We've got a set amount of words to talk about Football Manager 2006 and we shouldn't waste time arguing over graphics. It looks like a spreadsheet and matches are played by little dots on a 2D pitch. So what?
If you're looking for fancy graphics you've walked onto the wrong pitch. But if you're after the deepest and most addictive console football management game ever, prepare the sofa for more arse-to-cushion time than ever.
This is as close as you'll ever get to being a real manager. Every single aspect of the job is in here - we'd need a couple of fact-packed spreads to mention it all - but the real magic is that you become so wrapped up in your team and your footballing world that you'll lose all track of time. And reality. You'll start banging on to your mates about the hot young talent you've signed, or gushing about the last minute winner your captain scored in the cup final. They won't care.
The 2D match engine might look about as sophisticated as a footballer's wife, but underneath its uncomplicated surface it's positively buzzing with stat-crunching action. It makes the matches in other 3D football management games look like a dodgy kickaround between two local pub teams.
All this sheepskin-coated complexity runs like it would on a PC that'd cost you thousands. The only problem is that you'll need a hard drive to play FM2006. But you're still getting more than PC owners do. Achievements, although stingy, are just the start of it. Even the game's ultimate Achievement - to do an Arsenal and go a whole league season unbeaten - only awards a measly 150 Points. Completing all 50 Achievements is such a tall order that it makes Peter Crouch look like a midget.
Then there's the exclusive Xbox Live mode that lets you play cups or leagues with up to 15 other players. It is possible to play online with the PC version, but Xbox Live makes the process smoother than Frank Lampard's pampered chest. You can choose a default team or export the team from your single-player game, pitting your line-up against others in a priceless test of your tactical skills. With full voice chat and more options than you could shake an assistant referee's flag at, FM2006's Xbox Live mode is a dream come true for armchair managers.
On the negative side, the control method has definitely suffered without a mouse. Everything is controlled by context-sensitive button presses and you do get used to it, but prepare for a steep learning curve. And this is one game that really benefits from a high-definition television, mainly because all those lovely extra pixels lets you stuff more info on screen simultaneously.
Still fixated on the relatively unflashy graphics? Don't worry, it's not for you. It's for true footie fans. Football Manager 2006 runs like Rooney, kicks like Cantona and scores like Shevchenko - it's the special one.
Top of the table for true footie fans.
- Deeper than Abramovich's pockets
- Runs faster than Thierry Henry
- Xbox Live mode works well
- Needs a hard drive to work
- Controls are a little awkward