Football Manager 2008

The game

The latest offering in the successful PC series from Sports Interactive, Football Manager 2008 once again allows any football fan to put themselves in the shoes of a professional manager, dealing with all the trials and tribulations that running a club entails, and proving that they have what it takes to lead their team to glory.

In a direct contrast to the high-powered, graphics-laden games of recent times, FM 2008 may, on appearances at least, look unimpressive and indeed dull. But the secret as to why the 2-D game works so well is nothing to do with the graphics.

The devising of unique and individual tactics, based on your own knowledge and ability, is key to the compulsively addictive format of the game. By taking the time to nurture and develop your technique, to build up your team from scratch and to watch them gel together and start to win games, means that when all the hard work finally pays off, this is one game where graphics do not matter in the slightest.

The aim

The basic concept is simple enough: choose your team, become the manager and lead them to glory in whatever league you wish. This success, however, is anything but simple to come by.

To reach your goals, you will have to buy and sell players, devise tactics, deal with the board and discontented fans, keep up to date with announcements and extra data, and then wait to see if they all pay off. You have to learn from your mistakes, and deal with a number of disappointments along the way, before finally reaching the heights of league and tournament success.

You need skill, good organisation, a solid approach to the task at hand and unreserved commitment to the job, so that when you gain your first victory you will know that it is because you deserved it.

Main new features

The official sales pitch boasts over 100 new features from the 2007 version of the game. However, it soon becomes clear that only a handful of these are truly new or innovative. Although many smaller new features do exist within the game, they have to be looked for to be found, and are often simply updates from previous versions. Therefore, although they certainly make for a better gaming experience, they do not exactly thrill the player.

The main new features, and the ones most likely to encourage gamers to go out and buy the new version, are as follows:

  • ’’’Confidence’’’ – This is a feature whereby you as the manager are constantly provided with feedback from the fans and the board in relation to a range of issues, such as match day performances and the new signings that you make. The system puts pressure on you as the manager, ultimately making the experience more realistic, and it shows you what is expected of you in your new role.
  • ’’’Transfer Centre’’’ – This new screen allows you to quickly see all of the latest bids and offers that are being made to keep everything in order in the transfer market.
  • ’’’Pitch Size’’’ – Being able to choose the size of the pitch is hugely important in terms of tactics, as it affects the style of play that your team will need to adopt in order to achieve success.
  • ’’’Budget Adjustment’’’ – This is a feature by which it becomes possible to adjust your available budget in different ways. If you need to increase transfer funds then you can reduce the wages for your players, and the same is true the other way around, providing for greater flexibility and control of the team.

Other new additions

  • The news system has been revamped so that you do not receive too many news reports, resolving a problem from previous versions.
  • Navigation has been made easier by the use of more shortcuts.
  • All of the players have their own realistic face on them, a nice little feature which adds to the realism of the game.
  • The reports on the progress of the squad have become more detailed.
  • Match day involves more tactical features for a better experience.
  • The international management side of the game has been revamped.
  • You can now make tactical changes without pausing.
  • It’s now a lot easier for the novice player as there are numerous tutorials to offer help and guidance.

Is it worth it?

Opinion is divided on this. On the one hand, you have all of the new features mentioned above to provide by far the best football manager game available on the market. But, on the other hand, you still have pretty much the same game as the last one in the series, with a few additions to spice it up. Whether this is worth splashing out on is debatable.

What you do get, of course, is the vast database of players, leagues and competitions from across the world to choose from. The research that has gone into this is quite outstanding, and the series has excelled itself once again. However, to sell the game on this feature alone seems a bit weak.

Glitches

When the game first came out, there were a number of bugs in it which led to a few small problems for players. However, these have mostly been ironed out now. More significant criticisms include:

  • The team talks are still not up to scratch.
  • Real time training is not included.
  • The game is tougher than previous editions (although this could be seen as a positive thing by those looking for a greater challenge).
  • A few unrealistic events, such as a player who is clearly offside getting away with it, take away from the reality of the game.

Overall reaction

There is no doubt about it: FM 2008 is the best football management game on the market. However, the series has long held that mantel, which begs the question of just how much more you will be getting for your money.

Critically, the game has not lost anything on the last version, and has only gained in new features. But whether these new features are enough to send you out for the latest version is a matter of personal choice.

However, for the complete novice, this game will provide you with hours (or days!) of pure entertainment. The only serious drawback is that your social life may suffer as a result, but if you can handle that then this is definitely a game to add to the collection.