X05: Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 Impressions

We meet with Sports Interactive to check out the Xbox 360 version of its next soccer management game.

AMSTERDAM--We recently had a chance to check out Sports Interactive's Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 for, as its title implies, the upcoming Xbox 360 console. Currently about six months from its European release, Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 will offer not only all the features found in the upcoming PC version of Football Manager 2006, but a number of enhancements for the Xbox 360 as well.

If you're not familiar with Sports Interactive's long-running soccer management series, the games are text-based and task you with leading your chosen soccer team (the 2006 game will feature more than 5,000 teams from around 50 countries) to glory while dealing with the same kinds of issues that a real manager would. So, in addition to picking your team and tactics every week, and in addition to working the transfer market, you'll have to concern yourself with the media, player personalities, boardroom politics, backroom staff, and training schedules, and more.

The only part of the Football Manager games that isn't text-based is the optional 2D match engine, which lets you watch realistically simulated matches between teams of colored and numbered circles that represent each of the game's 270,000-plus players. The 2D match engine is viewed from a top-down perspective and can be set to show either goals, highlights, or entire matches. You can also adjust the speed at which the engine plays, letting you watch your team's matches in their entirety without having to spend 90 minutes doing so.

One of the new features in Football Manager 2006 is the option to give your team (or individual players) a talking-to at both halftime and full-time. The talk options available to you will vary according to the status of the match, so at halftime, for example, you might have options to let your squad know that you're delighted, pleased, disappointed, or angry at their performance, or to offer the players some words of encouragement.

Refinements being made specifically for the Xbox 360 version of Football Manager 2006 include a completely reworked control scheme, support for both HD and regular televisions (players using the latter won't be able to use the game's split-screen and quick tactics options), and Xbox Live support of some kind--possibly with some sort of marketplace functionality. While we weren't able to play the game ourselves, the control scheme seemed incredibly simple--the context-sensitive face-button commands were listed along the bottom of the screen at all times, and the shoulder and back buttons were used to activate menus. Some of the load times in the early work-in-progress version were pretty lengthy, and although they'll no doubt be optimized, Sports Interactive has seen fit to make those times less tedious by including an archive of some 25,000 soccer trivia questions.

Further information on Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 is scarce at present, but when we questioned Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson about a possible North American release for the game (the PC version will be released as Worldwide Soccer Manager 2006), he did offer some interesting news for any soccer management fans outside of Europe. Basically, Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 hasn't been confirmed for a North American release at this time and will likely make it across the pond only if the upcoming PC version is considered a success. If the Xbox 360 game doesn't get a release in North America, though, Miles has "guaranteed" that the European version will be region-free and thus suitable for soccer fans all over the world who wish to import it.

We'll bring you more information on Football Manager 2006 Xbox 360 as soon as it becomes available.

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