When Managing Football Isn’t Enough

By John Walker on December 8th, 2008 at 3:52 pm.

The graphics suck compared to Fifa!

Update: As mentioned below, IGN have since removed the review, and replaced it with an apology.

I’m not a fan of watching football. It’s true to say I’d rather spend the afternoon glueing broken glass, rusting shards of pipe, twisted scraps of rebar and smallpox-laced barbed wire all over my front garden, then bellyflop onto the impromptu sculpture from the roof of my house. So Football Manager is not the game for me. However, I’m still reasonably clear what to expect from the consistently loved series. Which brings us to this rather spectacular review from IGN US.

There was a time when British foot-to-ball-o-soccer was a mystery to the Americans, our uncommon language refusing to agree over the correct understanding of “football”. While they believed it to be rugby without the fighting and a lot more standing around, we were convinced it was that game where you spend 90 minutes kicking a ball back to your own goalie, and then having a punch up in the stands. But soccer is an increasingly played sport across the States, and of course the term “soccer mom” is a regular part of vocabulary. It’s no longer oblique. It seems the confusion here is over what a management game is meant to be.

The resulting review from someone who has apparently not heard of a sports management game before is quite fascinating. It creates an alien perspective of the series, its intricacies prodded at, and then hit with the stick.

“As far as traditional gameplay goes, there really isn’t any in Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009. Apart from managing your roster and coaching your team, there really isn’t anything to do at all.”

He’s technically correct, I suppose. So long as the tradition of gameplay you’re looking to is that of another genre. But apart from managing and coaching the team, there’s not much else to do!

There’s also much confusion over the in-game footage – something that, of course, is dramatically different in the latest incarnation. Insomuch as it’s more than some dots on a green background. Shockingly poor renderings and animations are lamented, and the lack of audio commentary during a match is highlighted. It becomes clear, sort of painfully, that something to file alongside Fifa 09 was expected. In fact, this is left in no doubt by the closing line.

“I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Worldwide Soccer Manager to FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.”

The contrasting scores on IGN.

Which results in a score of 2.0. And due to the deeply peculiar way IGN lays its scores out, this mark also dominates the UK review of the game, despite receiving a 9.1 from its UK reviewer.

Of course, management games aren’t obscure in the States. In fact, Sports Interactive, they behind the consistently superb FM games, also published the respected Out Of The Park Baseball for a while, which was obviously predominantly successful in the US.

The point here isn’t really to mock the US reviewer. It’s more productive to observe quite how much your preconceptions of a game can affect the experience you have when you play it. (And that you should probably do at least some cursory research when reviewing a game you’ve not heard of.) Football Manager certainly is going to be disappointing to someone who was hoping for PES 09. Much as Mirror’s Edge would have been a let down to those looking for a shaving simulator, and Eve’s space exploration would have enormously upset fundamentalist Christians hoping for a first-person apple eating game.

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70 Comments »

  1. AndrewC says:

    Are you completely sure it isn’t to make fun of Americans?

  2. Bobsy says:

    “This is a game solely intended for hardcore soccer fans”

    You’ve got a point John. A normal foot-to-ball fan in Europe is considered fanatical in America? Not surprising I guess. Is your love of baseball considered “hardcore” here in Britain?

  3. John Walker says:

    Interesting point, Bobsy. It kind of is. Although people would say, “weird” rather than “hardcore”, and then probably insult my mum.

    But of course my understanding of baseball is slight compared to a dedicated fan in the US. I still knew enough to understand OOTP Baseball, however : )

  4. Ian says:

    I was expecting a 5 or 6 or something, and while that would have been harsh given the game (even to a seasoned CM/FM-a-holic[-a-Tron]) like me is disappointing thus far it’s not THAT bad.

    2/10 based on the points made in the review is, frankly, ridiculous.

  5. manintheshack says:

    ‘Much as Mirror’s Edge would have been a let down to those looking for a shaving simulator’

    Speaking of which: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=CbNVVA6Zc8U

  6. Andrew says:

    Man, amazing…wow. What a crazy review. The screenshots are all from the in-game stuff (surely which isn’t the major focus of the game?)

    He simply doesn’t understand it at all, poor sod. Nice picking up on it though!

  7. GriddleOctopus says:

    Go here and you can review Avi Burk; I’m sure the UK average will be very different from the US.
    http://readerreviews.ign.com/rrobj/starsperson/avi_burk/14282014/

  8. Bowl of Snakes says:

    The comments over there are shaping into pretty entertaining pile-on:

    imagine this review in a car magazine:

    This new motorcycle is a very bad car, it lacks 2 wheels and you get wet when it rains. Never mind that it’s the fastest bike in the world and it’s an incredibly thrilling experience riding this thing in the summer. So endscore 2/10.”

  9. Heliocentric says:

    To be honest i don’t disagree with 2/10 i find the games wretched. 9.1 is obscene to me.

  10. Nero says:

    I knew it would show up here sometime. That review is pretty horrible. Ok, so he didn’t like the game so be it, but I thought a review would rather explain the game to the people interested and new features etc. He might not have played a management sim in his life. I give this review 2.0.

