Game of two halves

Euro League Manager logo

Tired of getting beaten up by Portugese police and locked in Turkish jails? Worry not, enjoy the thrills and spills of the world of football from your armchair. Guildhall is bringing out a couple of excellent footy games to cater for all tastes - the brand spanking new Euro League Manager and the classic FIFA International Soccer. Hugh Poynton investigates.

To complement its range of excellent Electronic Arts and Microprose releases, Guildhall Software has bought up a few new titles from smaller companies such as Binary Emotions and Manyk. Euro League Manager is the latest of these brand new Amiga titles. With Championship Manager 2 seemingly festering away in some dank dungeon of Eidos Interactive, Euro League Manager has found itself without much competition. Which is pretty fortunate as Manyk's management sim is something of a curates egg.

Euro League Manager does have its good points; as the name suggests it focuses on the football teams of three European countries rather than the usual one. In addition to this you can play in a fantasy league and use scouts to find cheap but talented players.

The fact that each league is different does add some variety to the game. Those well versed in the ways of football will know that each league in which you manage a team varies greatly from the others. Your opponents are different and the strategies and tactics that you might have relied on in one league will no longer be quite as successful.

Another strength of the game are the little innovations that Manyk has thrown in. As far as I know there aren't that many other games that allow you to use a talent scout to find new players. Transfer deals are made more interesting as the game includes a feature that allows players to be transferred using part exchange deals so your wheeling and dealing can be made that bit more efficient and hard nosed.

However, despite these pleasing touches, there are a few things that let Euro League Manager down. Unfortunately, Manyk had a tough time trying to get permission to use the names of players and cup competitions for the game. This means that if you manage your favourite team, the proper player will not be present.

Although on the surface this may be a trivial problem, it does detract from the realism of the game. Manyk has included an editor so you can change the names of players in the various leagues, but to do this for every player in your chosen league would take quite a while.

Another let down is the graphics. Although bright and cheerful, the game just seems to lack the crisp, pleasing graphics of Championship Manager and the preview versions I have seen of Championship Manager 2. Call me a nit picker but the main screen, the inside the manager's office, isn't drawn properly - the perspective is wrong and it looks, well, wonky.

To be fair, Euro League Manager looks like the sort of game that will appeal to footy sim fans and will be a useful addition to any management buff's game collection, especially as you aren't limited to managing an English Premier League Club. If you are less of a pedant than me and can ignore the annoying little drawbacks, you could do worse than giving Euro League Manager a go.

Euro League Manager logo

With a sheepskin jacket, big cigar and bad haircut, Andy Smith wonders why he stands alone at discos...

Local matches are always good fun in the Amiga Format office. They used to be even more fun when Linda Benson worked with us because both she and Cathy are Bristol City fans (* * * * heads) whereas I follow the true path and support Bristol Rovers (Gashead). But baiting the solitary Cathy is fun enough when there's a footy manny game to review.

This one's supposed to be a European affair and it is, in that you can choose to manage a Spanish or Italian team instead of an English club, but frankly, I don't really see why you'd want to very much. The box blurb reckons you're going to have to adopt different tactics to succeed in each of the different International leagues, but, for reasons I'll go into later, I'd take that with a pinch of salt.

Still there is the chance to play in European Cup competitions (UEFA Cup and all that) as well as domestic League Cup competitions, so I suppose that sorta, kinda makes it European.

Turn it off!
One of the first things you'll want to do when you boot this up, is go to the options screen and turn off the animations. If you don't then every time a goal is scored, or missed, you're treated to a little TV monitor replay of the goalmouth incident.

The animation itself isn't so bad - it's not the best even seen either - it's just that there can be 20 goalmouth incidents in a half and it gets really tedious, having to watch the same 'clip' over and over and over again. Turn 'em off fast. And while you're here you'll probably want to speed up the gametime because then waiting until the end of the match is less painful.

All the basic stuff you'd expect to be in a game of this type is here. Training for instance. It says on the box blurb "Individual player coaching to improve your team. Some players may thrive on hard training but others may not. Finding the right balance is the key to success."

But all I ever managed to do was pick what the team were doing on a particular day - dribbling on a Wednesday for example. Or should I say Wendnesday, as the game does!

