Ah, I’ve been looking forward to this ever since we first heard about it! These types of games are really popular in the soccer-mad UK and the rest of Europe, among other areas, but it’s probably safe to say they’re a bit of an acquired taste and probably a bit of a mystery if you’re not a soccer fan.
One major problem when reviewing this game is just the sheer size of it. There are so many stats screens and menus and options to explore that it’s hard to know where to start!
Well, I guess as good a place as any to start could be the team and player name editor, which enables you to change all the fake names to the real ones. It’s so easy to use, especially as they’ve made most of the player names almost identical to the real ones. In fact I didn’t even bother changing them because I knew exactly who each fake name was supposed to be in my team, and I’m sure you will too.
Much more important than the actual names is the accuracy of the stats and whether or not they truly reflect the real players’ abilities, otherwise the game is meaningless, and from what I’ve seen so far, they’re uncannily spot-on. In Liverpool, for example, sorry, I mean Merseyside Reds, the striker who gets most of the goals in the game is the same one that gets them in real life (Torres).
At the start of the game, you choose the team you want to manage, from any of the four English leagues (Premier, Championship, League One and League Two), and then try and be as successful as possible. If your team fails to live up to the managing board’s expectations, you’ll be sacked and will have to look for another club to manage. The board’s expectations of your performance will differ depending on whether you’re managing a big or small club.
The really skillful element of the game is how you select and manage your squad, what sort of tactics you employ, just like the job of a real-life manager in fact. It’s this aspect of the game that football fans tend to find so absorbing. Although if you so choose you can always just press Square in the Squad menu to have the Coach automatically pick the team and miss out on all that fun stuff!
Match day is the core part of the gameplay, when your squad gets to go do their thing on the pitch. It kicks off with the Match Intro screen, which gives you some background info about who you’re playing.
From here, you can choose to either watch the match by pressing X, or skip all of that stress and tension and press circle to go directly to the results. By doing so, of course, you lose any chance of affecting the result with timely substitutions or by changing your team’s tactics.
In This Is Football Management (TIFM), as with most games of this type, the actual visual depiction of the match is very basic, just a football pitch with a ball bobbling about, not even any players, but that’s not important in this type of sports game.No, what matters here is the blow-by-blow text description of the game as it unfolds. Get that right, and you’ve got yourself a great football management sim, and TIFM certainly does get it right.
The text describing the actions of the two teams is color-coded, and the play-by-play descriptions are very neatly written so it’s easy to follow the action. You can also control the speed of the text by pressing L to slow it down and R to speed it up.
As you watch the events of the match unfold, you can press Start to call up the Match Menu, which enables you to tinker with many different aspects of the current game, such as changing the match view. You can also access the Team submenu to bring substitutes on.
In between matches you can get down to the general day-to-day business of running a team, including buying and selling players during the transfer window. The amount of menus and options available is impressively extensive considering this is just a tiny little mini!
Press Start to access various submenus, including the Club Menu where you can look at your main squad, your youth squad, maybe decide to buy other promising youth players, or tinker with their training. What you do here can have a real effect on match day, so it’s all very cleverly interlinked.
To sum up, I actually find it staggering how much detail and depth of gameplay Sports Director has managed to cram into TIFM, and it seems to me that they really have got the core gameplay exactly right. Every bit as absorbing as I’d hoped it would be and a must-buy for footie fans.