Total Club Manager 2005 Impressions

We take a look at a prerelease version of EA Sports' upcoming soccer management game.

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Earlier today, at an Electronic Arts press event, we got to take a look at the PC and PS2 versions of Total Club Manager 2005. Currently in development at EA Canada, the game looks to be coming along very well indeed, and it incorporates a number of features that seem destined to be imitated elsewhere in the soccer management genre.

Perhaps the most obvious feature of Total Club Manager 2005 that sets it apart from most of its competition, is that it uses a version of the UEFA Euro 2004 match engine with enhanced artificial intelligence to let you watch the games played by your team. Moreover, if you own a copy of FIFA Soccer 2005 and feel inclined to do so, EA Sports' unique "football fusion" feature will allow you to play your team's matches rather than just watch them. As was the case last year, you'll also have the option to pit your team from Total Club Manager 2005 against a friend's team in FIFA Soccer 2005.

The PC version of the game has another intriguing feature that we got to see at today's event, which is an option for you to create your own team from scratch rather than assuming the manager's role at an existing club. After picking a real-world town for your team, you'll get to design their strip and their badge (using imported graphics if you like), allocate the team a nickname, and even determine how large its fan base is. After creating your team, you'll start out in your chosen country's lowest division with a squad that exclusively consists of randomly generated (and not very skilled) players. At a later date, however, EA Sports plans to make it possible for you to create your own players for the team--in case you wanted to put your friends into the game, for example.

Players in Total Club Manager 2005 will have a total of 26 attributes in the PC version, six of which remain hidden from you at all times. On consoles, players will have 18 attributes, eight of which remain hidden. In addition to those, each player in the PC version will have up to four of 16 different characteristics, which include everything from "team player" to "media darling." Console versions of your players will have two characteristics, such as "loyal" or "consistent." You'll also find that your players have overall ratings in the console version of the game based on their current performance and their best potential performance; these ratings are simply represented by a number (which theoretically has no upper limit), and they are a great way to see how your players are being adversely affected by factors both within and beyond your control. Player histories in the game, unfortunately, will only include statistics based on events that have transpired in the game. We were told by an EA Sports representative, however, that the company hopes to incorporate real-life statistics into a future version of the PC game.

Saving the best until last, Total Club Manager 2005 does a great job of letting you keep an eye on individual player performances, match statistics, and so on, during games. You have the option to watch matches on the full screen, of course, but if you opt for the interactive dugout view, you'll get to watch the match in a window in the center of the screen--surrounded by all of the features and match information that games like the Championship Manager series traditionally devote separate screens to. You'll also have the option to shout any of around 12 different instructions to your team midgame, including things like "play dirty," "waste time," "keep possession," "kick the ball out," "shoot on sight," and "long ball."

As you'd expect from an EA Sports title, the presentation in Total Club Manager 2005 is quite superb. The numerous menus in the game not only look great, but are also easy and intuitive to navigate. The UEFA Euro 2004 visuals used for matches are impressive and, having watched a couple of games being played out, we're pleased to report that the AI actually plays a believable game of soccer.

We look forward to bringing you more information on Total Club Manager 2005 in the near future.

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