Review by immortalj2k

"Very good, if you know what you're doing"

First off, the most important thing, that some people seem to not be getting. It is entirely possible to skip/sim any task, just go to your calender (default for PS2 is hold up on the D-pad and press X) and pick the task you want to sim to. Also things are a lot faster if you turn off auto-save and just remember to manually save before you quit.

Anyway, my review: With the same attention to detail that has gone into their soccer management titles for years, EA has finally given US football fans the FSM work-up we've always wanted. Pay no attention to the graphics on the back of the box, because you won't be seeing much of them. The main game consists of menus. Lots and lots of menus. This won't have you setting hot dog prices, but the intuitive, powerful controls that are available will quickly become second nature. It's as simple as highlighting your choices and pressing X, using the D-pad to open up additional options in any given situation, and keeping a careful eye on the status screen in the upper corner.

On gameday, using the plays that your coordinator calls is almost always better than trying to pick your own. After all, that's why they get paid the big bucks and, trust me, you'll have your hands full. Instead, your main job on gameday is to keep your players focused and in step with your overall strategy. Ignoring this quickly leads to lower ratings and usually means a loss. (Look what happened to the Pats when they tried to go in without an offensive coordinator.) When you're busy talking to your players your coordinators automatically continue calling plays and running the game without you.

What you get to do between games is what really starts to make this game shine. Balancing payroll with talent, hiring coaches, running practices, and juggling the trust level of your employees with the needs of the organization are all critical skills. This may sound like things that you can usually do in a normal Madden game, but it's the way these things are done, and the level to which these options are taken, that makes all the difference.

During the week you will be working your way through your schedule (which you can reorganize or simulate however you want). Tasks are little scenes where you are given a certain number of actions. For example, general office hours have your coach sitting at his desk, giving you two actions which you can spend on roster/depth chart changes or playbook modifications. You are given special sessions to resign players and coaches or hire free agents, again limited, this time to 3 actions, and other scenes like management and owner meetings or phone calls break up the monotony. The limitations to how many actions you can take at any given time really make you judge what is the most important task for you to focus on at any given time, and time management is a critical part of this title. This entire aspect, really the meat of the game, seemed quite addictive to me, leading to a "one more turn" mentality that kept me glued to the screen for hours on end.

During practices, you'll be choosing which plays to work on (which eventually become "money"), who should work on them, and how many reps they should spend. Again, time is limited and your choices are very important.

Overall, the total package is a clean, easy presentation that hides an incredibly deep and approachable management system. So know what you're getting into with this title. It's not an action game. It's not Madden with a better season mode. It's Premier Soccer Manager for US Football, and it's damn good.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/26/06

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