I like football management simulators. There, I've said it. Whole civilisations will pour scorn on me now. Young children will laugh at me in the street. (They do that already though, Adam - ed.) But I'm not ashamed. I will say it loud and proud: I like footie management sims. I've served my time with ten season stretches on Soccer Boss and Football Manager 2. I led a play-by-mail team through to League Cup success in their first season. I'm not one of those people (and there are plenty of them reviewing computer games) that disses all management sims as “boring reems of statistics for trainspotters only”. Not me. I know the score.
All of which means that the following words are said neither lightly nor joyfully... Football Manager 3 is crap. Unutterable crap.
But how can this have happened? Football Manager 2 was probably the best footie manager game ever (only Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager pushes it close). It featured loads of options, sensibly detailed player attributes, a transfer market at just the right level of buoyancy, plenty of scope for tactical thought, and - best of all - match highlights that were genuinely exciting (at least some of the time): real on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Football Manager 3 has none of these. It has very few options, tons of totally unnecessary -and frankly, over the top - guff about the individual players: yeah, like people have got the patience to move all those little bars around to train their players.
The transfer market is crap: you have to pay above, rather than below, the asking price. There is virtually no scope for any sort of thought at all, let alone tactical. And the match highlights? Don't make me cry. Tiny sprites jerking around in slow motion for hours on end with nothing at all happening (you probably wouldn't be able to see it if anything was happening).
As a special bonus, the end of the game comes instantly unless you keep an eagle eye on your cash. Bust your overdraft limit and that's it. No warnings. No re-negotiations. A little memo pops up telling you to load the game again as you've just lost. Twig off.
The masterful hand of Kevin Toms is no longer at the wheel, and the Football Manager series careers off course ignominiously. Like the Beatles reforming to perform Kylie Minogue songs or James Dean returning from the grave to star in a Carry On film, this kind of thing is both unthinkable and very sad. The bottom line is: Football Manager 3 is virtually unplayable. Buy Football Manager 2 (available for £3.99 on the electronic duplication system at large John Menzies stores) instead. And if you've already got it, then that's even more reason to give FM3 a wide berth.