Football game? Call Or Berkmann!" is the usual cry, based on my understandable fondness of this popular (if much derided) genre. Still, even I make mistakes sometimes. When I reviewed the first Footballer Of The Year a couple of years ago, I was none too impressed - although that didn't stop me playing it for an entire day in the office "for research reasons". In the end, of course, the game sold trillions, second only in fact to the evergreen Football Manager, Not surprisingly then, Gremlin has gone for another shot at goal, and, I can tell you, it's a 30-yard screamer and no mistake.
The main problems with the first FOTY were trivial, and therefore important. For instance, it's unlikely that any team who won only 10 games and lost 24 would be in the top six of their division, but mine was, twice. That's the sort of anomaly that really gets up your nose when you're playing a strategy game of this sort, and indeed eventually stops you playing a strategy game of this sort Cup games too were a little dodgy - Fourth Division teams regularly beat First Division teams and often went on to win the cup itself. FOTY2 dispenses with these niggles. The game is much the same - you're heading for fame and fortune as Footballer Of The Year, and as you're a striker it's the goals you score that matter. You still play Goal Cards to help you score these goals, but here things are a mite different. Before you just had to knock the ball past the goalie, which after a couple of hours was un morceau de gateau. This time you're given a choice of which card you want to play, and for each (lettered from A to T) there's a set-piece which your clever manager has worked out. You see the moves on a blackboard, you remember it, and if you stand in the right place at the right time you score a goal.
Naturally enough, this is not as easy as it initially seems. If you choose to play two or three cards in a game, you can have problems recalling them in any detail - especially as you have to react so quickly. And sometimes you do need to play more than one card at a time - sometimes you'll be told that if you score a certain number of goals in the next game, you'll be picked or your country. Only a real clot would turn such a chance down.
Incident cards have also gone by the board. There are still incidents, but not as many, and now if you want to gamble some money you must do it by answering trivia questions on the Double Or Nothing screen. These vary between the dead easy and the completely unguessable, but can provide a useful income if you get the hang of them. (There's also no limit on how many times you choose to play this section between games.) You're paid for appearances and goals, and your aim is to be transferred to a bigger and better club, which'll give you the opportunities you desire to win league and cup medals and possibly even a place in the World Cup team.
You see, internationals are another innovation in FOTY2. Overall, the new game is an enormous improvement - the successful parts of the original (such as the icon-driven control system) have been retained, while the dodgy bits have been polished up. Having started playing it, I found it hard to stop, and this review has, as a consequence, taken an awful long time to write. So far I have been capped by England three times, but my failure to score in their World Cup semi-final meant that I was dropped for the final (sassen frassen rassen). I've recently been transferred from Chelsea to Norwich, and seen the team's form plummet as a consequence. But if I haven't got the hang of it (and this is only on the lowest of nine skill levels), you can be sure that I will. Well, I hope so...
Hugely improved rejig of the first Footballer Of The Year. Don't expect the depth of strategy of, say, Football Director, but do expect to play and play and play...
Righty-ho! I've purchased a goal-scoring card and opted for Plan G. First the Speccy showed me the moves on the blackboard, and here it is in practice.
This is the main menu screen. Short on spondoolicks? Move your cursor over the question mark and fire. There's a whole triv game here with cash prizes!