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Football Manager 2012

Football Manager 2012 review: Respect the point

Let's not pretend here. For some, a Football Manager 2012 review is almost redundant. Most of you already know whether or not you're going to splash the cash on SI's latest.

You know because there are three types of people in this world; people who are addicted to Football Manager, people who don't get Football Manager and people who are trying to kick their Football Manager addiction for the good of their marriage/education/hygiene.

If you fit into the first group of people you've already pre-ordered Football Manager 2012, you've got Football Manager 2011 running in the background and you're just waiting until Friday when you can make a smooth, painless transition between the two losing no play time whatsoever.

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If you're in the second group - those that claim Football Manager is nothing but a 'glorified spreadsheet' - there's no hope for you and you're probably reading this just so that you can have a nice big tut at the end.

If the third type sounds more like you, if your annual Football Manager experience usually ends with the CD in a wood chipper and the words "Never again" then this review is probably for you. Don't kid yourself, you're still going to buy Football Manager 2012, our words may just determine whether you buy it one month from release or two.

We talk about the monopolising Sports Interactive series in terms of its somehow engrossing predictability and yet this year sees probably the most radical jolt from the norm in some time. At least on the surface.

There's been a pretty drastic user interface overhaul. While everything looks kind of the same, it feels like cooking in your kitchen after someone's put everything in different cupboards. It's all still incredibly organised and together, but the plates are where the glasses should be and now the knives have their own drawer for some reason.

BY THE NUMBERS

Clicking on a player, for example, doesn't just bring up the usual set of attributes, an illustrative polygon and a few menu tabs along the top. Standard player profile pages are now divided between attributes, physical condition, season form, career achievements and position, each in their own little box.

At first it all seems a bit crowded and overwhelming especially since there are similar examples of reorganisation running throughout the game (quick tactics now get their own column next to the players and pitch diagram on the tactics page, for example).

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But what it means practically is that a lot more information is crammed onto the screen at the same time and, since all those boxes can be changed to show different stats, your screen is more customisable than ever.

A small learning curve for FM vets then but one that will ultimately be beneficial. Newcomers, on the other hand probably aren't going to get too many favours from Sports Interactive this year aside from a more in-depth tutorial system.

So, there's more information in your face in 2012, but there are also mechanical changes that give players more options and subtle control.

The biggest new ability that will save a lot of stress for long-time series followers is the ability to add and remove leagues and countries in the database on the fly. Previously, players with machines that couldn't handle having every team in the world ready for use at any moment (i.e. most of us) had to predict where they might end up ten years into their career.

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