Review: Euroleague Basketball Manager (PC)

Euroleague Basketball Manager
Developer: UPlay Studios
Publisher: GamersGate
Genre: Sports Manager
Release Date: 6/25/08

I love sports management games. I love to pound statistics while making the right decisions, taking the glory and fall that come with winning and losing, and developing younger players that come into my lineup as they mature and become superstars. From a tactical perspective, sports management games have become the new Strat O’Matic Baseball; they’ve taken management for stat geeks away from 20 sided die and massive amounts of cards, and made it easier to manage and store.

I’ve reviewed Football Manager ’07 in the past here, and FM ’08 was even better; I’d go ahead and call it the definitive sports management series, one that every other game should aspire to measure up to. Though very few of them come close, I love to play them to see which ones try. So when Euroleague Basketball Manager came across my desk, I smiled and dove in. European Basketball is becoming a hotbed for NBA talent, and I think they personally play a more attractive game of basketball. Furthermore, this was the official game of Euroleague; no nonsense with missing players, teams or pictures like there is in Football Manager because of their kooky licensing issues.

After playing awhile, I have to wonder just who the hell made this game. This game is beyond amateur. I’m pointing my fingers further down the evolutionary scale, to chimps and babboons pounding keyboards while throwing their feces around.

Before we can even get into gameplay, we’ll start with problems. There is an option for exhibition games, new leagues, loading leagues and a data base. The data base is actually very well put together, with team pictures, full descriptions, all the information you could ask for about a team. It also was in Spanish. I looked and looked for an option to change the language back to English, but there was none to be found. In essence, the official game of the European Superleague decided it wanted its main language to be Spanish, with no option whatsoever to change it. For a game that represents leagues and teams all over Europe, this was a questionable decision. I wish it was this simple, however.

Starting up a league is simple enough, once you get past the fact that country names are in Spanish. To be fair, there are a lot of options in terms of leagues and teams, including a full fledged system in Spain with relegation and promotions to and from other leagues. The game gives you the choice of either starting with any team, or accepting offers from low-level teams with the intention of working your way up. I decided to do the latter in my attempt to build up the pathetic British Basketball League, starting with the expansion Everton Tigers (hey, Sunderland doesn’t have a team, and to hell with Newcastle). Looking at the teams, you can see that the rosters are accurate to the beginning of the teams’ respective seasons, and admittedly, it’s fun to see NBA flameouts on their respective Euroleague teams. “Holy crap, there’s Marcus Fizer! I remember him! And hey, Trajdon Langdon! Is tha– is that a Qyntel Woods sighting!?” You’re given a goal depending on the team and the status of said team; whether it’s to make the Superleague, or win the title, achieve safety (don’t get relegated, though this only matters in Spain, where there are more than one league), etc. You can leave finances to the computer, but if you don’t select it when your league starts, then restart, or you’re stuck with them for the rest of your time in the game. The data within the game is solid, deep, the scouting of the players is accurate. Too bad finding any of it is damned near impossible.

I’ll put this bluntly: the menus in this game are atrocious. They are poorly designed, don’t have the information you need within a few clicks, and poorly translated. I’ll go into the poor translation later in this review, but let me assure everyone for starters that anything from emails from your staff to the transfer market (free agency for you NBA fans) is an adventure just to find out what the hell is happening. The transfer market in particular is an abomination. You find players that are either available for free, or on a team, and make offers to the players and the team in question. However, there is no recommended valuation for the player, nor is there a recommended salary; you’re going blind every time, and it’s easy to over or underpay because the arrows are so damned sensitive when it comes to selecting a right price. Offer too much, and your finances will be hurt. Too little, and forget about getting the player, which is made even worse by the fact that you likely won’t know the offer is too poor until it’s too late and he’s accepted an offer with another team. Even more incredibly, you can only go up in even numbered values; €1,000 at a time, with no variance. Then, there are times when the game will just say “The Player Whatever PLAYER he can’t receive more offers this season”. Why? There’s no rule against teams bidding against players! I never bid for this player! Why am I being limited? What rules is this stupid game playing by!? By this time, you back out of the menu you’re on… and have to scroll down to where you were, with no help whatsoever, which is bad enough because the menus are almost impossible to read. Someone needs to teach the team at U-Play about a term we like to call “usability”, because this game is incredibly frustrating to navigate. That is problematic considering menus are the ENTIRETY OF THE GAME.

