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    Review- Premier Manager 09
    Sunday, 7 September 2008
    As the new English Premiership season starts to get going the inevitable deluge of footballing titles look set to hit every format out there. Premier Manager 09 is one of the first to hit the market, we grab our sheepskin coat and prepare for a long hard season in the dug out.

    Allow me to make a slight personal digression before we start this review properly. I am an old school Premier Manager fan, many years ago I went to some game exhibition in London and picked up a number of games. One being a light gun pack with a clay pigeon shooting game (the trigger for that gun broke within a few months) but it was Premier Manager on the Amiga 500 Plus that kept my attention for hour upon hour. I remember with fond memories working my way up from the conference (which the game required you to do) up to being Liverpool manager and winning the title five out of seven seasons including three trebles a feat I am never likely to emulate in any other management game. There are also plenty of other great features the game had; using a telephone to ring staff members for example. I played Premier Manager 2 and 3 and the Amiga but neither captured the magic of the original. After those three I moved onto the Championship Manager series and then the Football Manager series but I still remember with much fondness my Premier Manager careers of yesteryear.

    As Football Manager and Championship Manager continue to add feature upon feature and make the stats increasingly more in depth, Premier Manager has sent itself in a different direction. The other two titles are released later in the season and at full retail, whilst Premier Manager is clearly targeted at the masses released as the season kick offs and at a cheaper budget price. This has lead to title having a far more casual feel to it and it does pay off. Other management games are always finding themselves compared to glorified spreadsheets as people simple don't get them. Premier Manager however has a chunky easy to use graphics centric interface, where everything has it's own icon with text prompts also available. The Hub screen really shows off this design principal as it shows all the information in one single place with a ton of options for your next decision.

    The casual side to the game also changes the way many players of the genre may be used to buying and selling players and interacting with your staff. Instead taking the form of drop down menu systems the game has a conversation tree system. Anyone familiar with RPG or point and click games will be right at home with this system and it helps keep things really simple. A typical transfer will involve you clicking on the player making your interest known and then talking to their chairman agreeing a price, before sitting down with the man himself and negotiating terms. All your choices are context sensitive so what will you pick will have a definite bearing on the answer you receive. Whilst in principal the practice is the same the execution is very different and makes for a more fluent easy to use system. One great feature not seen any football Sim before is the press conferences feature, you can be approached by journalists and asked questions or can call them in yourself and set your own agenda, this is a great feature and really shows off the possibilities of the conversation tree system.

    One place the game really falls down is in on match days. Whilst it would perhaps be too much to expect the depth and diversity of the Football Manager 2D match engine or the Prozone power of Championship Manager, a competent means of viewing the action is a must. Bearing in mind the casual audience the game is aimed at it seems obvious to put a lot into a match engine as it is where your hard effort is rewarded and a great looking system will help keep gamers gripped. Premier Manager has a 2D match engine that is plane awful. Whilst it looks fine in screenshots (see below) as soon things start moving it jitters all over the place and it can be near on impossible to keep track of the action unless you play matches at the mind numbing slowest speed. Another problem highlighted when running in slow motion is the games inadequate AI as players seem to stroll around at leisure and break formation with regular abandon.

    This however is not the only problem there is no text based commentary either. As mentioned already this is a casual game so there aren't the mounds of stats to pour over. With all this in mind it can be very hard to work out why you are actually losing matches, other than the fact your team perhaps had less shots and less possession and of course less goals. There is for example no way of telling if you defenders keep getting beaten in the air or are just off the pace. Would it have been that hard to include even the most simple of text commentaries? Just to give some indication of what is happening other than a poor 2D engine or the other option a simple symbols based system. It unfortunately makes the match experience boring and lacking in the suspense one would expect. LMA Manager on consoles which was also a more casual experience got it spot on with its match engine and made much better efforts at keeping players interested.

    One final blight on this games resume is the transfer system. Whilst it is easy enough to buy and sell players they are woefully inaccurate when compared to real life. Lauren of Portsmouth going to Chelsea for £8 million anyone? Fancy seeing David Beckham play at Fratton Park? David Nugent to German giants Bayern Munich? Emile Heskey back to Liverpool for £10 million? Manchester United seemingly spending all their transfer budget on 3 ageing left backs? DONE. Other management have prided themselves on depicting real life transfers before they happen and having a realistic sytem based on the current climate. It's hard to say the same about Premier Manager as it just all feels so random.

    All in all this is not a terrible game but it's not great either, younger gamers may find it fun but the casual gamer with an interest in football will perhaps find it that bit too frustrating to deal with the lack of feedback from matches. With Football Manager, Championship Manager and FIFA Manager all looming large on the horizon it is hard to recommend as each of them has tutorials and various options to make the gameplaying experience more streamlined and beginner friendly.

    If it was a Premiership team it would be Middlesborough, plenty of potential but never gonna break into the higher echelons whilst being solid enough to only briefly flirt with the idea of relegation. (Blimey that's the most praise you will ever see me giving Gareth Southgate, I still remember THAT miss in Euro 96)

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    posted by flameboy @ 11:28  
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