  11. Paul Inc says:

    I agree with Ian. The reviewer should have done his homework and researched the football manager franchise, before making embarrasing comparisons with Pro evo and fifa. I do wonder however, what score a UK reviewer, who has no idea about american football or baseball, would give to a american football/Baseball management game?

  12. Erlam says:

    “…but it offers little to nothing that would appeal to a casual fan of the sport or to the average videogame enthusiast.

    Did they get some guys gran-dad to write this? I’ve been beaten to the punch on the ‘American-who-doesn’t-like-footie,’ ‘oops-I’m-out-of-my-league,’ etc comments, so I figured I’d take this route.

    Seriously, video game enthusiast? Has IGN gone from giving every second game a seven to making a robot that just spits out scores?

  13. Ian says:

    What’s worse (having now re-read the full review a couple of times) is that the reviewer actually states that he realises the intended audience are people who are hardcore footy fans and/or fans of the series and yet still continues to “analyse” as something to be compared to a FIFA or PES.

    It’s not all his fault though, as has been said. For a start, clearly somebody with a liking (or at least a knowledge) of the series should have been assigned to reviewing it.

  14. mandrill says:

    that magnetic shaving game is genius.

    I’d give the foot-to-ball management dohickey 2/10 aswell but thats because I work with spreadsheets every day and don’t need to come home to one.

  15. The_B says:

    Did you see that performance last night?

    What was Venger thinking, bringing on Walcott?

    You see, the trouble with Arsenal is, they always try and walk it in.

    (Am I doing it right?)

  16. Ian says:

    @ Paul Inc.: They might be a bit more forgiving purely because of knowledge of the CM/FM games, plus there’s a bunch of (mostly rubbish) sports management games for cricket and rugby and what-not floating about.

    There’d probably still be an element of marking it down because they don’t “get” it though.

  17. Ian says:

    @ The_B: Are you quoting The IT Crowd? :D

    Pedantic note: *Wenger

  18. Pags says:

    Bizarre, truly. I know we’re not supposed to be picking on the reviewer, but you’d think that the word ‘manager’ in the title might have clued him in.

    As a side note, does anyone know of any decent (American) football manager sims? Because I’d die before I actually play Madden NFL ’08/’09/’any year really, and I want to right the wrongs done unto the Giants last night.

  19. Pace says:

    Man, you’d think having actual editors would prevent these sorts of things from getting through. All RPS has is a bunch of fucking cats but they seem do okay most of the time.

  20. John O'Kane says:

    Frankly if someone gave me an American football manager game as good as FM I’d probably give it a 1/5 too. It’s all about the roleplaying really and I do not know or care much about lots of stats on America football – instafail.

  21. The_B says:

    Ian: Maybe. Maybe not. (Yes.)

  22. Ian says:

    Pags: My brother-in-law used to play Front Office Football, but I’ve never played it so I dunno what it’s like myself. It’s not licensed of course, but I’d be amazed if there aren’t patches or data files made by fellow players for that sort of thing. They might also have stopped making new versions of that, so you’d need to look into it. Even without new versions of the game itself it could still be good fun with enough of a community to keep things updated.

    Of course EA made NFL Head Coach but it’s not available in Europe (and only with Madden) I think and it’s also a bit rubbish based on what I’ve read/heard.

  23. manintheshack says:

    IGN reviews have a often astound me with awful journalism in the majority of their reviews and articles. Considering they are one of the top gaming sites on the inter-mither, you’d think they’d get their shit together. However, one look at the sub-youtube-standard comments that follow does show the nature of their audience. It’s always amusing when I’m satisfied with an IGN review and look up to see who reviewed it. Usually Mr Meer’s name at the top.

  24. manintheshack says:

    RIP edit button…

  25. Pags says:

    Thanks for that Ian, downloading their demo now. You’re right in thinking that there’s no new versions as such, with the last game being FOF ’07 – which they released in October ’06 – but it seems rather than working on a new iteration every year like EA, they’re content with just updating the game – the most recent update being about two months ago. This is something I approve of greatly. It also seems to have a pretty active community, though that isn’t surprising. Hell, even without regular community updates, the NFL website is so good at keeping track of stats (something English football really needs to learn from) that it wouldn’t have been too hard just updating it myself. Time consuming yes, but that’s the whole point I guess.

  26. Alex says:

    “I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Worldwide Soccer Manager to FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.”

    That sentence sums up the quality of the review really.

  27. Ian says:

    Let me know how you get on with it. I’ve ultimately proven too lazy to check it out myself. :D

  28. Dinger says:

    I always have to explain this one. We Americans do not hate soccer, nor has that ever been the case. We’ve always felt that soccer was a fine game for small children and for women. It’s just men’s soccer that eludes our comprehension.

    And give Mr. Burk a break. Think of all the great titles that came out this fall, and then remember his job title is “Sports Editor” (if we are to believe the IGN info; since it doesn’t contain a list of his reviews, I don’t see why we can). Sometimes you take what you can get; and being a hardcore footie fan in the US is like being a hardcore baseball fan in the UK, except your matches start in the early morning, and not at 1 AM.

