Football Manager has long been seen as the definitive football strategy game on any micro. Now it seems to have some competition from a game that is cheaper and better. Big League Soccer follows a very similar format to Football Manager with you taking on the manager's role of controlling both the playing and financial side of the club.
You begin by choosing a club name from the 88 provided or naming your own team. You can also choose club colours and one of the skill ratings from Amateur to World Class. You're given a squad of players and some cash and placed in the fourth division with 21 other teams to battle out a 42-game season.
The main menu provides you with a list of options including playing a march, entering the transfer market, changing names or levels, saving the game, examining the league table and the fixtures and results. When you decide to play a match, several stages have to be completed before you are shown the highlights of the game.
You have to pick the players from a squad with the ideal distribution being a goalkeeper, four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. These all have skill, form and energy ratings which determine their effectiveness and monetary value. You can pick the team to try to match the opposition's strengths and this goes to make up the team's overall skill and form.
The game is now played with 3D highlights, as in Football Manager. The attacking team has two players against the defence's three and each team has a number of attacks at goal depending on their relative strengths. Defenders can block the ball when attackers shoot, but the forwards may get a second chance. At half time the teams change ends and get back into action.
At the end of the game, you're given the current financial position with the home team taking the gate receipts. The other results are also printed up 'videprinter'-style and the bad news about which players have been injured or suspended is also revealed.
Back at the main menu you can discover the league position and further fixtures and also trade players. Players can be sold, although they may not fetch their stated value, and you can also buy players from the choice of two you are given.
At the end of a season you can be promoted, relegated or even sacked. The latter will happen if you finish in the bottom three of division four or in debt and sometimes when you get relegated. Life at the top is tough.
The comparison with Football Manager is inevitable but this program has several things going for it that the original lacked. The most obvious is the price tag - very attractive.
The 3D highlights are much better than Football Manager with big animated figures, not little stickmen. The handling of players is also better with common sense player transfers (if you offer the asking price you get the player), injuries and suspensions and a more constant guide to player form.
The presentation of the fixture and past results list is also good, there are more games in a season and bigger leagues. The only point it loses out on is the lack of a cup competition. So, although it's fairly unoriginal, it definitely improves upon its predecessor.
P. Better than Football Manager.
P. Cheaper than Football Manager.
P. Very long seasons with plenty to do.
P. Nice 3D highlights.
P. Ideal for football fanatics.
N. Picking players for every match gets repetitive.
N. You'll be playing it until the early hours.
N. Very similar to Football Manager, so no points for originality.
Very nice little game this, although how the mightly Spurs ended up losing to Chesterfield in the Fourth Division beats me.
And how can Crewe Alexandra bid over £100,000 for Peter Shilton? The only glaring problem in this simulation is the absence of Rochdale from the teams. It's an outrage!