LMA Manager 2004 PlayStation 2 Official Website
Developed by Codemasters
Released - Out Now
Price : £39.99
It's been quite a few years now since the first LMA Manager game first appeared on the PSone. Before the LMA series, football management games on the PSone were poor and looked quite pathetic next to what was available on the PC. LMA Manager was not only a good game but also had a user interface that suited the consoles controller and didn't make you want to plug in a mouse to navigate the screens. Of course coming back to the present day and the series has now established itself on the PlayStation 2 and with each yearly update the formula has been refined and graphically updated. LMA Manager 2004 is the latest title in the series and once again it's taken a few steps forward.
All of the team data is correct to the close of the January transfer window, so theoretically your team should be up to date if you support a Premier league team (if you support a Nationwide team then it might not be as they don't recognise the transfer window limitations at present). You can now choose to manage a team in any one of 16 divisions from 6 countries although you still can't manage a Conference team. The total amount of players in the game has swelled to around 19,000 and in total there are players from 31 countries to choose from. You can now apply for other jobs so you don't have to remain at just the one team and you'll be pleased to find that the training sections have been improved. There is also an Expert mode for those seasoned LMA Manager veterans out there. Basically Expert mode has the overall ability ratings removed so you'll have to work them out for yourself and rely on your own judgement. In fact that are a lot of little improvements, such as more useful scout feedback messages, that are simply too numerous to mention.
Don't want to take charge of a real life team? Well you'll be pleased to learn that there is now a fantasy mode where you can create your own team. I decided to give it a go and attempted to create a Premier league team. First of all you have to choose a country, division and location for your team. Then you have to give them a name (you can also add Rangers, United, Albion etc. to the name if you wish), design the kit (I couldn't find a way to choose an away kit but I assume it's possible), choose a badge, stadium (you can't design a stadium and you simply choose from what's on offer) and decide on a stadium name. Finally when you're all done and dusted you head off to buy your players. For the Premier team I created I was given £80 million to spend and all signings are made instantly. After this you begin the game in earnest. I think the fantasy mode is a nice addition. Personally I probably wouldn't use it much but it's great that it's there because a lot of people like the option of creating their own team.
What most people will spot is the improved match graphics and the new player animations. Codemasters claim the 3D match engine is now completely unscripted with improved AI. Whilst the player movements on the pitch do seem better and less erratic than in previous versions I still wouldn't say they are realistic but out of all the 3D football management game engines I've see this has to be the best one. At times the player movement looks artificial but every now and then you'll see a move or two that makes you think that you're watching the real thing. It's not realistic then but Codemasters are definitely on the right track. The graphics themselves are also improved and it's easily the best looking 3D engine in a football management game on any platform.
Just like all the other LMA Manager games LMA Manager 2004 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All information is presented in text and although the highlight sections are not subtitled it's hardly a problem. In fact the verbal comments made during the highlight section are so repetitive that most hearing gamers will end up disabling them after just a few hours play. What I like about LMA Manager 2004 is that Codemasters have really improved the interface and it seems so much less cluttered than previous versions. The text is clear and easy to read and you won't struggle at all to read any of the games information. The game manual is OK but I would have liked to have seen more information, such as how to design an away kit in fantasy mode, that would have been valuable to a novice player.
So there we have it then, another year, another LMA Manager game and Codemaster have once more improved the game. I still think the game needs an overhead tactical mini-map/radar to be shown during a match so you can see the exact position of your players. Despite the improvements the game still isn't as realistic as it could be but the game is getting there and it's definitely the best football management game on the PlayStation 2 to date. All the improvements have served to make it the best LMA Manager game yet and fans of the series will definitely be pleased with LMA Manager 2004.
Game Rating: 8.6/10
Easily the best football management game on the PlayStation 2. LMA Manager 2004 improves upon the previous titles in the series and looks even better than before.
No problems for deaf gamers.