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 »

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  1. Bjorn Bednarek says:

    IGN have pulled the review with this note:

    “Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 Review Removed
    Analysis of SEGA’s stat-footy pulled from site.
    by IGN Staff

    US, December 5, 2008 – We missed the mark — that’s the only way to explain why we’ve pulled the U.S. review of Worldwide Soccer Manager 2008 off our site.

    After seeing the community feedback and having more editors look at the title, we agree with the readers that our original review didn’t give Worldwide Soccer Manager 2008 a fair shake. Unfortunately, our critical analysis of WWSM ’08 focused more on what the author wanted it to be rather than what the product actually was. We review games at IGN based on their own merits, and agree that it was unreasonable to compare WWSM ’08 with action-oriented sports titles like FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer. Because of the unfair comparison, we have deemed the review unacceptable and have removed it from the site.

    We extend our sincerest apologies to both SEGA and our readers for the mistake and confusion. Look for an updated and more accurate relation of IGN’s view of WWSM ’08 sometime in the near future.

    Jeremy Dunham
    Games Editorial Manager, IGN.com”

    http://au.pc.ign.com/articles/936/936295p1.html

  2. Bjorn Bednarek says:

    Original review from Google cache:

    Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 Review
    This game gets a red card, and possibly a lifetime ban.
    by Avi Burk

    December 5, 2008 – What sports fan doesn’t want to take control of his favorite team and guide it to a championship, or, better yet, a long string of championships? Well, if it means playing Worldwide Soccer Manager, you can count me in that number.

    Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 gives gamers the chance to manage and coach 5,000 soccer teams from 50 countries around the globe, giving them the chance to manage every aspect of their team’s roster, field questions from reporters at their team’s press conferences, and coach their teams in real time as each simulated game unfolds. What it doesn’t do, more importantly, is provide any compelling reason to keep “playing.”

    Although the game’s database of more than 350,000 real-life soccer players is certainly impressive, only the most diehard fans of the sport would be able to appreciate having such a massive pool of talent to sift through, and the casual fan would almost certainly find the task overwhelming – I did.
    This is a game solely intended for hardcore soccer fans.

    The game’s incredibly complex menu system is very difficult to navigate, even with the on-screen help box directing you through the process. In short, this game is extremely difficult to simply pick up and play. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise expect to spend a significant amount of time simply trying to figure out how to navigate the menus.

    Worldwide Soccer Manager’s presentation problems don’t end there though, once you finally make it to your team’s first game you’ll find that the player renderings and animations are awful, and the stadiums you play in lack any kind of personality or detail. Each field is bordered by fences and what appear to be unfinished stands, which don’t have any fans in them. And, when the ball is kicked off of the pitch, it passes smoothly through the surrounding fences, right through the stands, and disappears from view only to return to the field in the same fashion, appearing magically from the stands and passing through the fences (and goals) on its way back into play.

    Then there’s the sound, or lack thereof. There is no soundtrack that plays while you work in the game’s menus, which you’ll spend the vast majority of your time in this game doing. There is no audio narration to accompany your participation in press conferences, even though your options for how to respond to each question is incredibly limited. There is no audio commentary to accompany the action in the simulated game’s you watch/coach. In fact, the only sound we found in the entire game was the tones of fans cheering as each simulated game played out – which only detracts from the game’s feel of authenticity seeing as there are no fans rendered in the stands.
    Worldwide Soccer Manager 2009 deserves a bicycle kick into the circular file.

    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. So, unless you really enjoy clicking on menu buttons, you’ll find your interaction with this game extremely disappointing.

    However, if you’re a big footie fan and big fan of sports simulation, you’ll be extremely impressed with the depth of Worldwide Soccer Manager, which allows you to control just about every facet of your team and draw from a player pool that is simply mindboggling.

