Ah, tis that time of the year when men start disappearing from life. Acquaintances no longer appear in their usual places at the pub, desks at work lay empty. But this is no sex specific Invasion Of The Body Snatchers type err… invasion. No. This is something far more dangerous to humanity: the new release of the next in the series of Football Manager games.
The Football Manager series, as the name suggests, puts you in the position of a football manager and yadda yadda yadda… Look, there’s little point in going over the basics as you’ll already be in one of two camps: those who love Football Manager and those who despise it. For those of you in the despise camp, this game will not change your opinion one little bit, so you can go back to mocking the rest of us and kicking kittens to death (or whatever else it is that you do). For the rest of you, there’s only one thing you’re going to want to know. Are there enough changes to warrant buying what is intrinsically an update of the previous title? Short answer: yes. Long answer: holy sweet fricking god, yes.
There’s no question that this is the most revamped edition of Football Manager since the first of the series and even arguably right back to its forerunner Championship Manager. With every new game there are always slight changes, be it both aesthetically and with gameplay. Last year there was the introduction of a TV style viewing of the games that, back then, was seen as a massive change that some people were against. There’s the argument of it ain’t broke, why fix it. Well, now the makers have gone right back to the drawing board and (quite bravely) completely redesigned the game.
When you first boot up the game the changes will hit you almost instantly. If you’re a long term fan like myself, Football Manager 2010 will be a little disorientating to begin with. It’s a bit like walking into your house, but everything has been moved and tidied up (hopefully, it’s your house and not the neighbour’s because they don’t tend to appreciate drunken people wondering round at 4 in the morning).
The layout of the game has always been roughly the same. Now everything has changed. Features are not where they would usually be, and it will definately take a while to get used to. The layout now resembles a proper desktop layout and adds to the realism of the game. The change may even put you off to begin with. It did to me. I couldn’t get my head round the changes and wished for the good old days of Football Manager 2009. Let me just say that you have to stick with it, because after an hour or so, everything clicks and then you’ll wonder how you ever got by before.
The layout also helps as the options available are more than you could ever hope for. You can now get staff roles for man managers, recruitment and even build up your youth development to Arsene Wenger levels (I haven’t yet got far enough in to see if you can steal the young from other countries, but I wouldn’t be surprised).
Luckily, your assistant manager and backroom staff play a much larger role. They’ll let you pinpoint exactly where your strengths and weakness are so you can concentrate on the specifics. There’s also the ability to custom build your team’s tactics from the ground up, until they are playing the exact style you have in mind.
Also new is the ability to shout advice from the dugout during the game. This takes the form of quick access tactical decisions like spreading the play to the flanks or lofting the ball into the box and actually works far better than it sounds.
Last year’s new TV view during the games has been modified slightly to offer a more fluid realistic game, yet to the one or two FIFA/Pro Evo fans who hate the Football Manager games (madness, I know, but there are enough of them to warrant a clinic of some kind) the graphics are still fundamentally basic. But, as of old, your mind fills in the gaps for you. A bit like reading the Matrix.
It’s safe to say that the Football Manager games have traditionally been targeted at male gamers (although there’s now an option to make your manager male or female). Many relationships have been destroyed due to the demise of their partner’s libidos thanks to continuous playing of the game. If you’re like me, you may even have skipped out step 1 and gone on to step 2, being so caught up in Football Manager you haven’t even bothered to get a relationship to destroy. A Football Manager bachelor, if you will. Sad, I know.
The fans of Football Manager are an obsessive bunch. We stay up till early morning on work days, weep real tears when our home grown youngster gets his first full cap for his country. I even have a mate who dresses up in a long black coat before he signs a big player just so he can look the part. Mental, I know, but he’s not alone and god bless em’ for it.
I’m pretty sure that before you even read this review you’d already made up your mind about whether to buy this game or not. If you’re one of the masochists who would prefer to be screaming abuse at none existent pixels at 4 in the morning, then you’re gonna love it. Your other half may not.
Football Manager 2010 is out now.