When Managing Football Isn't Enough
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."
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.