  29. IvanHoeHo says:

    @ Pegs: Yes, it’s called fantasy football (the American kind, ‘course.).

  30. Ginger Yellow says:

    Hell, even without regular community updates, the NFL website is so good at keeping track of stats (something English football really needs to learn from)

    Not going to happen. The Premier League and Football League consider stats (hell, even fixture lists) proprietary, financially exploitable data and is unlikely to make them so easily available for free.

  31. Pags says:

    @Dinger: Yeah, I always felt we got the shitty end of the stick there. I sometimes I have to stay up til 5am to watch late Sunday night football games.

    @IvanHoeHo: I do indulge in a little fantasy football, but I quite like a fully protracted sim that will do the number crunching come game time for me.

    @Ginger Yellow: Sad but true.

  32. SanguineLobster says:

    I am pleasantly surprised that this didn’t turn into a “Oy! Yanks don’t understand football, and waste tea by throwing into the Boston harbor! Bollocks!” (This is how people in the UK speak, right?)

    Anyway, Hooray for RPS and fans thereof, now as long as no one mentions the quality of Bioshock we’re home free.

  33. Tom says:

    Truly a terrible review. It does no justice to the quality of the game, and quite obviously the person posting it has no idea about either football management simulators, or even the game itself!

  34. John Walker says:

    SanguineLobster: That’s “harbour”. You threw the perfectly good tea into the harbour.

  35. PleasingFungus says:

    @SanguineLobster: what have you done

  36. John Walker says:

    Paul inc: “I do wonder however, what score a UK reviewer, who has no idea about american football or baseball, would give to a american football/Baseball management game?”

    I’d hope they’d turn down the review if they knew literally nothing about the sport. However, I still believe a decent review could be written without. The problem here isn’t the lack of knowledge about soccer – as established, it’s a sport prevalent in the US – but a lack of knowledge of sports management games.

    If I were offered an FM review, I’d politely say no and hide in a cupboard. However, I’d hope that an editor would step in at some point to stop me if I tried.

  37. SanguineLobster says:

    Well color me embarrassed. I feel like an ass. It behooves me to take an aluminum airplane to London and take a taxi to your apartment. I’ll bring cookies, We’ll go to a movie, I’ll write you a check, etc etc etc.

  38. John Walker says:

    I think I just got asked out on a date!

  39. manintheshack says:

    Can’t believe no one’s played the “what a complete Burk” card yet, for extra English insult points…

  40. SanguineLobster says:

    Damn right you did.

  41. Calabi says:

    What a complete burk.

    Maybe the reviewer has a point though, who wants to play a game about managing a football team. I might if it was anything like the real thing. Say get your deputies/staff to manage all the paperwork, etc. Whilst you concentrate on shouting at the players and spending the rest of the time getting, fat offs the money.

    But the games are nothing like that. Spreadshits, and menus galore. Some things, surely, should not be turned into a game.

  42. Ginger Yellow says:

    And yet it’s the UK’s most successful PC franchise.

  43. Hi, I blurgh says:

    Dinger: It’s not about football vs. soccer vs. baseball. It’s not about knowing the sport. It’s not even about the actual quality of the game and what score it really deserves. It’s about an editor who reviews a strategy game as if it was an action game, and marks it down for not having action.

    This quote says it all:

    “I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Worldwide Soccer Manager to FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.”

    It’s like saying:

    “I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Hearts of Iron to Call of Duty or Medal of Honor.”

    or:

    “I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Railroad Tycoon 2 to Microsoft Train Simulator.”

    or, indeed:

    “I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer NHL Eastside Hockey Manager 07 to NHL 07.”

    And as you’ll probably agree, that’s just insane.

  44. Nimic says:

    It really is a quite good game. Obviously the 3D view is far from as polished as something you would expect out of FIFA or PES, but then I guess that’s not a point “Avi” understood. It’s a rather shocking review, and I can only imagine how embarrassed American football-lovers are, thinking about how much it set back the view of Americans as football-fans.

  45. dozer1986 says:

    I love spreadsheets. I use them to make vague predictions about how much fuel my car will use.

    //definitions
    football = game where you kick a ball around;

    Soccer = shortened form of ‘Football Association Rules football’;

    Rugby = shortened form of “Rugby School rules football”;

    American football = American football;

    Aussie Rules Football = Aussie Rules Football;

  46. autopanda says:

    Ginger Yellow:
    The FA might not publish the stats, but there are an awful lot here: http://www.rsssf.com/archive.html
    (Remembered from a Statistics A-Level)

  47. Mil says:

    Somebody has to link to this.

  48. Mike says:

    Aww, it looks like IGN have pulled the review from their site. Good thing RPS has taken a backup of it for us :)

  49. malkav11 says:

    Remember, this is the “squids are not technically animals” site. We shouldn’t really be surprised.

  50. Saul says:

    I felt like some of the reviews of Left4Dead had a similar problem ie. the game didn’t line up with the reviewers expectations, although in that case it was possibly because L4D is a whole new kind of game, so lack of genre knowledge is possibly more excusable.