Actually, that's one of the least annoying things about the game. It's riddled with bugs. I talked to Guildford about the bug that dumps you out to a blue Workbench screen whenever you refuse an offer on one of my squads and was assured it was because of the machine I was playing the game on. Maybe, maybe not but the game still bombed out every now and again, even after swapping machines. I wouldn't trust it myself, especially having experienced the game's other bugs.

Foolishly I decided to upgrade my stadium and have a car-park built (for the substantial sum of 10,000). This was going to take me 10 game 'weeks'. Stupidly, I decided to save the game after a few weeks. When I re-loaded it back in I was surprised to find that Bristol Rovers had only played 3 games this season and accumulated 26 points. I was really surprised to find the car-park builders had abandoned the project but kept the money. Bastards.

As for the transfer system, well it's beyond me. Sure, you can uy domestic or foreign players but the pricing of players is very odd. Suppose you want A. Smith from Shrewsbury. He's priced at 4473. He's valued at 5190. Shrewsbury refuse to sell him for anything less than 8765. Now suppose you want to sell B. Smith to Shrewsbury. He's valued at 7654. The best offer you get from Shrewsbury is 4298. It just doesn't seem to be a very satisfying part of the game.

Unless your glasses are very rose-tinted you'll have realised that I think this game is pump. Despite the horrendous bugs (our review copy was a full-on, packaged as you'd get it in the shops affair, so there are no cries of "Well, it's a pre-production version, all the bugs will be gone before it hits the streets"), it's just too basic, shallowing and unfulfillable to give you any pleasure. There's not even much sense of 'Europe' about the game - unless you're someone who actually gets into European competition.

There are many football management games around that are better than this - check out something like USM, Premier Manager 2 or any other football management game in fact. Don't go for this at all.

Euro League Manager logo

Price: £19.99 Publisher: Guildhall Leisure Services 01302 890000

Yet another football management game arrives before Championship Manager 2. When oh when will the wait be over?

Footy management games have certainly proved popular over the years and companies such as Gremlin must have made a right old mint out of them (as we celebrate Premier Manager 17) but what is there left to offer the genre? Well, if we look at Euro League Manager from Guildhall Leisure it becomes totally apparent that there is NOTHING left to offer the genre.

Instead we find that simply churning out the same old formula is the best policy and to add insult to injury, making up team rosters and individual player details is a cost-efficient and accuracy-trouble-free solution.

Nasty balls
Ah, but I'm being far too vicious. Using fictional players is, er... great. No, really. It means there's no chance of the programmer's opinion of individuals clashing with yours and you don't have freakish instances where the likes of Man Utd's Any Cole gets accidentally classed above players such as Giggs. But I digress... Sadly, using fictional and miss-matched players also takes half the point out of such games - that point being when you finally get to take Cole out of the team and put a proper player in his place.

You see that's why football management games succeed. You watch the game on the Saturday, 'enjoy' seeing your team lose, and then spout on about how you "would have brought so-and-so off at half time and put so-and-so on instead".

Load up a decent management game and you can ACTUALLY try out your dream team. Load up a half-arsed version and you won't even recognise the names. Taking Arsenal to the top of the league is great fun for sure, but with class front men such as Stavros O'Goalish and Stevie Shooter scoring the all-important last minute beauties, half the magic has bounced back off the woodwork, so to speak.

So what about footy management fans who don't care about team accuracy and just want a decent game? Well, they should be fairly satisfied. The interface is quite instinctive, the graphics and statistic layouts quite userfriendly, and even the in-game match display and incidental animations are acceptable. Where the game falls down is in its 'average-ness'.

There is simply nothing here we've not seen a hundred times before, however. Gremlin's Premier Manager series at least attempted to evolve, and Daze Marketing's On The Ball was the first to successfully implement arcade-like graphics, but other than that, you have to ask what footy management games can do to progress.

I would say the only reason to have brought out a product such as this right now would be to offer gamers the most up-to-date teams, but while Arsenal enjoy Shilton in goal and McAteer up-front, it;s hard to justify this particular release.

Familiar footy
Another criticism of Euro League Manager is that, while being unoriginal is hardly an unusual crime in this industry, copying presentation from other games practically down to the last pixel is a bit iffy. The main screen looks very like On The Ball, the team formation screen looks like SWOS... and on, and on... And that's it, really.

Yes, it does the job. Yes, you can buy, sell, scout, transfer, play, attack, rest and injure. No, you can't say this is any different than all the rest. And as such, it doesn't get a kicking, but it does get a less than shining set of marks. The final score? Nil-nil I'm afraid!