Probably the best game of thetrilogy by Gremlin Graphics, the second part has combined some in-depth tactical management with a much improved business model and player handling. As in the first part, you will start out as the manager of a Conference League team of your choice, and will work your way up to the top. In addition to selecting a squad of players for each match and setting the team's strategy, you will have to take care of your supporting staff, assign training, buy insurance, negotiate contracts and more.
The game has three main parts – player management, club management and match management. Player management has seen much improvement from the first game. Whereas Premier Manager I offered little more than assigning different players different positions and training them, here the management model is much more complex.
First of all, your players' contracts are not indefinite, so you will have to renegotiate them from time to time. To make matters more interesting, players will often refuse your deals, in a rather realistic matter – while old players will be happy to stay with the club for an additional 5 years, young players will often refuse any contracts that are longer than one year.
Once your team is all signed-up, you will move to the next area – insurance and training. You will be able to pay for several levels of insurance – the first level would pay only the player's wages while he is injured, the other levels would pay extra. Training is available in the four main skills that the game adopted from the first game – handling, tackling, assign and shooting. What makes this game so unique, however, is the morale system. Players tend to play better with higher morale, and worse with a low morale. In order to keep players happy, you will need to have them play often, and sometimes even pay them extra bonuses, which, however, may decrease the morale of other players.
The club management part consists of hiring extra staff, taking care of finances, signing up sponsors and expanding your stadium. Extra staff has been greatly improved from the last game. In addition to the main coach, you can now hire specialist coaches for each skill, and, most importantly, each staff member comes with his own rating, which determines his salary and his efficiency. Finances in this game are fairly important, but I have yet to run low; the business model is very player-friendly and should not inhibit anybody. The sponsor system has experienced an improvement from the first game. The interface is simpler, and sponsors are now willing to sign up for a weekly fee, instead of upfront money, which helps to keep a balanced budget. The stadium can also expand much better tan before, with a simpler interface and each of the four sections able to be expanded independently of each other.
Match management has seen the most improvements from the first game. After you put together your squad and select your formation, you will be able so select from several types of play, and issue detailed orders for your defense, midfield and offense, separately. The mach screen is probably the most ergonomic in any football management game: the top half of the screen contains all the match data, while the bottom half shows the most exciting moments (and is largely useless for my the player's purposes). The centerpiece of the top half is a ball, on a horizontal bar that represents the field. The ball moves up and down the field, indicating where the action takes place at the moment. However, the important data is right underneath the bar - a realtime statistic of team possession, passes, tackles and shots. This allows you to adjust your game strategy at any point during the game. In addition, you will get a detailed text description of every action, and at any point you will be able to stop the game and check the detailed statistics of each of your players.
I must admit that I absolutely love the game. In a very small amount of hard drive space,manages to combine a rather in-depth tactical simulation, with a robust business model, yet balance it in a way that keeps me glued to the screen for days. However, the game is not without problems. Probably the biggest problem, which is inherent to most sports management simulations, is a weak memory management system. Sooner or later, you will run out of memory, and even restoring old saved games doesn't help. On some computer systems, this can render the game completely unplayable; there was one where the game stopped working after only four games and one player transfer. On other systems, you will be able to get several seasons out of the game. The other problem is the relative ease the player has winning the game. For every strategy there is a counter-strategy, but this does not work both ways. As soon as you figure out the proper combinations, you will be able to win games against much stronger opponents; in fact, I always win the League Cup my first season, against teams like Manchester United and Arsenal.
Overall,is a must-try game. If there wasn't that pesky memory management problem, this game would still grace my hard drive, along with games like Civilization and Dungeon Master.