Lots of famous things come from Manchester, don't they? (The Manchester Ship Canal for one.) it's a happening sort of town. More flares were sold there last year than straight trousers, for example. (Yes, it's that trendy!) in fact, just about the only people in Manchester who don't wear flares are the footballers, and that's only because wearing shorts is part of their job (they wear flares in their private lives, most of them). LiKe I said, it's a happening town.
It's also got a rather happening football team (well, it's got two football teams, but we don't talk about 'the other one'). Not in this review anyway). As anyone who knows anything about anything will already know (phew!), Manchester United has had a pretty spectacular history (rather neatly outlined in the front of this game manual in fact). The high (and low) points were during the 50s (when footballers wore flares too!), with the remarkable victories and then tragic deaths of 'Busby's Babes', the Man U team made up of the finest young footballers of the period. The nation was rocked.
And, as it 'appens, the nation's being rocked by footie this year too, which causes a bit of a problem as far as we're concerned. There are so many soccer games about it's becoming a bit of a nightmare rating them all - they're just all so similar! Or should I say, most of them are very similar - Manchester United (the computer game) is quite a different kettle of fish.
For a start, it's one of those rare beasts - the half management/half arcade game, firmly split into two loads which you can play together or separately if you prefer. In management-only mode, both teams are controlled by the computer, and you just sit there twiddling your thumbs (in true management style, ho ho) while your decisions to train, buy new players or whatever are tested on the pitch. In arcade-only mode you have an okayish but unspectacular footie sim. It's only when combining the two that you get the true flavour of the game.
Anyway, let's play it. Boot up the management load and you're faced with a rather pretty pic of a footballer and various icons dotted all over the place. Access any one with the cursor and you get a rather neat fade effect before being dropped into either a further set of sub-options, or a typical management-style list - you now get the chance to do something to modify your team's performance. How about mucking about with the make-up of the squad (starting off with a fully-fit team, you gradually suffer injuries and suspensions as the league progresses) by changing positions and buying or selling players? Or what about upgrading their training schedule (not too harsh though, or they'll get tired, demoralised and injury prone)? You can set game difficulty levels and match time, keep an eye on progress charts (and the front page of the local paper for info on your own popularity!) or check on the league and how future opponents are doing too! It all works very smoothly indeed and is well presented (or as well presented as masses of lists can be!). But for all that it's just a management game. You may hate them. Be warned.
Then there's the arcade section. Now to be honest this isn't the best footie sim we've ever seen (but then nor is it the worst). In fact, it's very much along the lines of of the Speccy version of Kick Off (if you remember that). An overhead view, with fat, blobby graphics and a few programming discrepancies, it plays very fast indeed, the ball bouncing around all over the place. Fun, but not that much like the real game, I reckon.
So what's the verdict? Well, if straight arcade footie is your bag there have to be better choices, but it the player manager combination appeals and. or you're a big fan of the team themselves you could do a lot worse.
(I have to say though that both this and the various Liverpool games seem like slightly strange moves to me - after all, aren't you going to get a game that sells very well in its home town but does dismally in London or wherever, where Spurs, Chelsea or Arsenal fans will probably burn down the shops where it's sold? No? Oh well, that's all right then. Just a thought.)
The 'player manager' genre is a bit of a neglected one as far as Speccy football games go, in fact off the top of my head this is the only title I can think of where you get to pick the team and actually play in it if you want to as well. It's number one in a field of one, then, but is it any good in its own right? Well, no. not really. For a start, there's not all that much you actually get to do in the management capacity. You can pick your team (from a selection of around 16 players - lots of scope there, I don't think), choose your playing formation (not that it seems to have any real effect on the play), do a spot of training or transferring and that's about it. While this does make for a nice accessible game with none of the hideously dull number-crunching and statistic-studying that ruins so many pure management games, it doesn't make for much in the way of intriguing strategic depth, so after a while you'll probably get totally bored with the management side and start to concentrate on the arcade bit.
Unfortunately, the arcade bit is significantly worse. The graphics are indistinct and clash horribly, although there's a clever practical touch in the way that the clash changes according to which side is actually in possession. The system of kicking the ball is confusing and imprecise, and the game frequently degenerates into a long-range passing match between the two goal keepers. The goalkeepers, incidentally, are extremely talented chaps, which means that most of the games you'll play will end up in 0-0 draws.
