Football Tactician 2 logo

Well, for a start, it's clearly the sequel to Football Tactician.

We've had this one advertised in the mag for a few months now, and quite literally some letters from insane football management game devotees practically begging us to tell them how it compares to their beloved Championship Manager, Premier Manager, Graham Taylor's Beating The USA Challenge (pfft!) and all the rest.

Well, I slacked a bit on last month's issue, so as penance I decided it was time I got back to my roots and reviewed it. Not that I've got anything against football management games - the original Football manager was one of my all-time favourites, it's just that every one of the eight million I've seen since then seemed to add nothing worthwhile to the original formula, and a significant percentage of them actually made things worse.

For me, the aforementioned Championship Manager was the biggest offender of the lot - while undeniably comprehensive and 'authentic', it was so unbearably slow to play and completely devoid of any of the excitement, tension and thrills that must surely come from a real football management job, that I just totally failed to see the point of it.

Anyway, Football Tactician 2 seems to be getting itself a bit of a good name on the sheepskin-jacket-and-flat-cap circuit, with its fancy new-fangled weekly updates and versions for every nationality under the proverbial sun.

The game comes with its own regular news-sheet

Personally, and predicably parochially, I chose the Scottish League version, beside myself with happiness at the concept of taking on the mantle of Stenhousemuir, Queen Of The South or Hamilton Academicals and once again visiting the haunting-grounds of my youth in such far-flung and exotic places as Airdrie, Durnfires, Motherwell and Falkirk (sigh). The more glamorous-minded among you might prefer to go for the new Italian model, boasting all the delights of the legendarily competitive (ah ha ha ha - right, Milan/Brescia fans?) Serie A and B.

Anyway, on with the game. FT2 boasts all the usual features you'd expect from the genre and loads more besides, right down to drugs-testing in the Italian version - in fact, there are so many of them that the game comes with its own regular newsheet detailing amendments, updates and improvements.

Sadly, what it doesn't come with is a very useful instruction manual - I spent a fruitless 30 minutes searching for the way to alter a basic staple of the manager's job (my team's formation), before sadly concluding that it simply wasn't possible to do so.

Another oddity is that you only seem to be able to study the shot-by-shot development of a match in retrospect, which kind of spoils the tension a bit. Now it may well be that I'm just not operating the menus properly, but if that is the case, it's just another symptom of the game's pretty unfriendly user interface - this isn't a game bult with the casual or novice player in mind.

Still, I wouldn't like to give the impression that it's all bad - Football Tactician 2 works just fine most of the time, and it's nice not to have to always play Hereford or something.

What threw me, though was that there seemed to be very little I could actually do to influence matters - while there are probably unseen depths that'd take weeks to find, I got the impression I'd seen it all after about a quarter of a season.

Maybe I just missed the little stick-man highlights of Football Manager, but after the nationalistic thrill had worn off, this made me feel like going and watching a nice game of cricket, and that's just about the worst crime of all.