Football Manager 2008 PC Review

If you consider every developer in the whole world, yes ever single one of them, it would be fair to say that SI are easily one of the more consistent at churning out a good game year after year. It seems that every year, without fail, you can rely on their games to be perfectly playable, and there has had hardly been one nasty hiccup to blemish their consistency since back in the Championship Manager 2 days which caught the world by storm during the 96/97 season. Since then, through multiple guises, a change in name, and a move in publisher, the series has been in top form for over ten years.

For FM08, just like last year, and the year before that, there are no large game alternating changers on show. In fact, if you have played any of the games since SI’s 2003 release, where they first introduced the 2D match engine, then you should already know pretty much what to expect from the game. However, that is not to say FM08 is a carbon copy from last year’s game, as it has still got many of those small changes and little refinements the series is famous for. SI boast that there are “over 100 new features” in this year’s effort. Of course, as with all PR, that could be classed as a little white lie. Sure, there may be 100 small changes, but there are only a few of them which will be interesting enough to pique the interest of budding managers around the world.

On first look the most notable change in the same is the new skin that arguably makes it easier to navigate the menus, although I’m sure some will still complain. Everything in the game is now only a click away, and helpful icons and keyboard shortcuts are included this time round to keep wading through menus and switching from mouse to keyboard down to a minimum. Another nice visual change is the implementation of facegen technology, a move which gives all newly generated players that appear in youth teams a computer generated face. There is even a relatively helpful advisor thrown into the game this time round. However, I did not use it much, but it seems like it could do a good job to ease newcomers in, helping them not feel overwhelmed with what’s on show.

In terms of gameplay there are a few nice changes to speak about. The most noticeable of these is introduced the second you begin your first game, as the board will now ask how you except to perform, giving you more or less money depending on your decision. Of course, if tell them you can win the Premiership, and then fail miserably come May they will be more likely to sack you. In fact, the finance in the game has seen a nice turn around, with issues such as sell on clauses and monthly instalments having a greater bearing on transfer negotiations. In turn, wages have also changed a bit, with appearance fees, goal and clean sheet bonus’ causing a player to decide whether to sign or not. Budget adjustments are also available which let you move money from wages to give you more cash to use in transfers, or vice versa. While this may not seem like that big of a change at first, it is a very helpful addition when playing with lower tier, or lower league teams.

Then there is the 2D match engine, which now seems even more realistic than ever before. Clever runs, passes, through balls, one-twos, are all noticeable. Also, small changes to your tactics – should you take the time to get deep into the game and move the tactical sliders for all outfield players separately – will be represented during the match. In turn, you can also use the match engine to find out what your team are doing wrong, and try and fix it with a smart tactical decision or substitution. Speaking of tactics, you can now make these changes on the fly without pausing the game, which is a nice extra. Also, scouts, coaches, and assistant mangers now also play a bigger part in the game, giving you detailed reports on both your squad, and people you want to sign. Furthermore, the better stats your staff have, the more likely they will predict the potential of a new signing, thus helping you get your hands on a wonder kid before the rest of the world even knows about him.

Some things don’t change though, as the game is still as addictive as ever. This is highly evident when you find yourself reading the back pages of a newspaper, and suddenly your mind drifts back to the game and you wonder “would my team be better if I bought him”. The same thing happens when you watch Match of the Day, or one of the big matches during the weekend. Furthermore, if your team’s real life manger is causing you grief at the moment, then FM excels at giving you the option to find out if you are truly better than him. Maybe you think Rafael Benítez rotates the squad a little too much? Then boot him out and try your hand at bringing back the glory days of 1990, or maybe, just maybe, find out how hard a job it truly is.

Usually, for most reviews I try to play as much of the game as possible before grabbing my laptop and jotting down my thoughts. However, with FM08, as is the norm with the series, this is just impossible, and I fell like I have just scratched the surface of the game with what I’ve played. Having only played with two different teams – League One outfit Northampton (no it’s true) and the Premiership great that is Liverpool – I can contentedly report that the game is certainly still fun to play on both ends of the spectrum. Regardless of whether you are looking to sign the latest £20million wonder kid with one of the big teams, or just looking for a loan or free transfer when manning the lower league minnows there is a load of fun to be had. Just make sure you download the latest patch before playing.

The best yet, but SI really need to bring the next big change to take FM to the next level.

8 out of 10
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