Before you read this, have a look our review of Champ Man 2007 (have a delve in the search box). It's worth it, not just for the scintillating prose by a writer I've long admired, but also to give this review a bit of context. It's alright, you won't miss anything, only a few old jokes I'll use for padding.
Take my wife, please. I take my wife everywhere but she still finds her way home. My wife's so fat, she doesn't sit around the house, she sits around the house. My wife...
Ah, welcome back. So, you see, after a couple of false starts, the CM series is finally offering a bit of competition to the all conquering Football Manager.
Not competition in that it actually offers anywhere near the same level of sophistication, depth and variety as FM, which is as superlative as ever. No, what a decent CM 2007 offers is a friendly face, an easy way in, a soft, speedy option. Where once FM (and as the original CM before that) had the field to itself, and could get away with looking like Windows 95 - and running about as quickly - now we have a choice. And it's amazing what a little competition can do...
Not content with a typical seasonal update, developers SI have revamped the presentation and added a slate of new features, making this quite simply the best FM yet. The first thing that strikes is how much prettier it is - dinky icons replace penny-plain words, little Panini sticker-style portraits of players appear whenever they're in the news and the whole design and layout is sharper and more polished. Small things, yes, but they make a difference.
What SI have added to the core game is even better, with more player interaction, more media questions and the arrival of affiliated clubs. Talk to a player and you can now ask them to recommend new staff or players, discuss resting them and - with youth players - pair them with an older pro who'll tutor them. It makes for a richer relationship between you and the team, and builds in a new dynamic between players on the fringes of the first team, rewarding the careful development of a squad.
Affiliated clubs have been long anticipated by the FM community and add further nuances to this already most subtle of games. It's a deal that works both ways, with feeder clubs getting free loan players way out of their normal price range and lucrative friendly matches, while the parent club gets somewhere to test out players and first-look deals on any decent players the feeder discovers. A medium-sized club can even act as feeder for a big team but still have feeders of its own down the football ladder, a boon for lower league managers already well versed in sourcing loan players.
A host of other small innovations - targeting players for special treatment, scout's report cards - enhance this already comprehensive title. One of these tackles a perennial FM criticism: the lack of speed. Now you can customise the detail level, adjusting how many matches are simmed in full detail, making it possible to run this incarnation of FM almost as fast as CM 2007.
Underpinning all this is the latest version of a supremely impressive sim, one that's clearly been carefully nurtured and incorporated much feedback. The player database is second-to-none, the match engine a pleasure to watch, selection and tactics simple but very flexible. The business side of football - transfers, scouting and contracts - are all well-handled, while the capable media mind-games and man motivation play a greater role than previously.
FM 2007 remains a blinding mass of statistics at first sight, but they yield an intoxicating world of heartbreaking injuries, transfer coups, heroic defeats and the pursuit of glory. In short, it's football. No other game comes close. Simple yet complex, profound and universal, Football Manager 2007 earns some of same qualities as the sport it so dearly loves, reason enough for its legion of fans, myself included, to rejoice again.
The essential football title
- Frighteningly detailed
- Still not 3D
- Not an idle play
- Does not have any tanks!