By Neil McCormick
A football management game on a psp, this was something I had to try. Like it or loathe it, if you are a fan of football, at some point when you watch your team on a Saturday you will become an armchair coach, saying you could do a better job, the manager’s choice of tactics or Squad are wrong. For a number of years, you have been able to manage your team all be it virtually on a football management game. Sometimes you even read on football team forums that the manager of such and such a team should sign player x, just because he played a blinder in the poster’s Championship manager side.
If you have ever played a football game you will know that to be able to use actual team names and player names, game developers have to pay a costly licence fee. To get round this, developers will instead use a name that you can work out who they are. For Example Merseyside Reds = Liverpool. TIFM employs such a method, but handily provides an editor, which if you have the time and inclination means you can edit all the team and player names to their actual counterpart. Because the names look so similar, I do not think you really will benefit from changing the names, but at least its an option.
More important than having a correct name is that the stats for that player is as valid as what the player exhibits on the real pitch. TIFM’s developers seem to have gone to painstakingly great lengths to ensure they do correspond. The Gerrard character, plays with the same tenacity scoring those oh so vital goals at the crucial moment.
So the game starts, the first thing you must do is choose the team you want to manage. There may not be as much choice as in Championship manager of leagues to compete in, but I was impressed that they had managed to be able to offer 92 teams from the four English leagues ie Premiership right down to the Championship League 2 onto a psp. Once you have chosen your team as is typical of all management games, success is measured by results. If your team fails to meet the expectations of the Board, you will receive that dreaded vote of confidence and shown the exit gate. It was interesting to note that the Board’s expectations differed depending on the prestige of the club.
Now it is down to how you want to play the game, you can literally tailor it to meet your requirements. For any true football fan, you will want to get your sleeves rolled up and micro-manage all parts of the game from training to squad selection, to getting those all important tactics set up just how you want it. But maybe you are a more casual armchair fan, this sort of thing you want to leave to the experts. Not a problem, you can simply access the squad menu, press the square button and the “Coach” will automatically do all that for you. The question then I have to ask, is why are you playing a football management game when you want the Coach do all the fun stuff!
So Squad and tactics chosen, it now time for your team to let their football boots do the talking, When you start a match, you see an Intro screen giving a brief , now you have a choice, you can choose to either watch the match by pressing X, or skip all of that and press circle to go directly to the results. By doing so, of course, you lose any chance of affecting the result with real time substitutions or maybe the opportunity to react if you see that the tactics you chose are wrong.
As one might expect, the graphics are not the most complex, you do not even see any players, just a ball bobbing about from side of the screen to the other. To compensate, TIFM has a text update, describing the events on the pitch. The text describing the actions of the two teams is colour-coded, and the play-by-play descriptions are very neatly written so it’s easy to follow the action. You can also control the speed of the text by pressing L to slow it down and R to speed it up.
As you watch the events of the match unfold, you can press Start to call up the Match Menu, which enables you to tinker with many different aspects of the current game, such as changing the match view. You can also access the Team submenu to bring substitutes on and make any necessary tactical changes. In between matches you can get down to the general day-to-day business of running a team, including buying and selling players during the transfer window.
However there in lies a problem, this game is really only going to cater for sports management fans, there are far too many screens and stats for the armchair fan to get to grips with, it could feel quite bewildering. I certainly cannot recommend it over the pc versions of say championship manager, they are a far more complete experience. However if you are heading away on a holiday, and want something to do while relaxing, it would be perfect, or to fill in a boring train journey. I actually find it very impressive how much detail and depth of game play Sports Director has managed to cram into TIFM.