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LMA Manager 2004

There's nothing like LMA to restore your faith in football. While the egg-chasers are crowing about rugby's goody-two-shoes players, it's nice to manage a club where footballers aren't going out on the lash every night or forgetting (duh!) to turn up for drug tests.

See, this is the anti-Championship Manager. LMA realises the most fun you'll have in a management game is signing players, and so you can go striker-shopping from day one without worrying about the bank balance. Even teams like Leeds have 11 million quid to blow. That doesn't mean Carlisle can sign Thierry Henry, but your directors still stump up some cash for a conference clogger.

But that's always been the deal with LMA - the shiny, happy Manager that anyone can pick up and play. But although it looks friendly and a bit dumbed-down, LMA 2004 is more sophisticated than Arsene Wenger. Previously you could just choose a basic formation, but now you can edit your player's positions, Pro Evo-style, so if you want Pires to move inside from the left wing, you can shift him forward. Then you can set an individual training programme.

It all sounds a bit chinstrokey, but it is great when you see your tinkering working in the new improved matches. In the past the 3D matches have seemed a bit random, but now your players will punt the ball forward when you yell "long ball at them" with the Dugout Tactics. The passing is much smoother too. And with 18,500 players crammed into the bloated database - and the option to download new players in the Xbox version of the game - this will be the biggest LMA yet.

LMA Manager 2004 will be released for PS2 and Xbox in March

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