Game: “Premier Manager 2012”
Fancy yourself as the next Sir Alex Ferguson? Forget it – the man’s a legend. But if you choose not to heed my warnings and decide to give being the gaffer a whirl, maybe you should try your hand via Urbanscan’s newest football management sim, Premier Manager 2012 first, “just to see if you really like it”, as my mum would always say. The management simulator hasn’t exactly been setting the charts on fire in recent years, so can this latest signing give the genre a new lease of life on the PlayStation 3?
Not likely. Immediate impressions are that the franchise hasn’t moved very far since its launch on the Amiga way back in 1992 aside from a change of font and some modern borders. Of course, being a simulator, Premier Manager was never expected give you a lot to talk about visually and its various gameplay menus are certainly crisp and clean enough while not being anything to write home about. Described as the ‘pick-up-and-play’ management game, the format of the menus feels familiar from the get-go, with the ‘home’ menu very familiar to the main menu of the PlayStation 3, though some of the tabs are rather illogically placed and can leave you a little lost in those opening few hours. In honesty, the ‘pick-up-and-play’ moniker is likely only to apply to those players familiar with the series as a whole, with no tutorial or walk through to the menus; new players might feel like a fan trying to find their seat at Wembley Stadium without their ticket.
So, if the visuals didn’t leave you in awe, how about the soundtrack? Well, seeing as it consists of a single five minute track on loop, you’ll be ready to either hit the ‘mute’ button or the ‘off’ button rather swiftly. The sad truth is that the tedium of the music only helps to remind you that while you’re playing a game, you’re not really doing anything. The option to play your own playlists would have been a welcome addition and would certainly have helped to keep interest levels high(er), but that still wouldn’t be enough to magic sponge the knee of its sound issues.
Mind you, the gameplay itself has some RPG elements which, in the long run, work quite nicely. The ability to level up your coaching staff and stadium gives a decent amount of satisfaction and there are some transfers flying around that the leagues feel realistic enough. The task of buying a player is simple, should you know who you want to bring into your locker room, but then, so is the negotiation system. Players throw their arms in the air about what would be considered pittance in world football and with so few reactions on offer, there isn’t much in the way of excitement after your first few signings. The scouting system for players also feels largely redundant, leading you to put bids in for only those players you know and trust from your times on the terraces or as an armchair pundit.
There is a level of depth available to the tactical element that will keep die-hard football fans happy though. With an ability to tweak formations and tactics on a level more akin to PC-only titles, Premier Manager puts you in the thick of it. Unfortunately this tactical element of the game is largely confined to pre-match preparations, as changes implemented mid-game have a somewhat lack-lustre effect. Game day itself is a lesson in how to underwhelm your audience, with so little tactical feedback available to you from the match that making informed decisions is a shot in the dark. Whilst the length of time it takes for a match to play out is also longer than you would like, taking a few minutes even on the fastest setting.
You have to wonder about how good this simulator might feel had FIFA not taken such leaps and bounds in its own manager mode in the last few years, particularly with FIFA 12 bringing some juicy pieces of realism to the manager-player relationship. That said, the budgets of the two titles are hardly comparable and the results are as you’d expect – the minnows come out well on the bottom. But the final whistle is truly blown on Premier Manager when you consider its cost: a mighty £13.99 – about equal to the average weekly wage of a Macclesfield Town player, in case you’re wondering.
In the end Premier Manager 2012 feels a little Fernando Torres-like. You’ve paid all that money and might give it a run-out for a few minutes now and again, but everyone knows it’s likely to be relegated to bench and feel like a massive disappointment to everyone involved. Sorry ‘Nando, but someone had to say it.