The name Football Manager is synonymous with the world of Sports Management and the franchise has long been sitting on its perch looking down at its contemporaries. With such un-rivalled success, it would definitely be easy for Sports Interactive, the developer, to rest on their laurels and just churn out the same game year after year. However, they are constantly trying to improve the service and this year's title is no different. Are this year's improvements enough though?
Football Manager has always been a game of three tales. People either want to take charge of Manchester United or Real Madrid and create their dream team; they want to take make their favourite team a worldwide super power; or they want to take a non-league minnow up to the echelons of Champions League success. With that in mind, it was time to take Nottingham Forest to where they belong, the peak of European football. Of course, the first task was trying to cement a place in the Championship and move on from there - one step at a time.
Over the years, Football Manager has become a daunting prospect for players not used to the game, and Sports Interactive have definitely taken this on board. As soon as a new game is started, players will be greeted with a friendly wizard which will introduce them to the new hub. There are also handy tips located on almost every screen and it really does a good job of making players feel more comfortable with their surroundings. Even veterans might occasionally see something that's useful too, so it's worth keeping on. The menu system has also had a re-design, with a new tab system implemented. The hub is also fully customisable, so players can quickly access information they need on a regular basis.
After getting accustomed to the new navigation, the first port of call was to try and get the ideal squad to challenge for honours. Every football fan has players in their team they think are completely useless, and Football Manager allows them to get rid of players they deem surplus to requirements. The game offers some of the most detailed statistical information in the industry, so, personal feelings aside, it's probably best to check out the opinions of the club's staff before making any hasty decisions. These opinions all depend on the qualities of the staff, of course, but it gives an indication about how useful players might be. By selecting a player, and selecting the 'reports' tab, players will be greeted by lots of recommendations. These range from best positions, potential ability, to even their personality traits. It's quite easy to lose a significant amount of time checking out the pros and cons of each of the squad, so for those who want a quick snap-shot, it's also possible to get a team report, where the assistant manager will show a quick summary of how good players are.
Buying and selling players is definitely one of the more exciting facets of the game and it works as expected. By using the search feature, it's possible to search for specific stats, positions and contract situations. However, it's always a good idea to scout out players, and their opinions are actually quite detailed. They will offer comparisons to existing players in the squad, comment on their potential and ultimately voice whether they feel the player is worth buying. If they offer a glowing recommendation, trying to snap the player up is relatively simple, in theory. Assuming no other clubs are competing for the player, an offer must be placed, and if it's accepted, contact negotiations will start. Generally the player will have expectations, and if they are met, he will want to sign for the club. It's all pretty straight-forward, especially when playing as a super power like Nottingham Forest - everyone wants to play at the City Ground.
Upon spending a few weeks sorting out the team and further leading to the demise of the English national team by bringing in loads of cheap foreigners, it was time to sort out tactics. Previous versions of the game included lots of sliders with no real explanation, but this edition of Football Manager has a new wizard. It will help players select a formation, team mentality and even individual orders and it all seems really simple and easy to understand - definitely an improvement. Finally it's possible to implement that super attacking formation with three defensive midfielders and five strikers and have some real conviction about it working... ok, maybe not. It's worth noting that it's still possible to select free kick takers, and even throw-in takers, so that level of depth is still available to those who want to get more granular.
Tactics set, it's time to show the rest of the league that Nottingham Forest are contenders and where better than Newcastle United away. After sifting through the pre-match information the action starts and the improved 3D match engine kicks in. It still doesn't exactly look like watching a real match in high-definition, but it does do a very good job of looking believable, and asking for much more than that would be quite unrealistic. It's also possible to do more management on the fly, as orders can be shouted to players without having to access another menu. The whole match-day scenario definitely seems more integrated now, and helps to make the game even more engaging than has been in the past.
Football Manager is a game that can literally go on forever, but to further the experience in a slightly different way, players have access to the Football Manager Data Editor. This is perfect for those who want to update the game to reflect current events, or those who just want to make the game completely to their own design. It's possible to adjust or create pretty much anything, but there has been a notable addition to this year's editor - the ability to add competitions. Players can now make their own leagues and cup competitions, so yes, they can make the European Super League which would see Arsenal squaring off against Barcelona for a normal league match.
Football Manager 2010 further cements Football Manager's stranglehold on its chosen genre with continued progression that only makes a good game even better. It's been made more accessible to new players, and although the new navigation might feel a bit odd it's actually a lot better. The 3D match engine has been improved to feature details such as pitch degradation and it now enables players to shout orders from the touchline for instant results. The new tactics editor is also a welcome addition. Overall, Football Manager is a stellar game, and definitely worth checking out by any would-be football manager.