    Closing Comments
    This game obviously aims to provide the deepest soccer simulation experience possible for the sport’s most passionate and informed fans, but it offers little to nothing that would appeal to a casual fan of the sport or to the average videogame enthusiast. The menus are complex and difficult to navigate, graphics are terrible, the sound is non-existent and there is no traditional gameplay to speak of. I couldn’t imagine why anybody would prefer Worldwide Soccer Manager to FIFA 09 or Pro Evolution Soccer 2009.

  3. Akita47 says:

    Heh. Although he obviously missed the point I can identify with his views on the game. I’d rather have my testes repeatedly slammed in a door than spend 5 seconds with a management sim..

  4. Ian says:

    Hopefully they don’t go completely the other way and over-praise it to compensate.

  5. manintheshack says:

    I wouldn’t be English if I didn’t demand heads to roll over this. Pulling the article isn’t enough.

    For something that has affected me in absolutely no way, I want retribution for the things that I have heard and read about in the past couple of days. In fact, I don’t even like football or management sims, but still people must be held responsible. And shot. Shot dead.

  6. mister slim says:

    @Pags

    Haven’t tried it myself, but Bill Harris has said very nice things about the latest NFL Head Coach. I believe he called it the best game Tiburon has ever made, though that’s admittedly not saying much.

  7. Adam Hepton says:

    Who said that the mainstream games journalism industry wasn’t corrupt? One call from Sega, and they’re rewriting the review. Well done, IGN, well done.

  8. manintheshack says:

    @Adam Hepton: That’s the spirit. In order to be outraged in true British style you must focus on the things that definitely are not solid facts and then work with them.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, Adam. Mass outrage from readers over a questionable review and it’s because Sega’s angry they must have pulled it.

    KG

  10. Hi, I blurgh says:

    The review was a scandal. Removing it was the only right thing to do.

  11. Dan says:

    @Pags
    I haven’t played many American Football Management games recently, but used to play a game called Head Coach back in the early nineties. This is the only information I can find on it:

    http://www.sportsgameshop.com/amfhdc.html

    It was all completely text-based, but about the closest thing to the old Champ Manager games I know of, with lots of stats, training, drafts and so on.

  12. Adam Hepton says:

    Well, at least one person should have sub edited the article before it went on the site. That it ended up on the site means that, moronic as it was, it was the view of IGN and if they pull it then, to me, IGN’s integrity is damaged more by pulling the moronic review than keeping it there.

    If the readers are the ones writing the reviews, then why do IGN even bother in the first place? Of course, people are always going to disagree, but if your reason for being is to give a view on games, and the moment that people say they disagree you immediately remove your view, then you have just made yourself redundant in the flow of things.

    I personally don’t believe for one second that IGN are more receptive to the views of their readers than those of their advertisers, otherwise they’d have pulled many, many reviews before now.

    And, yes, I’m probably paranoid and wrong, but hey, it’s my opinion.

  13. Paul Moloney says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here; there are people who enjoy hunt-the-pixel adventures games in the same way that people enjoy football management games. Both are as enjoyable to me as the proverbial doorjamb-testicle interfacing.

    But magazines are quite happy to allow reviewers who don’t enjoy HTP games to review and say they’re rubbish.

    As I say, I don’t enjoy HTP adventures, when I read forums such as http://www.adventuregamers.com I shudder (if ag.com was a person, it would be an overweight mumu-ed lady with multiple cats), but there seems to be a wee bit of a double standard here.

    P.

  14. Tei says:

    There are two types of people. I call these types A and B.

    If you are of type A, giving that game a 2.0 is the correct thing. If you are of type B, giving the 9.0 is the correct thing.
    I am of type B, and I don’t like this type of games, so this mean I could be absolutelly bored if some people forced me to play this game… but somewhere could exist some people that will love this game. People of type A think that this is not a excuse, if a game is boring to me (the reviewer, or the reader) it sould receive a bad score.

    I don’t think theres a wrong or right scrore, nor 2.0 or 9.0 are correct. It depends of type A or B of people.

