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LMA Manager 2007 (Xbox 360) artwork

LMA Manager 2007 (Xbox 360) review

"Thatís not how I want a team under my charge to play, and itís a shame that you canít train you team out of such habits; itís not their fault, itís LMA 2007ís match engine that spits these problems out. "

The only real question that the travelling fan-base of LMA management games have to ask of new releases is how much of last yearís title has been recycled.

I know the secret behind this: Codemasters work in gap years. Theyíll make a fresh game then recycle it with dainty touch-ups the very next year before releasing a relatively fresh chapter the year after. The merely updated ones will have a fresh coat of paint, slightly edited features and slap a new Snow Patrol song over the opening menu.

This year, itís ďHands OpenĒ. Other than that, LMA 2007 is basically LMA 2006 all over again.

There are some obligatory edits, sure. The transfer system has undergone a reasonably deep update, heaping more and more options on managers looking to snag fresh players. The most noteworthy addition this year is the option to approach players whose contracts are on the verge of expiring and trying to snatch them away from their respective clubs without having to fork over the hefty fee.

On my third season, I acquired the £30-million-rated Steven Gerrard for free Ė and I didnít even need him! He spent half that season on the bench. This did not go over well with the would-be England skipper, and he did what all out-of-favour football players do in his shoes: he sulked. Players sulk for many reasons this time around; they sulk because you donít play them enough (even if theyíre the only person in the world who thinks theyíre good enough to feature in your first eleven); they sulk if your club hits a slump and fails to garner the success they expect. And they really get a huge strop and turn into petulant brats if you refuse them a big-money transfer to teams the game considers superior to yours (and LMA has an odd way of deciding which teams are superior to which). On paper, these sound like good ideas, but the execution isnít fully converted. Sometimes, you can appease your players easily by meeting their demands. You can appease the Wes Browns and Scott Parkers of the world with a token game before banishing them back to the bench should they complain, or cheer those disappointed with your results up with a sting of good wins. But not always. Sometimes, they persist in sulking no matter how much you bend over backwards to meet their demands. And sulking is like the common cold: if one member of a sports team gets it, it spreads like wildfire. And thereís no known cure.

Point in case, I forked over an arm and a leg for Samuel Eíto. And he sucked arse. He wasted every chance he had in front of goal meaning that whenever I played him up front, my score tally plummeted. He complained that my team was underperforming and not doing as well in the league as he expected. So I dropped him, went back to the proven strike-force of Rooney and Saha, sat back and watched the goals flood in. Eíto was displeased: the results were good, but he was now not being included in the first team and believed he deserved to be.

This would have been fine in most cases as it fits in with the diva-like attitude a lot of todayís pampered sports stars seem to adopt, but he never let his complaints go! That season I won the FA and European cup but had an undistinguished season in the Premiership. Despite winning the biggest trophy in club football, Eíto remained displeased with the clubís progress. The next season, he flooded me with transfer requests every other week ĒThe team is not performingĒ Ė I was ten points clear at the top of the league and dominating all the domestic cups. ďI am not able to play my game hereĒ Ė He was the Premiership's leading goal-scorer by a solid fifteen goals after dropping the season before's indifferent form.

That season I cleaned up, but I still had to endure transfer requests from numerous players. Barcelona had made a huge bid for Xabi Alonso which I turned down, leading him to hate me for not letting him go to a bigger club. Iíd previously smashed Barcelona out of the European Cup with a 4-1 victory on aggregate. Ronaldo was complaining about not getting any games: he was on loan to Bayern Munich where he featured in every match. No matter what I did, through the entire season, they complained and they moaned. Then the next season started and...

...not a word. The entire team become perfectly happy overnight.

Players will sulk like crazy over things that happened last season and they will continue to sulk until a new season wipes the slate clean. This is a horribly cheap and lazy to enforce the artificial emotions and the only way to get around it is to hope like mad that dissatisfied players are bound to enough contract time to have their complaints nullified by the start of a new footballing year.

The actual playing the game is not without flaws, either. Once your team is all selected and the positions given out, you get the option to watch your team trot out and play some football. Whereas it all looks slightly shinier than the 2006 and some effort has been made to give more flow to the game (wingers are much happier about cutting inside, flair players will do noticeable little tricks like spin on the ball or step-over), the new veneer also throws up some pretty odd circumstances. Under-pressure defenders will choose to do a fancy back-heel instead of a smashed clearance, which often leads to a striker getting a one-on-one with the Ďkeeper; forwards springing the offside trap, instead of charging the goalie and taking him on, will attempt to score, unpressured, from 20-30 yards out. Some games donít come down to which is the better team, but which team suffers from the least programming hiccups during the 90 minutes.

This broken system overwrites all the praise I could heap on it like how new players need time to gel into the team or how your squad will noticeably lag in pre-season games but you can visibly see them get more match-fit as the season runs on. When I lose a game, I want it to be because I was out-played (or, if Iím in real football manager mode, because that damn linesman just cost me my job!) or because the other team took their chances better, not because they encounter the least amount of flaws. When games run without these problems, then LMA 2007 is a fulfilling game that runs the emotional gauntlet of heartbreaking failure and euphoric victory. But when you win or lose thanks to the unchecked flaws, victory is hollow and loses are unfair.

Maybe 2008 will provide a fuller experience. Iím taking bets now on which Snow Patrol song theyíll use for the intro.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 29, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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