Football Manager 2010 Review

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Most reviews of this year’s Football Manager will likely speak of incremental improvements and upgrades to some of the systems, discussing it as evolution not revolution. But we at Critical Gamer instead want to focus firstly on what makes the game so bloody brilliant in the first place.

Football Manager is essentially the gaming equivalent of crack. It’s addictive, it will probably make your family disown you and if you let it, it’ll consume your every waking thought. To the newcomer or non-football fan, this is baffling. They’ll cry out “It looks like a spreadsheet!” or “The graphics are crap!” but that’s missing the point entirely. Football Manager is about living your footballing dreams inside a well designed and complex simulation, with almost everything you could imagine that would entail. If you want you can play as Man City and just buy all the best players in the world with their untold gazillions, winning almost by default. But for most of us the joy comes from taking our club from zeros to heroes, and having absolute managerial control over that rise to glory.

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Football Manager has always allowed you to choose just how much you want to get involved in the day to day running of your football club and for the 2010 edition this is even more pronounced. This time out your back-room staff will give you advice on just about everything, from promising players, training improvements and additions to both your playing and coaching staff. This may not sound particularly profound, but it gives the series a whole new level of feedback and advice that really gives you an insight as to how the tactics and player development aspects of the game work. Obviously, if your coaching staff are all a bit thick you may want to take their advice with a pinch of salt.

The other big change this year that makes a huge difference is the tactics creator. Sports Interactive worked alongside the community members from FM-Britain to bring in a more intuitive system. It works by asking the player to set their formation and assign individual roles to players based on footballing terminology, rather than fiddling around with sliders to try and achieve the desired effect. It works brilliantly well and highlights the attributes a player needs to perform a particular role. It has a knock on effect throughout the game too, you won’t just be looking for a good striker to buy, you’ll be looking for the striker who’ll add an extra creative dimension to your team and can perform in the particular roles you need filled. It creates a great sensation of crafting a team around a central framework of how you want to play. Having said that, you can still spend all your time finding players with ridiculous names to create the ultimate comedy team if you so desire.

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The 3D match engine was only introduced last year, but it feels like it’s been there forever, so seamlessly has it been integrated into the game. This year’s engine is even better, with a variety of new and improved animations that give the action a more realistic feeling. The graphics still aren’t very pretty and the cardboard cut-out crowd is quite hilariously bad, yet simultaneously hypnotic with its gentle swaying motion . One of the first things you’ll notice when playing a match is the new drop down menu that offers touchline instructions. So now you too get to be the red faced idiot in a suit jumping up and down like a seven year old at the side of the pitch, with just a couple clicks of the mouse! The instructions are useful and stop the action getting bogged down with tactical changes as often as in previous versions, but all they are really doing is tweaking one of the now hidden sliders to the left or the right. It’s wise to use them sparingly and save them for particular situations, but can be invaluable when you want your team to push on to find that last gasp equaliser.

It’s worth pointing out that for all these tweaks and changes that make the game more accessible and easier to understand, the same engine is still under the hood. So for any veteran players who fear their game is being dumbed down, you’ll be relieved to find that accessing the old sliders and player instructions is as easy as clicking an Advanced button. This allows you to tweak and fiddle to your hearts content until you can squeeze the very best out of each one of your players. We suspect though that most players will be relatively content with using the new options available.

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For football fans across the world the release of a new edition of Football Manager is a huge thing. Every statistic and every player is debated over (Darren Bent only has 13 finishing? Really!?). Make no mistake, if you don’t like football you probably won’t like Football Manager, but if you do this one will keep you playing all year long. Whilst 2010 may not be a massive step up from 2009, it’s quite easily one of the best editions of the game ever, if not the best. So you can beat us around the head and face with your evolution not revolution quotes if you want, but for us this is a damned near perfect management simulation. If you have any interest whatsoever in football, you owe it to yourself to go grab a copy.

9/10

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Written by Michael J

Michael is a self proclaimed PC gaming fanatic and is equally at home with all genres, bar platformers and puzzle games. Except Bejeweled, he's awesome at that. Seriously, he is totally like second on his Facebook Bejeweled leaderboard. And they said he'd never amount to anything...

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