  15. manintheshack says:

    I think the problem lies with IGN’s rating system. It reads thus:

    “2.0 to 2.9 (Terrible)
    Games of this caliber aren’t even good enough to recycle. It’s more fun to play catch with the box than it is to play the game. Titles in this category have gameplay and technical problems that are so severe, they border on being completely “broken.” Maybe the cat could find some use for them.”

    From the response the review received and the UK review itself, the above was clearly not the case. The problem lay with the reviewer, or IGN’s choice of reviewer and the readers were correct to call bullshit on the review.

    If you see the 10/10/10/10/10 GTA reviews and the copy/paste across format reviews, then you will already realise that IGN have very little integrity. I think they were correct in pulling the review and I honestly think it was just a mistake. At the very least, it shows they listen to their readership and can admit when they fuck up.

  16. BadlyNamed 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.”

    I’d actually find that very interesting – not so much the review as such, but seeing how someone who typically plays regular strategy games reacts to the differences with it being sport-based and how their approach would differ from someone who approaches it from familiarity with the sport. That sort of thing. But I’m dull like that.

  17. Fitzmogwai says:

    Dear BBC,

    Please will someone tell me WHY OH WHY these people are able to get away with THIS KIND OF THING without anyone in any position of authority taking some RESPONSIBILITY and doing the DECENT THING? It’s as if the ideas of honour and integrity have vanished from our once-great nation and a population of FERAL CHILDREN and PAEDOPHILES are now in charge. This is entirely unacceptable and something must be DONE. However, our politicians who are in thrall to the AMERICANS and BANKERS won’t be interested in doing anything and so this kind of thing will keep happening AGAIN and AGAIN until (cont. p94)

  18. Ian says:

    @ BadlyNamed: I’ve thought that about games in general, but ultimately it’s difficult for a person to get past the fact that they’re not keen on the subject or genre of a game and just treat it as a set of mechanics and functions, etc.

    I think this would be unique particularly to sports management games. I mean, if you’re playing a FIFA, NFL, MLB or whatever other sport game then at the end of the day you’re sitting watching that sport happen that you don’t normally like.

    A guy I used to know years and years ago who wasn’t into football was toying with the idea of borrowing Championship Manager from a friend and treating it as he would any new strategy game but I don’t think he ever did. If you know the sport you’re instantly going to be swayed by what players and teams you don’t like, but it’d be cool for somebody with no interest in the sport but who has played strategy games to go in and see what they did.

  19. Dante says:

    As an Englishman, a Football fan and a player of Football Manager, I’m at least twice as appalled as anyone else here about this.

    Honestly, criticising poor graphics? You might as well criticise Peggle for poor graphics, they aren’t good or bad, they’re ‘n/a’.

  20. aldo_14 says:

    Dear BBC,

    Please will someone tell me WHY OH WHY these people are able to get away with THIS KIND OF THING without anyone in any position of authority taking some RESPONSIBILITY and doing the DECENT THING? It’s as if the ideas of honour and integrity have vanished from our once-great nation and a population of FERAL CHILDREN and PAEDOPHILES are now in charge. This is entirely unacceptable and something must be DONE. However, our politicians who are in thrall to the AMERICANS and BANKERS won’t be interested in doing anything and so this kind of thing will keep happening AGAIN and AGAIN until (cont. p94)

    It’s due to the collapse of Christian English Middle Class values in the, er, world as a whole, where immigrants have stolen the NHS and all our jobs in order to inflict Islamic terrorist promotion of single motherhood benefit claimaints upon this brave land of people who are also Welsh-Scottish-and-Northern-Irish-but-we’ll-be-buggered-if-we-remember-them-in-properly-naming-the-country-we-purportedly-love. Also, Jewist Zionist Conspiracy. And curvey metric bananas.

    EDIT; on a serious note, I always thought the true joy of Champman-as-was and FM now was identifying players either a) from the real world for your team or b) in the real world from the game.