As you saw in last month's preview, Manchester United is Krysalis' first venture into the 'funny old game' of football. Footie games are very big business and in the past have come in one or two formats. There's been the arcade game à la Anco's Kick Off and Match Day 2, and the management type game such as the seminal Football Manager and Anco's new title Player Manager. Now things are changing, with two attempts being made to combine elements of both, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer from Audiogenic and Krysalis' Manchester United.
"Why Man United?" I hear you ask, "What with them being so... er... crap at the moment!?" Well, there are two reasons: firstly, Manchester United are reputed to have the largest following of any English club. After the Munich tragedy, when most of Man Utd's '57/58 season first team were killed in an air crash, the British public took the team in their hearts.
When Matt Busby took a team consisting largely of unproven youngsters through the 1958 FA Cup final something completely new came about. Until this time, the 'done thing' was to support your 'home side'. (If you lived in Newcastle you supported Newcastle United, if you lived in Cardiff you supported Cardiff City, and if you lived in Bolton you were very sad indeed).
The emotion provoked by the Man Utd tragedy gained the team new supporters throughout the country and lead for the first time to people being fans of teams other than the 'home' side. (What about the second reason? Ed). Er... Oh yes. The second reason was that when the licence was secured some six months ago, the Red Devils were actually doing very well (hem hem).
David: Blimey! Er... my knowledge about football is about as comprehensive as Jan Leeming's idea on the internal combustion engine. In fact, when the Ed told me to get the low down on the 'Red Devils', I'd already undergone six months of intensive training with the Royal Airforce parachute display team of the same name before I realised he was referring via popular moniker to Manchester United!
You try telling a bristling Sergeant Major on a Hercules C-130 transport aircraft at 15,000 feet that it's all been a terrible mistake and could you possibly 'sit' this one out.
Anyway, safely back on Terra Firma, Man United is one of the most userfriendly footie games I've ever seen. As well as providing the option of several different languages, you can even change the keyboard configuration to suit foreign keyboards. People who say things like 'Zut Alors' and 'Donner und Himmel' use different letters more commonly than we do. That's why the letters on their keyboards are laid out differently. (This is also why you'd be ill advised to take them on at Scrabble).
You can preset skill levels over each of the categories e.g. Midfield or Defence and (something new here) you can also alter the skill levels of your opponents! Remember in the past how tough computerised opposition could be? Well, if you don't fancy your chances, here's an opportunity to make them really useless!
Alternatively, if you're a bit of a genius (masochist) you can reduce your players skill level by 50%. This in effect cuts all your teams factors in half, i.e. they are half as fit, move half as slowly and are half as accurate at passing etc.
Furthermore, you can opt to switch off the arcade bit, or switch off the strategy bit. And(!) if you don't want to physically play the arcade sequences, you can sit back and let the computer play for you based upon the variables that you've altered. (You could even go and make a cup of tea, and come back and take over from the computer half way through!)
The management game is the usual icon-driven affair, where you start with a certain amount of cash and the existing Man Utd. Team (all represented quite nicely by digitised pics of the lads). Each match you play will bring in more cash, and this can be used to buy and sell players from the transfer market as well as bidding for players not on the market and scouting for new talent.
Each player has values for several factors including handling, tactics, positioning etc. and can be improved by training. They can also decrease with neglect! Training can be light, medium or heavy - the latter brings the best results but choose to train heavily in 'tackling' and you risk injuring players. You can also lose players through suspension!
Examine the league table and the computer will give you your fixture list, including the FA Cup games. YOUr progress is shown in the form of the headlines in the Daily Sport (No not that 'Sport' so don't expect to read the likes of "Man Utd Star Rogered My Hamster".) Here you'll see a synopsis on the state of play, as well as the league table top three.
Right, you've got your team, you've trained them to the peak of physical perfection (well, almost) and you're going into your first match. As you'll see from the screenshots, the game is viewed from the side-on, slightly above ground level, viewpoint and what a lot of detail there is here! Loads of K has been devoted to rendering the stadium, the crowd, even the ref and linesmen in lovely colourful detail! The player sprites are nicely detailed and gameplay is actually pretty fast.
As is common in this type of game, the player you control is the one nearest the ball. If the opponent has the ball and you're speeding along at his heels, then by releasing the joystick, the computer will designate the next player for your control. Although there's no meter on screen, the power of the kick is determined by the length of time you hold down the fire button, and direction of kick by direction the joystick is pushed.
If the ball passes a player at head height then he'll head it to his feet, or if he's in the goal mouth, at the goal. Oh, and pressing fire when you challenge an opponent initiates a sliding tackle. Your goal keeper is computer-controlled during normal play (so train him well!), but for penalties you can opt to control him.
If you manage to score, then apart from the crowd giving a hearty cheer, you'll be treated to one of five digitised black and white goal scoring sequences (a bit like Lost Patrol but without the raw meat) and that's it really.
If anyone out there is familiar with the formative Match Day 2 from Ocean, the arcade footie game on the 8-bit machines, then Man Utd's arcade section plays very much on a par with that (but without the two player bit). A huge football management game with a rather slick arcade game to boot. (Geddit?)