Summary: It's been a double-whammy cutting into Jakub's time with the Xbox 360. First Eastside Hockey Manager grabs him for a week, and then he's stuck trying to rule the soccer world in Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006. Bloody hell, mate, get some Xbox time in already!
For example, in Eastside Hockey Manager, your players would get upset over losing streaks, unhappy over their contracts, be elated if they’re winning, respect you, or dislike you. Not only is all of this true in Worldwide Soccer Manager, you can also give players feedback that goes beyond mere official warnings and pay suspensions. WSM permits the player-as-manager to give his players team talks at halftime and at the end of the game. You can also choose to release stories to the media, praising a player, ripping on his performance or even criticizing his own remarks to the media.
More than that, the media system reports on games, there are TV broadcasts of some (or all, depending on the team) games which leads to additional revenue, and the media can spread rumor and comments from coaches and players on other team. Currently, I, as manager of WKS Slask Wroclaw, a 2nd-league Polish team, am enjoying some friendly relations with a top rival in the league while ripping on a fellow newcomer who is leading his team down to demotion out of the league.
The sheer number of soccer (or rather, football) leagues in the world, especially Europe, is astounding. Poland has two leagues represented in the game, a typical number for a smaller but potent soccer nation. Meanwhile, the English have no less than six - count ‘em – Premier, Championship, League One, League Two, Conference National, Conference North/South – six leagues. Please do be careful to make the distinction between “English” and “British”, because in addition to those six leagues, Scotland fields four, Northern Island another three and Wales is represented by their own Premier league. That makes for fourteen leagues in Great Britain alone. Each of them complete with full team rosters, including career stats for many players, prospects, first- and reserve- teams … it’s bloody overwhelming.
Britain obviously gets the most detail from the British developers, but it would be unwise to write the rest of the world off. France and Italy have four apiece, for example. Most other nations have two or three, so it’s a bit disappointing to see that the United States has only Major League Soccer present, but then again, I can’t exactly name another American soccer league so perhaps that’s fair.
The real-life consequences of having so many teams and leagues and nations playing the world’s most popular sport is that players are quite literally commodities. Trades, big or small, as often involve money as actual exchanges of players. A team pays for the right to negotiate with a player, and then it has to convince that player to sign with it for a new contract. Consequently, if you are running say – Real Madrid, a Spanish team that tends to dominate its league – and are unhappy with the performance and contract of newly-acquired David Beckham – you may permit Arsenal to try to sign Beckham, but unless you asked for a player all you’ll get is money in return. Of course, what your compensation will be if Beckham leaves is set up in advance and negotiated between yourself and Arsenal, but given the nature of European football clubs, money seems to be the dominant theme. Then again, the sheer abundance of soccer talent and the apparent willingness of clubs to part with great players for nothing but money seems to make the system work.
It’s therefore quite a shock, as someone used to the North American system, to constantly try to evaluate the worth of offers made to me. It’s very difficult to part with a player getting essentially nothing in return, especially given that most clubs have healthy profits regardless. As with Eastside Hockey Manager, those profits can be spent on upgrading your practice facilities. Improved facilities will permit you to get more out of your players, both young and old. Poor facilities can also turn off potential new players from joining your club. If your team is also the owner of its arena, its capacity can also be expanded. All this depends on the good will of the board of directors, however.
An odd omission from WSM is the ability to delegate the actual running of the games to your assistants. They’ll do so in friendly matches but it seems that you must manage the regular and cup games yourself. This is even more befuddling since there is clearly such an option in Eastside. Fortunately, despite my lack of familiarity with soccer as it’s played at higher levels, it is not too difficult to find a decent tactic. Another plus in the handling of the games is the attractiveness of the simulation. It’s not EA’s FIFA in 3D – in fact it’s just a flat map of a field with circles representing the players, referees, and linesmen – but it plays out very realistically at all levels and all it takes is some imagination and experience in watching matches to imagine what’s going on. Though I do wish that the text description would stop calling out-of-bounds “row z”.
Not only are the club competitions represented, but the major Cups are represented too – Euro Cup, World Cup, two Champions Cups, the Olympics and more. Clubs compete in some of these tournaments, others are national meetings. The goals for the player as manager can be many – avoiding relegation to a lesser league, trying for promotion to a better league, making a stab at a Cup or even simply getting enough of a reputation to try for your national job or a job at another club. It’s all possible.
As coach and manager, you can take responsibility solely for the first team, or add your reserves squad and even under-18s as well. Otherwise, these tasks will be left to your assistants. It’s up to the player how just how much he wants to meddle with the day-to-day chores of his team, but there is no doubt that WSM 2006 requires far more attention than simming along in FIFA.
One more note should be made to say how remarkably bug-free the game seems to be. There are patches that apparently do address some bugs, but these are so minor that quite frankly I never noticed them in all my time with Worldwide Soccer Manager – or Eastside Hockey Manager for that matter.
Even as someone whose soccer knowledge is quite limited, the game is fascinating. It doesn’t have quite the same pull as Eastside Hockey Manager, but the additional features and the staggering depth of Worldwide Soccer Manager keeps me busy. Sometimes, it’s amusing to simply go through the rosters of top squads like Manchester United and comparing two players from the first team – one worth $20m, another worth $100k, but the former earns $3m per year and the other a mere $13,000. Is it even humanly possible to maintain camaraderie in the face of such income disparity? Just imagine: practice is over, so $20m man Cristiano Ronaldo drives off in his Ferrari while teammate Mark Howard begs for bus fare on the street corner. It’s such an unexpected source of entertainment, contemplating how these two actually get along in real life. This does bring up a point about the game’s bizarre behavior at times, however. Say you decide to take Mark Howard, that 19-year-old prospect who cracked the first team off Manchester United’s hands. You give them an offer, they agree to let you negotiate with Mark, and yet he doesn’t want all that much more money than he was earning in the first place. It’s somewhat bizarre.
Must manage games
There are a few cons we listed, of course, but they don’t drag the game down seriously. One area where the game falls due solely to its own success is in performance – it has so many details and options that it’s impractical to try to run every nation, never mind every league, in your world. They still exist, it’s just that your level of access to them will be significantly restricted – you can forget about looking at their leagues and game scores, for example. On the other hand, if SI Games has excellent programmers and the ambition, I actually cannot think of a title that would benefit more from full Athlon X2 support – the 64-bit systems would come in handy with their huge memory, and the dual core nation of the processor would help run the simulations while the player is busy with other tasks.
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