Football Management games have been around for decades, preying on every fan who thinks they could do a better job of managing the team they support than the current manager. This usually takes hours, weeks and even months of dedication and anguish as they work towards that goal, but sometimes it's far too easy to take for granted how good some of the higher-end simulations are. That is, until you're faced with something like Premier Manager 2012, which serves as a stark reminder of how bad they could be.
When things start out, they don't seem all that bad. You have the choice of managing a teams from England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Spain and not just the top flight divisions either. As you're choosing your team, they're each given a rating out of 100 and their rivals/star player is listed.
Here's where things start to get a little bit suspicious, because the "star players" are debatable. You've got Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, while Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines are considered the best players in their respective squads. Stockport are also listed as being a main rival of Manchester City, which is rather odd.
Once you've selected your team, things don't improve a great deal. You're given your expectations for the season and some news about other important things, like who're prime candidates for relegation -- in the English Premier League it was a team called "Norwich 2" apparently.
Now, you've got your team and you've got your expectations. The next thing you'll want to do is build up the team of your dreams - something which is surprisingly easy. There are two scenarios here, players want to leave their clubs or players don't want to leave their clubs. As they say, every player has their price, and it seems as though this is very true - it seems as though no club will ever refuse to listen to an offer. It's only once they've accepted that the player might decide they want to stay and not listen to what you have to say. But this only happens with the biggest players in the world. If you go down a slight notch, you can pretty much sign anyone off the bat.
This highlights one of the game's instant frailties, the entire transfer system. Once you've gone to "transfers" and realised this has nothing to do with you signing players, you'll then find "player search" and start your journey. There are some very basic filters, such as position, nationality and age. Applying these will then give you a list of prospective players. The problem is, that it only shows you their name, position, age, club and valuation. So, you're pretty much using your knowledge of actual football to gauge who to buy, unless you want to undertake the arduous task of scouting them all individually. You see, until you've scouted a player, you can't tell how good they are rating-wise.
Once you've scouted and you've decided whether or not they're better than your current troops, you then put in a bid. The club will listen and enter negotiations. This plays out with an interesting concept, but it's inherently flawed. You will always be able to decrease their expectations way below what they've asked for (likewise, when selling you can make them pay way over their initial bid). There is an interesting "trial and error" system, which works by traffic lights, but it seems very redundant. Once it's accepted, the player will then decide if he wants to move. If yes, the same negotiations take place over the contract and then the player is yours. Easy.In fact, you can trade players as easily as sharing out some snacks during your lunch break. You can buy almost any player you want and you can also sell almost any player you want - it seems as though anyone who's listed will get bids very frequently.
It's clear that this has all been done to speed up the process, but it's not remotely realistic and despite there being a "cool" element to being able to do this, it's supposed to be a simulation game.
When it comes to the matches themselves, and how players behave, things get even more ridiculous. It's as if everything is down to chance, with the variables being way off. Two games into the season, you can have fringe players complaining they aren't getting picked. You'll also have numerous injuries at any one time, with a frequency that would make managers in real life think there was a higher power working against them.
Then you have the match situations. First of all, the setting of tactics is far too restrictive, although credit should be given for the "unity" aspect. Each player has an "ability" out of 100, and when they first enter your team, this dramatically decreases. It's confusing, but it makes perfect sense - they're new to the team and don't know anyone. Therefore, they need to form bonds with the other players. There are other factors that can affect a teams unity though, such as how familiar they are with the formation and which passing style you want to play.
Following on from this, are the matches themselves, which will have any serious management simulation player pulling their hair out. It all seems completely random. In the first seven matches of the season, there were an average of 30 shots on goal per match. And this was playing as Manchester United against quality opponents, such as Tottenham and Chelsea. Despite there being that many shots there were only 25 goals - and that's only because one of the results was an 8-1 win against Olympiakos.
The matches also take a painful amount of time to complete, and that's even when put in the fastest mode. There's also a terrible 2D engine that displays in the corner, and it's difficult to imagine why anyone would want to watch it at "normal" speed.
When it comes to presentation, the game doesn't redeem itself. The menu system is very confusing to use, as it goes against almost anything else that's ever been made. By pressing R1, you'll bring up the "Hub Menu", but trying to find what you want is far too confusing. It isn't helped by the strange icons that are used either. There are also other glaring problems, such as Old Trafford having blue seating and looking nothing like Old Trafford.
It's easy to understand why Premier Manager 2012 makes for such a bad experience, but it's difficult to understand how the developers could let this happen. Yes, it's a title for the PlayStation Network, but it's riddled with many footballing errors and plays worse than others made over a decade ago. If you're looking for a new football management simulator, stump up a bit more money and pay for a proper one, because Premier Manager 2012 is a huge dud.
|The unity system for tactics.|
|There's a decent array of teams to pick from.|
|If you can bear it, the game does go on for a long time.|
|Far too many basic footballing errors.|
|Navigation isn't user friendly.|
|The simulator is terrible.|