PC Review - 'Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006'

by RumDragon on April 24, 2006 @ 1:09 a.m. PDT

Developed for the PC and Mac by UK developer Sports Interactive, creators of the highly popular Championship Manager series, Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 represents the next evolution in fantasy sports by enabling gamers to control all team-related activities for their favorite pro or semi-pro franchise in the U.S. as well as 50 other countries across the world.

Genre: Sports Simulation
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sports Interactive
Release Date: November 17, 2005

Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 is a sports simulation game that puts you in the role of manager for any number of teams from across the world. You can pick how many different countries, continents, and leagues are included into your gameplay experience, and you can also select the amount of detail, such as if you want real players to be used or not. If you opt to employ all of the leagues, countries, and various other details, then even the most monstrous of computers will be bogged down by the massive processing requirements. Researchers from all over the world (2,500 of them!) worked laboriously to put together the list of players and staff, and the payoff is incredible. It would be difficult to find a game on the market today to match the engrossing nature of this offering.

Sports Interactive's newest installment improves vastly on the principles of the 2005 edition. One of the main things that have been changed is that the game has been made overall more accessible to newcomers, whether to the genre or to the game itself. There is an in-game tutorial that can be accessed at any time with the push of a button, and the interface has been changed around slightly to make the menus easy to see in a very literal sense, as the font is now clearer. The tactics menus are now much less convoluted so that it is easier to escape the feeling of being overwhelmed by all of the minute details you can tweak. Training has also been made more streamlined and intuitive, with a detailed list of the player's previous training.

Speaking of details, that is the bread and butter of WSM 2006. You can change everything about your team, down to the individual tactics they use for the games. On the flip side, you can also assign assistant managers to take care of all of those facets, and there are pre-programmed tactics patterns that you can select. It could also be said that you get what you put into this game, as you could be at the very bottom of the ladder one moment, and then at the top the next, due to a serious micromanaging overhaul. Additionally, turns occur in days, and you can also take vacations if you just want to skip time until you have a major game to play.

New changes in this version are the enhanced character statistics page, which tells what positions they can play and how well they play in them. A minor change is that a player's height and weight is now given. Other changes are that referees now have their own information pages, as do managers. Managerial contracts can now be earned as well, through performance. Adding to the control over the players is the feature to change tactics quickly on the field, and you can talk to unhappy players to inspire them or cajole them with media exposure or gifts. You can also punish players who are playing badly by suspending them or suppressing their wages.

Another important feature of the game is player transfers that must be negotiated. Firstly, you have to do a search for a player with criteria such as nationality, but this isn't as straightforward as it sounds, because to see all a player's scores, you will have to send a scout out to watch them. Then you have to make an actual offer to the club that the player is affiliated with, and of course, you have to keep in mind if your team's reputation is even good enough to get them interested.

Perhaps the strongest part of WSM 2006 are the matches themselves, which can be watched second for second in their entirety. The players are represented by disks on a field, and of course, a soccer ball flops around as the game progresses. Sadly, you cannot play through your matches like in other games, such as the FIFA series, but this bird's eye view allows you to gain a better understanding of why you are doing well or badly. One drawback is that you must control cup and league games yourself, as only friendly matches can be delegated to your assistants. Sitting through the matches even at the highest playback speeds can become tedious fairly quickly.

Another plus for this offering is that you can create your own manager profile, complete with birthdate, age, and nationality. You can also pick your favorite team, but this does not mean you have to control this team; it only means you will get more news clippings on them, and they will be more respectful towards you when you bid for the head manager duties of the team. As for how high you can play through the soccer ranks, that is only dictated by the real world; every major competition, like the Euro and World Cup, as well as the Olympics, are available to play through. The extreme replay value that this title offers to its small market base is invaluable.

The graphics are very minimal, but the interface is simple and easy to understand, and the sound is very much the same, even though it tends to distract with its droning when you are obsessing over how to cut some deadweight from the team.

There are some online options, but finding other players is an enormous undertaking of patience. Multiplayer for Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 really shines in Hotseat mode, where the turns will seem to fly by as you try to top your opponent. Basically, the game plays the same, only with a human player to best.

Overall, Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 is quite solid, and if there is one problem, it is the steep learning curve. If you are new to manager-type games, then the huge amount of options can lead to quick frustration, but the tutorial and succinct manual alleviate this, if only a bit. The graphics can't really act as a penalty because the game is based on statistics at its heart, so only a two-dimensional illustration is needed for the matches. The sound, however, is a different matter, because it is rather abysmal. This title adds upon the already stellar gameplay from WSM 2005, and I would strongly recommend any fan of the series to pick it up, but newcomers should be ready to invest some time into learning the game.

Score: 8.5/10

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