UEFA Manager 2000
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In a genre where one title is so dominant, it's a brave developer that attempts to take it on head-to-head. It's even braver when it's your first game, as is the case with UEFA Manager 2000, the debut title from developers Bubbal Systems Ltd. So, bar giving up immediately, what do you do?
For starters Bubbal has secured a UEFA licence, which in real terms is neither here nor there, although the game does enable you to select a club from nine different European countries, comprising some 20,000 players. There's a Career mode, you can simply pick your club, or take on one of eight scenarios, such as rescuing a team seemingly domed to relegation. The data is only mildly inaccurate, and for those with the time and the inclination there is an editor that enables you to update your squad yourself.
As some of the surrounding pictures suggest, they have gone for the 3D action style, something in common with every single management game apart from CM, something that has set us thinking, Perhaps this is why almost every other management game, by trying to do too much, falls on its arse. A bunch of animated gimps running around a pretend field is never going to match the power of the imagination, which is where CM wins out (as well as being superior In every aspect.)
That said, it has a fairly powerful match engine, viewable either in a window or full screen, with a near infinite number of camera angles adjustable on the fly, enabling you to effectively chase the action around. The Highlights mode works fairly well, and lets you set what specific action you want to see, whether it's corners, shots on target, bookings, substitutions and so on. Or for the completist, you can view the match in its entirety. It's certainly not football, but it's vaguely watchable, providing you've got the telly on or something to read.
The interface is fairly cluttered, although hotkeys enable you to leap to relevant screens, and a comprehensive help section is available for the hard of thinking. And while you're mulling over tactics, some warbling orchestral music plays in the background, something that can be rectified by adding your own MP3 file. A nice touch, but no deal-breaker.
It's hard to review a management game without constantly harking back to CM, largely because it's hard to play one without thinking about it.
UEFA Manager 2000 does nothing drastically wrong, but simply fails to engage on anything like the same level.
Download UEFA Manager 2000
We've said it a hundred times before and we'll say it again: in footballing management terms, there is only Championship Manager. Now UEFA Manager 2000 is aiming to become the best, competing with the likes of Premier Manager 99 and Ultimate Soccer Manager. It has the official UEFA licence to start with, all the top European leagues and a comprehensive simulation of the Champions League. Your job will be to cover the usual spectrums of tactics, sponsorships and media relations that PC managers are expected to undertake. There's also the option to view a 90-minute match through the impressive 3D engine and to tackle some challenging scenarios, such as relegation battles and ground developments. But its success depends on whether it can recreate the same feeling of depth and personal involvement that life-sucking games have.
If there's one thing the PC isn't shy of, it's football management games. There's an absolute mountain of them available, and it continues to grow at an exponential rate. A lot of them are utter muck, some are OK for a few days, but the only one of any lasting value is of course the peerless Championship Manager 3 - aka Spreadsheet Manager - a game with no licence and no graphics (not to mention no end).
So what are Infogrames planning to bring to the party? Well, for starters they have a sizeable licence in the shape of Europe's governing body, UEFA. Apart from being able to use the acronym in the game's title, the licence enables the game to authentically recreate all UEFA competitions. Naturally this includes the prestigious UEFA Champions League and indeed the qualification for it, a feat in itself, considering the complexities of this season's competition.
Domestic action is of course the bread and butter of management, and UEFA Manager 2000 will initially feature all four English divisions plus the Conference, along with the top two leagues of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain and Portugal. And while it's not a deal clincher, we are promised that this will be followed by data for the Scandinavian countries next year.
So they've gone for the licence, and they've also gone for the graphics, with a full 3D representation of the match action utilising the latest in hardware acceleration, with a software option thrown in for paupers. The matches can be viewed in either a small window or full-screen, and are actually played out in real time as opposed to pre-recorded highlights. And for the ultimate in obsessive behaviour, you can actually watch an entire 90-minute match, although thankfully an abridged highlights option is on offer.
As well as the traditional career mode, some interesting scenarios are to be included, whereby the budding manager is given a set of circumstances and challenged to achieve some objectives. For instance, Sinking Ship involves taking the helm of a team on the verge of relegation and attempting to turn things round with a small cash injection, whereas Crumbling Ground involves sorting the stadium out before making a push for relegation in order to foot the bill. Other self-explanatory scenarios include Domestic Double, Wake the Sleeping Giant, and UEFA Glory, and this should certainly add some variety.
Getting the basic game right is the priority though, and at the moment it looks like a hybrid of some of the main titles, with in-game graphics comparable to Premier Manager '99, an email system straight out of FA Premier League Football Manager, and even a bit of Ultimate Soccer Manager thrown in for good measure. UEFA Manager 2000 is the debut title from Bubbal Systems, and if it comes anywhere near the depth, accuracy and uncanny realism of CM3, it will be a major achievement. Chances?