Football Manager Live
Since its inception, the Football Manager series has always been seen by gamers as a dream MMO. The personalised, addictive manager simulation has always appeared an experience befitting a shared experience with friends. Although the wait to realise such a dream has taken a particularly long time (prolonged even further by an extensive beta test), Football Manager Live has finally arrived to introduce MMO gamers an opportunity to down their fantasy avatars in favour of everyone’s favourite compulsive spreadsheet program. What would seem like an inevitable conclusion for the veteran series has taken on altogether different approach, with surprisingly positive results.
Rather unusually, there has always been the curious question as to how Sports Interactive could ever reproduce the ultra-realistic gameplay of Football Manager into an MMO setting. Would matches take place on pre-determined times? Who would get to choose Manchester United? And who would be stuck with Mansfield? Rather wisely SI has ditched such high-concept predicaments in favour of using only user-created leagues and teams, whilst opening the entire overwhelming roster of world footballers to the highest bidder.
Whilst it’s initially a shock to be stripped of taking control of your favourite club (or indeed any), allowing gamers to literally start from scratch regarding their club name, kit, stadium and squad roster separates the men from the boys. Such a decision may prove daunting to newcomers trying to select 22 footballers from an incredibly large database (a maximum of a thousand teams per gameworld), with a universal budget prohibiting any big signings initially. Thus you’re probably better off letting the computer auto-select your team to begin with whilst building on each victory’s points to lure those household names. This move does of course mean that users joining leagues which are nearly full to capacity will have to make do with popular players already signed up, but in fairness it’s a difficult problem to overcome either way.
The match engine itself reverts to the previous 2D incarnation, with users playing four week seasons with live opposition or competent AI opposition (wisely penalties are enforced for teams succeeding against offline users only). SI has also introduced six starting skills for each manager to choose from (coaching, infrastructure, physio etc), adding an RPG-like skill tree of progression to encourage different aspects of managerial prowess amongst the leagues. This is a thoughtful approach to helping newcomers to the franchise play to their own skills, though it’s questionable whether such players can hope to challenge die-hard fans without investing hours of playtime.
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