manager (C64, CPC, BBC),
- Football Manager 2004 (MOBILE)
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
16 Players Online