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In a football management genre were Championship Manager and more recently Football Manager have dominated it is essential that anyone else entering the fray offers something different in order to compete. Premier Manager 2005-2006 is Zoo Digital Publishings attempt to offer an alternative. The Premier Manager series is not a new phenomenon and indeed Premier Manager 3 for the PC and Amiga was a moderately successful title with its own fanbase. However, subsequent releases in the series have created little media furore and indeed many football management fans will be unaware that there was any further releases.
The Premier Manager series has always tried to separate itself from the database style of Championship Manager and attempts to provide a more user friendly, pleasant to the eye interface. Premier Manager 2005-2006 continues in this vein with bold, colourful graphics and web page style interface were everything is navigated to from the Homepage. This simplistic interface allows the player to navigate using either mouse or keyboard with a single click and all instructions can be given in this way be it player selection, transfers or tactics. Unfortunately, this simplicity is hindered by a unresponsive menu system that does not allow you to select things until the whole of the page is loaded. Due to the colourful, rendering of each page this can take up to ten seconds slowing the game down to snails pace level. It all looks very pretty but trying to choose tactics or navigate back to the homepage to play a match takes what seems like an age making parts of the gameplay a slow, tedious experience.
Although the game is very slow to navigate there are an impressive array of options to tinker with with options to apply for a new stadium, involve yourself in press interviews and and adjust how you would like your team to train each day. You also have the option to request coach reports on your players, promote from the youth team or discuss contracts and possible changes of position with your players. Indeed this is often more business management than football management. This is perhaps further re-inforced by the lack of options in the tactics department. Simplicity once again seems to be the both he games strength and weakness with tactics limited to the usual set formations and no option to create set play situations. Defence is limited to Man to Man and Zonal and the whole team is restricted to attack, defend or counter-attack. The lack of individual player tinkering and adjustments gives the football management side of the game a real lack of depth.
Premier Manager 2005-2006 is relatively current and offers ten-thousand players across fourteen divisions, five cups and five countries. This sounds impressive enough but compared to its more illustrious brethren it pales in comparison. There are actually seven countries to choose from but for gameplay purposes you can only choose five. All countries are European so you will not be signing players from Brazil. The game is not helped by only partial official sponsorship. All the players have the correct names and statistically are accurate but the managers are anagrams of the real players. Expect to pit your wits against Alox Foggison and Joes Morunhio for the English Cup. Even the grounds are blessed with names like Everton Park and Old Trifford. This detracts from the sense of realism and added to an interface that was obviously constructed for a console including a D pad on screen controlling major decisions this feels like a very watered down management experience.
The game is not without redemption however and this is best illustrated in the matchday sequences which have a nice variety of views be it an on the ball camera or traditional key events and percentages style there is something for every managers tastes. This is a game that have a sense of style and ease of play and as such is ideal for the younger managers out there. There is also a nice atmosphere to the games with obviously recorded fan chants to be heard throughout. Unfortunately for a football management veteran the game is very easy. For example, I took control of a cash strapped Everton, bought two players and won the league. This is despite the pre-match percentages being heavily against my victory. It would appear using the default tactics and formation even the average team cannot fail. Again great for the football mad who want to see their team achieve European domination but not for the hardened tactician who wants to earn the respect of his fellow managers.
This is a game full of nice touches from board meetings to player negotiation but is ultimately flawed. The game is far too easy and its slow navigation make it too tedious to concentrate on the business management side. At £7.99 at Morrison's it s a cheap and cheerful buy but I fear its low price and low end specifications reflect what is essentially a poor football management title.
Pentium 3 or higher
128mb ram minumum
1.5gb hard drive space
Direct X compatible sound card
8 speed CD-Rom
Available at www.premiermanager.info
As the definitive take on football management, Premier Manager 2005-2006 invites you to take control of your favourite club's destiny. Whether brokering multi-million pound transfers, negotiating TV rights, dealing with player tantrums or squeezing the chairman for cash, one thing is certain. The club's future is in your hands.