To be fair, you can alter the difficulty level by reducing the talents of either your or the computer's team (either as a whole or by, say, making just the computer's defence much weaker), but this smacks of cheating to me. Where's the fun in beating a side that you've just programmed to be only 50% as good as your team? And there's a really annoying bug whereby when a goal is scored (or a goal-kick conceded or whatever), the game stops until the referee retrieves the ball and carries it back to the centre circle. While this is a niggling but minor irritation in itself, it's compounded by the fact that the clock doesn't stop while it happens - if you're playing the game at the shortest time setting, it's very easy for a third of the entire match to be spent watching the ref running up and down the pitch instead of actually playing.
As Ron Atkinson himself might say, nice try but no cigar.
Price: Tape £3.99
This is probably the best of the spate of football team licenses which included Arsenal and Liverpool amongst others. It combines management aspects with on-field play to produce a very playable little number.
Even of you're not a fan of the reds, this is too good a football game to pass up.
Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go... and yes indeed, there we jolly well go with the official Manchester United football sim and it's quite remarkable.
Man U should be classed as an active management simulation as what you must do is to manage the team using all the usual ingredients of training, squad picking, transfers, suspensions, injuries and wheeler dealing that we've come to expect from footy sims. Where Manchester United scores is in the ease of play and the fact that two players can play against each other.
The game is in two parts - if you're running it on a 48K machine with you'll have to load the strategy part and the arcade football part for each game that's played although, amongst the multitudinous options, there is the chance to dispose of the game part of the game. If you prefer to be the Trevor Francis of computer football you can take control of the players in each game. This is the weakest part of the game though and the option to let the teams play off under their own control by not using the joystick after the kick off is a good one. You can then watch your team progress through the match - if you want to see it all then the game can run for a whole 90 minutes. I find that five minutes each way is usually enough to get a conclusive result, especially if under the game difficulty option you tone both the goalkeepers abilities down to around 65%. If you do go for the arcade style of play then there are free kicks, corners, two full sides of 11 men and various types of kicking power in what certainly is a good football arcade sequence. There are better but I haven't seen too many.
All in all, Manchester United is one of the best strategy games I've seen on the Spectrum. The icon driven menus make the game by far one of the friendliest simulations on the market and the arcade match section makes it a must for all trackside football manager simulations fans whilst the arcade sequence should make it a viable buy for even the most hardened joystick junkie.
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
Come on you Reee-eds! Get those teams into training because it's time to kick off with Manchester United, the football game. And what a game it is too!
Originally released by Krisails during the heady days of the 1990 World Cup, Manchester United was one of the best management simulations on the market and at this budget price, it still is. The game gives you a chance to really manage a football team without having to don a sheepskin coat, chew gum or get involved with any of the normal News of the World type bedroom scandals. Oh no.
Manage your team by picking the squads, supervising training, playing the transfer market and generally taking on the role of the cigar-smoking, wheeler dealing manager that we've all come to expect.
As well as a being a management simulation, Man United also gives you a chance to take part in each of the arcade style matches that the team play. If you do decide to take up the gauntlet you won't be disappointed. The arcade section is almost a bonus game with corners, free kicks, variable power of shots and a genuine 'arcade' feel.
It's really this section that shows the amount of thought that's gone into Man.U. You can just leave the joystick alone and watch your team battle it out, hoping that the up through training will guarantee you the result you're after.
If not, then it's back to the training sessions, transfer market, fixtures and player information, all accessed by the use of excellent on screen icons instead of reading the back pages of the Sunday newspapers.
It's really difficult to give someone a feel for a management simulation. Suffice to say that Man United is my favourite Spectrum simulation. It's more than just a ruddy good simulation. It's a complete football game.
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Garth Sumpter
ALAN: Ideally suited to 128K machines, Man U is combines action with strategy to give an effervescent cocktail of thought and footy that is deservedly top of the league. Because of this, for the first time ever, I actually enjoyed a management simulation. Man Utd, is, without doubt the Rolls Royce of the genre.
Originally reviewed: TGM030
Mostly Monochrome, the perfect name for a Spectrum mag. Yes, Man Utd is one more game that fits that description. Option screen icons are monochrome with spots of colour here and there, but they're not animated. Definition's on the blocky, grainy side but playability's good.
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