First in an underrated series of soccer management sims, David Lester's Ultimate Soccer Manager was released with little fanfare in Europe, although it manages enough success to warrant a few more sequels, the latest being 1998 edition published by Sierra On-Line. |
While USM won't give Championship Manager a run for its money, the game does offer a lot of fun details and options that soccer fans will appreciate. This includes things like setting up new hot-dog stands, designing custom moves and formations, scouting for new players, and so on. The overall design is good and simple, and USM manages to offer plenty of realistic touches without drowning you in unnecessary details. The game feels like an MS Excel spreadsheet sometimes, though, due to the many screens of boring, static statistics. One of the game's strongest points is the statistics editor, which you can use to update or otherwise edit the players to your heart's contents. The graphics are adequate, and it's fun to watch new buildings pop up and new sponsors' banners displayed.
Despite all its strengths, though, USM ultimately suffers from the same problem that plagues most soccer management sims: the AI is simply not good enough. Even though you can make a lot of changes before a match is played, the results still feel too random and inconsistent with your strategies. Besides this common complaint, the players names and skills could also benefit from more in-depth research, especially with respect to the players in the non-English leagues. Had Impressions opt for fictional players, this wouldn't be a problem, but as it stands, die-hard fans will be annoyed at having to edit many players' stats to more closely match their real-life skills.
Overall, USM is a fun "light" soccer sim that is recommended only to casual fans who don't mind "unrealistic" games. Die-hard fans should stick with Championship Manager or similar titles rather than tinker with this underdog.
Reviewed by: Underdogs