Not content with breaking records, ruining relationships and shattering lives, this year Sports Interactive are hoping to ensnare even more hapless punters into their evil web of football-based addiction. Unbelievers have traditionally pointed to the irksomeness of the interface (not to mention the inherent pointlessness of the entire experience) as a stumbling block towards the football nirvana contained within.
This time round you're led by the hand thanks to the sinister-sounding Advisor, a pop-up box that explains how to do pretty much everything bar wipe the congealed drool off your keyboard. For the seasoned campaigner it's mainly a pain in the arse - although it can be told to go away, either for certain topics or for the entirety of your tenure.
Ease of use appears to be the focus this year, with an in-game tutorial and a sleekly redesigned interface awaiting the petrified novice. Once you're underway, the Match Flow system is simply a logical way of presenting the various screens in the build-up to kick off, ensuring that you know exactly who you're playing, along with tactics and the likelihood of them giving you a drubbing. Betting odds reflect the nation's obsession with gambling.
As for the meat of the game, some pleasing tweaks become apparent in time, and you don't need me to tell you that no matter how hard you try to resist the game's seemingly transparent charms, it rapidly becomes paralysingly addictive, turning you into a liar and a sloth.
It also plays havoc with your concept of real football. During the course of this review, a report came up on Sky Sports News that a scan on my striker's ankle revealed only bruising, causing my heart to momentarily lift for my FM team before realising that I should actually be pleased for my real team.
The uncanny knack of mirroring real life is testament to the massive infrastructure of international scouts that provides the player database, allied to the witchcraft that goes on under the bonnet. Despite this year's lick of white paint, it's never going to win any prizes for looks, something of an irrelevance given that it's a game that largely exists in the imagination.
A screensaver for the mind
- Thoroughly absorbing
- Eerily realistic
- Inevitable patches
- Makes you angry