Sometimes, the player does agree to negotiate a price with you. At this point, the game takes you into an insane negotiation minigame, where you have 50 seconds to come to terms with the player in question. If you can’t, the deal is off. This is unbelievable. I’d expect something like this in a game like Madden or FIFA, where the #1 focus of the game is the play on the field and how you control the players. When you’re in a management simulator, taking the player outside the main course of the game to a separate set of rules that are game exclusive is counter productive. Compare this to Football Manager, which has a very realistic negotiation engine when it comes to dealing with both teams and players, where you’re limited only by the transfer window and other teams that are after the player. Furthermore, in Football Manager, team prestige plays a lot into who will play for you. You can throw all the money in the world at a great player in Football Manager, and it won’t matter if you’re consistently a midcard team. In EBM, the players are a little less noble… or a little more stupid, depending on how you look at it.

Even if the player accepts your offer, there’s no guarantee he’s going to go to your team! I had one case where I won the minigame in question, and got the player to accept, advanced time, and then sat, picking my players, wondering why I only had two centres instead of three. It turned out that the player – known to me only in an email from “MANAGER” – had decided to sign with another team. Whoops! I would have liked to have known that!

Finally, after all this crap, it’s time to get ready for a game. Before and during the game, you have the option of changing your team’s offencive and defencive strategies. Unbelievably, the options here are lacking. For offence, you’re limited to normal play, fast positions, or slow positions, which translates to a normal half court offence, fast breaks, or whittling down the shot clock. You can also determine how much of your play is from outside vs. inside, and determine “Today play for…”, which translates to who your offence should focus around. And… that’s it. No determining what your offensive sets are, no drawing up plays save for a few buttons to press during gameplay that basically say “Take a 3!” and “penetrate!”, no choosing to have your players set high screens vs. working an inside-out game, nothing that would actually make a basketball simulator a worthwhile purchase. Defensive options are a bit more in depth comparatively, though it’s comparative because when it comes to determining playing style, choosing basketball sets is very cut-and-dry. You can play either man-to-man or in a zone (remember, full zones are allowed in international play), the type of zone you want to play depending on strengths, the matchups and intensity. You can also determine training for your players, but this just allows you to use a limited number of specializations on a limited number of players. For example, you can have your point guard work on ball handling, and your shooting guard work on shooting, but if there are not enough training points to go around, some of your players are essentially tossed. Once again, this is the game making artificial limits on what I can and cannot do with my team, and it makes the game seem more like a video game than a simulation. Then the game starts… and everything that was circling the drain of the toilet makes it’s final sojourn to the septic.

You have two options for viewing the game: result or virtual. Result is quick-and-dirty; results come in per quarter, and you’re able to adjust tactics in between quarters. Virtual is a 2D or 3D representation of a court, and the game goes at either normal speed, 2X, 4X or 8X, and at any time, you can end the quarter. The virtual court – either 2D or 3D – is only useful as a shot chart; anyone that’s played a game like Football Manager and is thinking that they’ll get to see their players running around, even as little dots… forget it. All the court – in either 2D or 3D – shows is shots made and shots missed. There is no way you can determine what is working and isn’t working except by following players individual stats. You can’t see if a team is abusing a 2-3 zone by going inside-out, or if your centre in a 1-3-1 is overmatched. You have to guess it with statistics. For example, “My centre is in foul trouble and their centre has 12 points in the first half… I should go back to 2-3”. That’s only if it’s blatant. How do you know if you need to go from Man to Zone or vice versa? The answer is that you don’t. Most of the actual management time you spend in this game is wasted by guessing what you’re supposed to do to make your team better. This isn’t too much of a problem with super teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona, but if you’re a struggling team that needs to steal wins, forget it. You don’t have enough information to go on to fix anything.

