This is my first review, so be nice!
I'll cover the areas of Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Replayability and Achievements.
First up, being a football fan is a massive help, and if you have bought this managerial game, then I would assume you know the game at least well enough to support a team. You start off in the 2006-2007 season, with the option to download the statistics for an updated start in January 2007, halfway through the first year.
Now gameplay. The first thing you have to do on starting the game is create your avatar, which may be a strange concept to those familiar with other managerial sims, but it adds a distinguishing touch during the matches, when you see your avatar pacing the touchline and barking orders at the players. Once this is done, you get to pick your team from any of 8 countries, then any of 23 leagues. This gives you the scope to decide what sort of game you want to play, if you want to take the helm of Barcelona, with your £45 million transfer packet, holding some of the best players in the world, all the way to East Stirling in the Scottish Division 3 with a whopping £10k to spend at the beginning, and turn them into world beaters.
Once you have picked your destiny, you get sent to the managers screen. It is split into 8 sections (shifted using the left and right bumpers to navigate) each with several subsections (using the left & right triggers to navigate) so everything is grouped under categories to make it easy to find what you want. Variables boxes on the screens that have them are accessed with the Y button, for example when searching for specific players on the transfer market.
The team screen and player rankings are easy to understand, with each player having an overall rating bar next to his name (which can be turned off for a real challenge). This is an easy visual guide for team selection, when trying to match your team against much stronger or weaker opponents. The overall bar can also be altered by using the Y button to scroll through all of the different attributes for the players to find out which player has the key skills specific for a set role, ie creativity and pace for a playmaker, shot power and accuracy for a penalty taker, etc. Swapping players in the line up and formation is as easy as clicking A on the selected player, then A again on the one you want to swap him with. The next screen covers training and tactics, all important for keeping your players at their best and altering your formation and tactics to best your next opposition. There are plenty of preset formations, and famous tactic set ups from some of the most successful teams in a certain period of history (eg Brazil 1970, Liverpool 1972-78, Manchester United 1999), however these can all be altered and tweaked to suit your team and players.
The next screen is your laptop, which has all of your incoming mail on it, and also options for what mail you recieve, and if you get automatically returned when you get mail. The fourth is the transfer market, where you can use the advanced search engine to search a variety of parameters to find the perfect player that could bolster your squad, and set your scouts tasks on scouting a particular player, club, or region.
The 5th screen is your financial statement which shows how much money your club is (or isn't) making. Its wise to keep an eye on this yourself as you can ammend things yourself if you're not happy with how the financial manager is running the club. The 6th screen is the staff screen, where you ahve control over hiring and firing staff, and also what tasks you want them to do. This screen also has your history on it, detailing what you have achieved with the club, and over your entire career, and also the list of previous trophy winners for all leagues and cups.
The 7th screen is the stadium screen, with an overview of your stadium, and also the options to expand or build a new one should you need bigger, or improved facilities. The final screen is the calendar screen, which is where you advance the game.
That may seem a heck of alot for the menu system, but thats where you'll spend 80% of the game! The other part comes in the form of match day. While loading, you will be bombarded with information about the upcoming game. The form of both teams, the starting lineups, top scorers, and the odds of Home win, Draw and Away win. Once the match starts, the graphics aren't all that great, and after watching a few games, becomes slightly tedious, seeing your striker use the same goal celebration for the nth+1 time. Although in close games, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat willing things to happen, or not happen! The menu system does appear again during match, but only the team screen, and in game stats, allowing you to perform substitutions and change tactics if required.
So, in all for gameplay, the matches are a bit repetitive, but this game is all about the menu, and the build up to the game, and as a management sim, it does it excellently, so:
Graphics now, and as I mentioned, they aren't the best, and 99% of the players just look like generic models, with only the top stars getting created to look similar to their real life counterparts. They're nothing like what you'd get from FIFA, or PES, but the game is not about the realism of Ruud Van Nistelroy's 5 o'clock shadow, its about the experience of managing your club.
Sound now, and this all comes from the matches. You will definately hear a difference if you're playing in a 600 seater and terrace stadium, followed by a game at Celtic Park! They have got the atmospheres for the size of the stadium and the size of the crowd spot on in this game, and the actual noises made by the players kicking the ball sound authentic. This is also bolstered by the match commentary given by Gary Linekar and Alan Hansen. Sometimes quite insightful, and othertimes they just disappear off on a tangent, which is their style.
Replayability. Lets see, over 200 clubs in 23 different leagues and in 8 different countries. You can do the math there. No 2 games will ever be the same on this, due to player retirement at different stages, your youth team being randomly generated at the start of each game, and the chance to play in a whole different setting each time. AND THEN.... there is the fantasy team option, where you can create your own team in whatever league you fancy, and take on the world in your own colours under your own badge. Almost infinite replayability...
Now achievements, there are 22 achievements, one for winning each major trophy in the game, not too hard at all, but compelling to try and get 4-5 in one season at the same club is the real pinnacle! However, they could have been a bit more imaginitive, and made a few more for skills in the transfer market, or making a certain amount of profit for your club in a season, or making a side worth £150,000 champions of Europe in a set amount of time. So I will mark it down based on that.
TOTAL 39/50 - 78%
Buy it if you're a fan of football, or have the patience to grind out the achievements, but give it a chance, and you will become addicted, just a shame about the lack of in match detail, and the achievements.