8 Reviews

Football Manager 2008

A season of consolidation

Somehow, the Football Manager series is both an acquired taste and a huge success. A possible explanation for this is simple: it does something ostensibly very dull but does it very well.

Let's face it, screen after screen of stats and lists from which you assemble and pick a team is not a grabber, and a top-down view of some blobs on a pitch is hardly eye-candy.

But the alchemy it does with this unpromising material is the closest thing to simulating our national sport on any format, and it delivers more than its fair share of football's emotion and drama.


Actually, it isn't so much alchemy that makes Football Manager work as imagination - yours and mine. When you play, you fill in the gaps and create the narrative. Just as the best horror films don't show you the monster, so Football Manager only offers you some tools to play with and the meticulously researched setting to play in, and leaves the rest to you.

Now, eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that all I've talked about so far is the Football Manager series in general and not anything specific about the 2008 incarnation.

There's a very good reason for this: there seems precious little difference between FM 2008 and its immediate predecessor. Some of the changes are under the bonnet but, in a game that hides its charms, small improvements in processing and loading speed are difficult to appreciate without the benefit of a benchmark and what do you think this is, Computer Shopper?

More noticeable changes are a new transfer centre screen that collates all recent bids and offers, and a confidence screen, that shows what fans and the board think of the latest results.

Neither really makes much difference to way you'll play, and the confidence rating seems especially volatile, with your stakeholders overreacting to often meaningless defeats and forever harping on about them, in spite of current form. A new calendar screen that shows a month's worth of fixtures at a time is fine but it's hardly setting the world alight.

Other changes are similarly low-key tweaks. The awards system has been streamlined, with a few new ones added, and the media sections have been boosted with a bit more coverage and some reorganisation.

Similarly, club finances have been spruced up, giving you marginally more flexibility in some areas. The coach reports are useful, giving a run-down of what your staff think of your own or scouted players, and is a real boon to keeping up with your squad and potential signings.

Cosmetically, the new skin is easy on the eye, but it's still names and numbers. More significant is the introduction of FaceGen for all the regenerated players who appear as seasons progress.

Of course, the biggest change, and for many FM regulars worth the ticket price alone, is the fully updated, ever reliable, ever more comprehensive database of players, clubs and competitions from around the world. It is, as always, truly impressive and it - along with the equally excellent match engine - remain the rock-solid foundations on which FM 2008 is built.

Some niggles remain. Play for any length of time and the rather shallow nature of the media mind games becomes clear. It's very repetitive to have to constantly field the same questions with the same five multiple choices.

The transfer market is as capricious as ever, making for a fair bit of frustration. Bottom of the Prem at Christmas, West Brom somehow spend £20m on one player, while my challenging for Europe Bristol City has trouble attracting minor players.

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