Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006, known by the less cumbersome title Football Manager 2006 in Europe, is an engrossing and challenging sports-simulation game that gives gamers the control over one of hundreds upon hundreds of professional soccer teams throughout the world. Unlike the games from the FIFA or ProEvolution series, you are not controlling the on-pitch action, but rather serving as the manager (head coach) of your club of choice. It is an extremely engrossing game with an unbelievable amount of depth, but Soccer Manager is clearly aimed at a very small subset of the gaming community.
While it may seem to be lacking what other sport-sim games offer, namely fast and furious on-the-field action, Soccer Manager more than makes up for any lack of visual flair with strategic depth. In fact, there is so much depth to this game that I fear I have been playing it at the most amateur level possible. However, the hours upon hours I have spent with Soccer Manager have been rewarding in both terms of gaming and appreciation for the "beautiful game." Granted I am an American who really enjoys soccer, but if you also have an interest in the sport and its complex but fascinating management and coaching, then this is the game for you.
When you start up WWSM 2006, you need to first create a profile. The profile will serve as the template for your coach/manager. But pay attention! The details of your profile are actually important to the way your players will respond to you. You supply a name, nationality, and birth date for your coach. As I want to live out my dreams, I decided to create Christopher Galbraith as the coach, 30 years old (the game recommends that you set this as the minimum age, which is realistic if you think about it), and an American. After you create your coaching profile, you need to decide which leagues you want to involve in your simulation. Since this is a serious number crunching game, it is advisable to load only the leagues you deem necessary (imagine simulating every league in every country throughout the world ? yes your computer will melt and you will grow old before the first simulated week is complete!).
Since I live in Germany, I decided that I wanted to coach a German team. I added the 3 divisions of the German Bundesliga along with the top levels of a few major European leagues ? Italy, England, and France. All that is left for me to choose is the club I want to run. Since I am a novice at this, I decided that a lower division team would be best, so I went with German Regional Division North squad St. Pauli out of Hamburg. Why not a better team you might ask? Well let's just say I was not comfortable running a multi-million Euro squad with my first run at this game. St. Pauli is a quality outfit, but the burden of expectation is not as high as with a team like Bayern Munich or Manchester United.
The gameplay consists of lots of number management. How hard do you train your team? When do you rest them? Who deserves a new contract? Which of your up and coming youth players deserves a promotion to the first squad? It is enough to make your head spin. Luckily, it is possible to have your assistant coaches help out with all this.
Of course, this all leads up to the important part of the game ? the matches. When you first start out, you begin coaching in the off-season and get a chance to cut your teeth on some friendly matches. Normally these friendlies are against some easier competition, but it is also a good time to schedule some friendlies against the bigger clubs and make some cash. But be careful! If you get your team destroyed 8-0 against one of the bigger clubs, that 80k Euro you made will not offset the psychological battering your squad took.
The games themselves are played out in a simulation ? you have no direct control over the players. However, you can coach each player individually through some sub menus that have numerous options: how long should the player dribble, how often should they cross, should they tackle hard, should they waste time? There are lots and lots of options. An easier way to do this is to set an overall team attack/defense plan using a similar set of sliders. There are also preset attacks and formations you can set your team to use. I recommend this to begin with.
During the match, you watch a nicely animated representation of the game that covers various highlights of the match. There are numerous stats you can follow to see how well your team is performing. Adjustments to the game and highlight speed can be made from a pair of sliders on the left of the screen. You can make in-game adjustments to the match as you proceed, changing attack, offensive pressure, the depth of your defense and many many other things. At half time, you can give your team a pep talk and comment to individual players on their performances. The morale of your team is important, so be careful with how you talk to them. You can also adjust tactics here.
After a while, I found the matches to be quite compelling and I was actually cheering when my boys scored or won a match. It is hard to describe exactly why this occurs, but the game becomes increasingly more exciting as you watch and train your side. It sounds silly, but try it and find out.
The game is broken down into days and you can make various moves and adjustments to the team during this time. When you have made all the changes, you click the Continue button located down at the bottom of the screen. This will make your changes live and crunch the sim along. You are greeted with news tidbits nearly every day regarding both your team and other teams in your league. Often other clubs will approach you looking to see if you are interested in transferring players to their club or trading for other players. It can get a bit confusing at times, especially if you are not familiar with the economics of the league you are playing in, but after a while it will begin to make sense. It is also possible to deal with the media here by making press releases about your players, opponents, or upcoming matches.
Once you master the basics of this, you can run your team at a basic level and derive a lot of happiness from the game. 10 games into the season, I was riding a 6 game unbeaten streak in league and was feeling invincible. My team had a +14 goal differential and were routinely scoring 3+ goals a game. I was doing great! However, times have been much harder since. I seemed to have lost the touch and went on a terrible losing streak and many of my players were expressing a lack of faith in my coaching abilities. What is a coach to do at a time like this? Motivate them? Change the training schedule? While both of these are good options (I tried them to no avail), I found that the best thing to do is just ship those malcontents off to another club and bring in new blood. Obviously this is not the best idea to do at all times, but my team seems to have responded to the tactic.
One of the areas where I am clueless in the game is in finances. So far this season, I have lost over 2 million Euro for my club and I do not understand how. I have cut payroll and am under budget all the time, but the losses continue to mount. I have made some of the money back by moving players, but it is a drop in the bucket currently.
One of the few dislikes I have for this game is in the lack of written direction. While there are in-game tutorials describing each game screen you are on, often there is too much information on the screen for you to properly digest. The instruction booklet that came with the game is woefully small and practical advice is far and few between. However there are large player communities out there with tutorials and guides to assist you with your squad. Look for help because sometimes you will need it.
The biggest problem with this game is also its greatest strength ? the amount of detail to be mastered. It is very easy to become lost in the details of this game. While it is possible to have your assistant coaches help you with choices, ultimately you have to make most of the decisions for the team. It can be fun, but sometimes you don't want to deal with the offers pouring in for your players from the 15 clubs interested in him. It is possible to feel overloaded. However, I think that once you acclimate yourself, the rewards far outweigh the frustrations.
This is the most detailed and accurate game for this type of of sports sim. For what it offers, I cannot imagine any other game that could compete with it. While it is aimed at a very specific style of gamer, if you fit the profile, you will not be disappointed.
People who downloaded Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006 have also downloaded:
Worldwide Soccer Manager 2007, Worldwide Soccer Manager 2005, Championship Manager 4, Total Club Manager 2005, Total Club Manager 2004, WWF in Your House, UEFA Manager 2000, WWE Raw (a.k.a. WWF Raw)
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