Football Manager 2008
It’s been a funny year for sports titles, at least here in Europe. Skate wandered into the fray and stole the spotlight from the tired beaten horse that is the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series whilst FIFA 2008 surprised us all with a very decent, if far from perfect, experience. PES2008 was also surprising in that it failed to evolve in any way and I was also disappointed with the very shallow NBA Street: Homecourt earlier in the year. But at least we can count on SI Games to put it right, eh?
Booting up this years’ edition of the infamous widow maker brings to light the re-designed interface. Much more like a web browser in its appearance with the familiar buttons grouped into toolbars and the standard sidebar occupying the left hand of the screen, it’s nice to see that all the tools needed have been put together rather than dotted around the place like in previous versions. The icons that lived on the bottom of the screen before now reside in a bookmarks-esque toolbar, but bizarrely there’s also links in the sidebar, rendering one or the other useless. I feel it would have been much better to decide on either icons or text links instead of both, because now things look a lot more cluttered and sometimes it’s a little bewildering to find what you want.
The right-click context menu has some much needed options added to it to save a hunt through the menus for budding managers. Click on an injured player in your team and you can send him to the reserves for a few weeks or until he’s match fit, upon which point he’ll pop back up in the first team squad again. There’s also a very handy tool which allows you to search for a player using the selected person’s most influential stats, so if you’re searching for the next Thierry Henry, he may only be several clicks away.
Something that’s been an issue since the days of CM01/02 is the speed of the seasons, and whilst this isn’t as close as some would like, it’s still incredibly fast at processing data inbetween matches, and saving and loading is lightning quick. A great new addition is the ability to change tactics and make substitutions on the fly whilst the game is in motion. There’s also an option to pause beforehand so you can take a good, long hard think about things, but for those that often saw the opposition pounce right before you were let into the tactics screen to change things around, it’s a godsend.
Unfortunately, despite these little tweaks, there’s no feeling of evolution. I feel as if I’ve just paid £30 for something that would normally come free or for a small charge with other titles, such is the practice on Xbox Live Marketplace these days. Everything is in the same place as before and you’ll not notice much different from last years installment. Training now feels like a chore, mainly because of the hard-to-see stars used to indicate how well a schedule is performing. You really have to lean into your screen to count how many there are, such is their close proximity, and the same applies to scout reports, which seem far less useful than before. Why you can’t just send a scout to go live in a region instead of him constantly reporting back in the middle of the season I just don’t know.
And now for the real annoyance – bugs. Fas’ons of ‘em, as Michael Caine once said. I can take a few things slipping through the net, but the amount of faults found in all the Football Manager titles of late just takes the piss. I actually feel insulted to pay this much for a game and then wait six months for all the patches to come out so I can finally play it as it was intended. And then guess what – you only have six more months until the next updated title comes out, which is also riddled with bugs thanks to an obviously poor testing programme. Football Manager 2007 had bugs which were never cured, a few of which yours truly submitted, so it’s worth wondering if SI Games will even bother to fix this years game too. I wish they’d go back to the good old days of releasing an engine and sticking with it for 3 years instead of these silly little yearly updates. Back in the good old days there was a thriving community run by fanatics, now there’s just a handful of websites filled with game busting tactics and training schedules. My personal favourite, The North Stand, has left the web indefinitely, and so have other fiction-based fansites too, because there’s just not the same enthusiasm as before. Now I may be bitter because of one of my inspirations for writing has been pretty much forced out, but take a look for yourselves – there’s nothing out there anymore because of the sudden commercialisation of the folks in the ivory towers.
So as it stands, Football Manager joins the rest of the sports titles this year in flogging a dead and diseased corpse to milk yet more cash from its demanding fanbase. How long exactly they’ll be allowed to carry on this practice I don’t know, but they’ve certainly lost our love here at Thunderbolt and, more importantly to them, our cash.
Seven out of ten
- Football management refined
- Better placement of toolbar buttons
- Most engrossing edition yet
- Bugs galore
- Despite the refinements, not much different to previous installments
- Should have been an update than an entirely new title