There are even more problems beyond what I’ve talked about. There are graphics, technically, to speak of, such as the 3D court, and when you pull up the “Quintet” screen (starting five), you are shown 3D renditions of your players doing warm-up excercises… if you can call them that. Needless to say, the players look atrocious, but that’s not really the crux of this game. What gets me is… why waste the time rendering these players, and a court that you’re not even going to use? The game is obviously trash and needs major work, so why are the developers wasting valuable resources worried about poorly rendered, useless 3D models when they need to significantly fix about ten other areas of the actual game first? It makes no sense to me. Secondly, if you go into the options screen, you’re given very general options on screen modes, 3D graphics levels (just think: the 3D models in this screen are on high definition!), and finally, music and sound effects. This had me laughing out loud, literally, considering the fact that I’ve played a few seasons and have never heard one sound. Not one. Zero.

Let me give this it’s own paragraph, to drive the point home: in a game where there are option settings for music and sound, there is no music to be heard, nor are there sound effects!

Despite the fact that you can control phantom music and sound that don’t exist, there are no options for menu placements, or currency values (if I’m managing in the BBL, shouldn’t I be using Pound Sterling instead of the Euro?), and most laughably, no language options!

I’ve touched on the translation, but I haven’t really gone into how bad it is yet. Simply put, the original Final Fantasy Tactics, of “I had a good feeling!” fame, comes off looking like Persona 3 when compared to EBM. In rare defence of U-Play, it is a Spanish team developing with Spain in mind, and there is no North American version of this game. However, I did play the English version, and the last time I checked, England, Scotland and the Juggling Ireland Brothers were all technically a part of Europe, so if there is a future version of EBM, I recommend that the developers either hire a competent translation team or forget the English version altogether and stick to Spain. As it stands, the translation is half-assed, and there’s not even an option to go to another European language such as Spanish. I could have read the game easier if it was in French.

When the translation is as bad as it is in this game, it opens itself up for mocking. Just take a gander at a mere SAMPLE of the lines put forth by this game:

“The Worcester Wolves became winner after defeating the EVERTON TIGERS by 59-76 in a spectacular game in which people from the stands got up.”

“The EVERTON TIGERS has lost against the Scottish Rocks in game in which the decisions of the coach have been determinant to end up defeated by the 52-69”.

“The Maccabi Tel Aviv earns a great victory over EVERTON TIGERS by 43-107 after trashing the opponent sometimes during the game!.”

“BARTOSZ SORZOLA is not anymore player of the WARSZAWA BREC . The team has received 5.016€ from the team NEWCASTLE EAGLES for his annual salary after the loan”

“The board of directors of the EVERTON TIGERS is very happy with the coach’s job, the only responsible for the team’s good course.”

That last line was my favourite, because counting cup play and exhibitions, my team was a resounding 3-13 at that point in the game. Even when praising me, EBM messes it up!

Finally, you would think a game like this would be a bargain game, considering how little effort went into it. However, a peek at the GamersGate page for the game shows the game’s price as $44.99USD. $45!? Jesus H. Christ Esq., even FIFA Manager 08 costs only $40 to import, and that’s ten times the game that EBM is… and even then, FIFA Manager is half the game Football Manager is. I didn’t know I was paying VAT on my downloads in America now!


Game Modes: Bad
Graphics: Worthless
Sound: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Awful
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Bad
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Worthless


Short Attention Span Summary

Euroleague Basketball Manager is the type of game that shatters any previous boundaries of “bad” and heads off into “amateur” territory; this is like something a group of college students would throw together in a cram session while loaded on PCP just to get a passing grade in a college course. It’s lazy, misdirected, poorly coded, poorly QA’d, and just an all around irredeemable product.

U-Play should be ashamed that this title hit store shelves in it’s current state. The lack of quality apparent in this game is inexcusable.



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5 responses to “Review: Euroleague Basketball Manager (PC)”

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