Your Sinclair

Manchester United
Spectrum 48K/128K/+2

Published in Your Sinclair #79

Manchester United

The 'player manager' genre is a bit of a neglected one as far as Speccy football games go, in fact off the top of my head this is the only title I can think of where you get to pick the team and actually play in it if you want to as well. It's number one in a field of one, then, but is it any good in its own right? Well, no. not really. For a start, there's not all that much you actually get to do in the management capacity. You can pick your team (from a selection of around 16 players - lots of scope there, I don't think), choose your playing formation (not that it seems to have any real effect on the play), do a spot of training or transferring and that's about it. While this does make for a nice accessible game with none of the hideously dull number-crunching and statistic-studying that ruins so many pure management games, it doesn't make for much in the way of intriguing strategic depth, so after a while you'll probably get totally bored with the management side and start to concentrate on the arcade bit.

Unfortunately, the arcade bit is significantly worse. The graphics are indistinct and clash horribly, although there's a clever practical touch in the way that the clash changes according to which side is actually in possession. The system of kicking the ball is confusing and imprecise, and the game frequently degenerates into a long-range passing match between the two goal keepers. The goalkeepers, incidentally, are extremely talented chaps, which means that most of the games you'll play will end up in 0-0 draws.

To be fair, you can alter the difficulty level by reducing the talents of either your or the computer's team (either as a whole or by, say, making just the computer's defence much weaker), but this smacks of cheating to me. Where's the fun in beating a side that you've just programmed to be only 50% as good as your team? And there's a really annoying bug whereby when a goal is scored (or a goal-kick conceded or whatever), the game stops until the referee retrieves the ball and carries it back to the centre circle. While this is a niggling but minor irritation in itself, it's compounded by the fact that the clock doesn't stop while it happens - if you're playing the game at the shortest time setting, it's very easy for a third of the entire match to be spent watching the ref running up and down the pitch instead of actually playing.

As Ron Atkinson himself might say, nice try but no cigar.

Stuart Campbell

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