PHIL KING FOR ENGLAND MANAGER!
Oh woe is me, Leicester City are stuck in the Second Division. When will they return to their former glory? (Whenever was that?! - Lloyd). The top of the First Division is surely where they belong. Oh well, all I can do is dream - or is it?
One of the best things about football management games is that they allow supporters of lowly clubs to see if they could do any better at managing their favourite team. Professional Soccer is the latest in a long line of similar games, allowing you to lead a team from the third division to promotion and success in the FA Cup.
Selected from a list of League sides, your team starts with 16 players of varying skill. Each has attributes for defence, midfield and attacking abilities. Defenders and attackers also have a preference for playing either in the middle of the pitch or wide. Before each match, eleven players plus a substitute must be selected from the squad. These can play in any one of eight strategic formations. Some of these are geared for defensive play (such as 5-3-2) while others suit an attacking style (3-2-5).
When you're satisfied with the team, it's time to start the match. While nothing much is happening in the game, the screen simply displays the two team line-ups, the time elapsed and the score. Messages appear from time to time, informing you that a player has been booked etc. But once one of the teams mounts an attack, the screen switches to an overhead view of the goalmouth to show the relevant action. And if you're getting thrashed ten nil or one of your players is injured, you can always send on the substitute.
When the final whistle is blown, the rest of the division's results appear one by one, and are followed by the resultant league table. After every few league matches your team also gets to play in the FA Cup, where they could meet one the really big teams like Liverpool (or even Leicester!).
Between matches, players may be bought and sold in order to strengthen your squad. A list of forthcoming fixtures can also be viewed. Financial control is thankfully limited to buying and selling players - there's nothing - more boring than balancing books.
The wide range of options offered is enough to give adequate control of the club without slowing the game to a grinding halt. Fluent play is also aided by the neat menu-driven selection system which is a pleasure to use.
Following the recent Football Manager II (79%, Issue 54) and Tracksuit Manager (70%, Issue 56), yet another football management game is a bit much (even for me). But Professional Soccer offers an impressive range of team options, and is competently programmed with some decent graphics to boot. The fine presentation and easy-to-use menu system help to preserve the undoubted lasting appeal of this absorbing management simulation.
PHIL ... 78%
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: not quite up to Match Day II standards, but better than those in Football Manager II
Sound: simple beeps
Options: definable keys, graphics on/off
'I'm not normally one for football management games, but Professional Soccer has kept me glued to screen for ages. The menus are so easy to use, allowing fast access to an impressive range of options. Match presentation is also fine with some good (for the genre) graphics - an improvement on Tracksuit Manager which I quickly lost interest in due to its extremely dull match portrayal. Realism is heightened by the fact that every player has his own information file, giving all relevant details. So if you're a disgruntled Walsall fan, or just a typical armchair critic, Professional Soccer gives you the chance to find out what a hard job managing a football team really is. So get off Bobby Robson's back!'
MARK ... 73%General Rating:
A fine football management game with plenty of lasting appeal.
Selecting players for the next match.
The ref blows for half-time.