Ultimate Soccer Manager 98
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May 1995 Saw The Advent Of The Ultimate Soccer Manager series, and as management games go, it was largely a case of business as usual, with the intricacies of The Beautiful Game represented via a series of coloured blobs on a vague representation of a football pitch. However, it did boast a fairly detailed business model, with budding managers afforded every opportunity to transform their rundown cowsheds into futuristic super stadia.
To cater for the '90s-style football supporter restaurants, bars, club shops and so forth could be constructed, with the player deciding such crucial factors as the price of a pint and the consistency of the Bovril (the latter being a hilarious untruth, unfortunately). But USM did have a USP (faceless marketingspeak for Unique Selling Point) in that 'bungs' could be offered to rival managers, thus accurately replicating the sleaze factor sullying the sport at the time, with suitcases of used banknotes regularly turning up on motorway service station forecourts.
Ultimate Soccer Manager 2 successfully continued the evolution of the series, and while it never quite enjoyed the high profile of Eidos' ubiquitous Championship Manager 2, it was nevertheless highly fancied by those people in the know.
Which brings us succinctly to Ultimate Soccer Manager 98, and those with eyes will be able to see that graphically it has certainly come along in leaps, and indeed bounds, with the cunning inclusion of some fairly realistic players. The game will feature leagues from England, Scotland, Italy, France, Spain and Germany, all of which run simultaneously in the computer's head. Matches will be represented via animated action and full commentary, which Impressions claim will name every single player, accurate data for whom has been garnered with the co-operation of some 120 footie fanzines. The stadium and the crowd will even change to reflect the current situation of the club, so don't expect too many in for a midweek end-of-season game at Mansfield.
The newly-developed coaching mode promises to be comprehensive, with training options enabling certain players to concentrate on specific skills, such as passing and shooting, as well as taking corners, throw-ins and penalties. The business aspect will still feature heavily, with the addition of club flotations, sponsorship and merchandising to widen would-be managers' wheeling and dealing options.
Management games often live or die on their transfer systems, and Ultimate Soccer Manager 98 will feature in-depth negotiation with rival managers, and a pool of some 10,000 players to choose from. Again, bribery and bungs will be an option, so if you can't get that hot new striker you want and all else fails, fill an envelope with some wedge and head for Watford Gap...