The LMA series has the right idea. Games that let you adopt the dream position of a football manager have traditionally been PC-centric with lots of menus that were better navigated with a mouse than a pad. LMA has always been designed for consoles and was recently restricted to them. It's less statistic-heavy and instead focuses on watching your team play, suiting the sofa and TV setup. It's like watching a real match unfold, but instead of screaming at the screen pathetically you can pick up the pad and produce manly, virtual yells that your team react to, making substitutions or altering formations or tactics
Each match lasts just under ten minutes which is a length that works, feeling suitably epic without getting too tiresome and giving you enough time to analyse your team's play.
Calling for changes makes a visible difference too, and helps alleviate the helplessness that normally comes with just watching. The only problem is the football itself which, while a definite improvement on LMA 2006, remains slightly lacklustre and unpolished. The ball drifts magnetically towards flailing limbs to make contact, seems to enjoy travelling at a height perfect for headers and - maybe by way of revenge - is occasionally, inexplicably punted offside. It still feels too much like you're watching a 3D engine. The game isn't ugly, but weightless players flicker back and forth in a way that can sometimes make you feel detached.
Your time spent off the pitch is a lot smoother. Over the series' previous six iterations, things have become very refined indeed. You flip between broad sections of your duties like the transfer market, training, and choosing stadiums with the bumper buttons, moving between sub-sections of these using the triggers and selecting different parts of the screen with the Y button. It's a smooth system and LMA 2007 sports a very slick and tasteful front-end.
Equally appealing is Football One, LMA's in-game news service that's designed to work just like a dedicated TV programme. Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen provide the voiceover for cup draws and match highlights, or you can browse articles or league tables with a news ticker and shifting background keeping the screen busy. It's always nice to hear old big ears and the drawling Scotsman bang on about the game; it's a pity that Jimmy Hill is no longer with us.
This legislative side is an area LMA has often conceded to more complex football management sims, but many past errors have now been fixed. Training schedules have become more in-depth and you can now customise your manager's looks for all those match reaction shots or upgrade your training facilities to boost your team's moral.
This represents a significant step up the league for console management sims and with Xbox Live Stat updates and friend's managers downloads, you'll have a very busy season for your money.
DEEP MANAGEMENT, THE BEST LMA YET!
- Gloriously slick presentation
- Matches are initially tense and fun
- Enjoyably complex management
- Unpolished match engine
- Good commentary