Football Manager 2009 PC Review

While a lot of people dream of being a pro footballer for the glamour, the riches and the prestige, the managing side is becoming ever more popular. Notably, the FIFA games have started to implement the role-playing side of the sport, playing as either a team member or the boss himself. The FM franchise has been doing this for a good while, steadily building up a fan base and a reputation. But what can the old boy offer to cement it’s place as the top footy sim?

Well first off, the sheer amount of data. There’s an insanely large amount of leagues to pick from. Every football fan should be able to find their favourite side to manage, and love the game because of it. Not so much a novelty for the Chelsea and Man Utd fans, but if you support a team such as Fleetwood Town, you’ll be over the moon to find that they’re sitting here, waiting to be managed. FM truly caters to everyone in that department.

Another reason no-one will be arguing over the top football management game is the level of detail. There’s no escaping the fact that Sports Interactive have truly thought of every possible option worth including in a game. Aside from the obvious managing transfers, picking the squad and sorting out tactics, as manager you have to sort out all of the clubs staff, sending scouts out to do reports and keeping an eye on how well the coach is doing. There’s only two people that you answer to as manager. The chairman, and the fans. You’ve got to work hard to keep everyone happy. Make dodgy decisions and they’ll criticise you for it. If things go well, they know who to cheer. Not only have you got to deal with them, but you have to keep the press interested. Try not to give too much away in conferences, or you could damage your chances in future matches.

Managing the squad gives real creative freedom to you as the manager. Signing players is an odd challenge the like of which isn’t experienced in most games. Aim for a balance between what they want and what you want. Careful though, as that potential superstar you found could quickly gain the interest of many other clubs. Snap them up before someone else signs them.

Don’t neglect your current team either. They need to be properly trained, and kept happy to be fully effective in matches. When the time comes, you can choose to let them go, sell them on or renew their contracts, just decide the terms. Again, specifics are a major selling point. Pick exact contract terms for new and current players, keeping in mind your budget and how much they’re worth. Decide everything from weekly wage to goal bonus. FM is, from top to bottom, an immersive experience. It even keeps track of your ‘addictedness rating’.

When it comes to match day, a lot of new players would be wondering how a sim can capture the exciting action of a real football match. The difference here is, as manager you aren’t playing the game. You have to watch how your men do, keep track of their condition and make substitutions when necessary. The team talks can swing a game your way, so long as you tell the guys what they need to hear, unlike me as I just said ‘arse’ repeatedly. The game can be portrayed in a few different ways. Watch the game in full, with numbered counters representing all those on the pitch, or even enjoy the new 3D mode. Watching the match in full 3D adds some life into an otherwise mediocre interface. In a spectacle similar to a simplified version of a Fifa game, you can watch the match ‘properly’, helping the player feel more involved with their team, experiencing the match in a more realistic way. You can opt to fast forward but risk missing vital substitutions. Generally, the more commitment you give to the game, the more successful you’ll be.

FM definitely isn’t suitable for everyone. People looking for a fast paced football game need to get as far away as they can. It also doesn’t do well at welcoming the inexperienced players. There’s a help window there whenever you need it, but it does little more than dampen the overwhelming feeling newbies will get. There is literally so much to do that its enough to discourage first time players permanently. Unfortunately, that’s a choice that has to be made to deliver a game to please the fans, a noble choice on SI’s part. No dumbing down here. As far as longevity goes, FM could keep the audience going for years, particularly as you can get online squad updates.

Football Manager 09 is the most complete football experience you’re likely to find for a good while, at least until 2010 comes out. People who are wary of sims would do well to avoid it and go for something more mainstream like FIFA 09 for their footballing fix. Not quite sure there’s enough new content to warrant owners of FM08 investing in the new version, but this is definitely the edition worth getting for the occasional buyers.

9 out of 10
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