It’s a popular pub conversation: If you could take control of your team, every aspect from youth training up to the big name transfers, just how far could you take them? Since the 1st game to bear the title Football Manager graced the humble Spectrum, way back in ’82, we’ve been able to provide an answer. Well, to whatever extent the primitive technology of the day could stretch, which was usually a single league or country’s leagues with which to play with. As the years rolled on the games got fancier, and various series emerged, including the unparalleled Championship Manager, and more recent examples such as LMA or FIFA Manager.
FM09 is of course the most recent annual version of the game, with all the standard updates in player rosters and leagues, as well as the usual minor changes to the interface and a new Ultimate Selling Point, which are there to convince gamers that buying the new game will be much more rewarding than just updating the data in the old one and making do. This year Sports Interactive have rolled out the BRAND NEW 3D MATCH ENGINE, which is a step up from the standard “dots running around a rectangle” graphics we’ve enjoyed up until now, however I can’t really comment on the new match engine as I couldn’t get it to work on my computer, and had to struggle to turn it off and get the game running.
Once I worked it out I chose to start off as manager of my favourite club, with full control over all team affairs, but there is the option of managing almost any team worldwide or to start off unemployed and work hard for your big breakthrough. Many people believe that the most rewarding way to play is to bring a small team to the very top through canny transfers and grinding out important results, but everyone will find their level.
Media interaction is of greater importance in FM09, with the new press conferences giving you the opportunity to talk up your chances before a big game, or perhaps psyche out an opposition player by stating an interest in him. It’s a limited and ultimately pointless feature though; questions and answer begin to repeat quickly, there’s no way to skip the conferences without storming out of them, making you look bad, and if you send your assistant in your place he might begin spouting nonsense and harming team morale, so you feel pressured into attending all of them. Other than that and some minor interface tweaking there’s little difference between 09 and 08.
Much like all FM games addiction sets in early on, and you’ll find yourself cramming in just one more match for hours on end. You begin to get very emotional about events in the game: the excitement of landing a big name transfer, screen-breaking frustration at your team’s inability to break down a stubborn defence, the sense of shame upon reloading a file after losing an important match, you’ll run the gamut in a matter of days. In a way the worst thing about this game is its uncanny ability to make you lose track of time. Time will slowly empty into the black hole this creates in your life, leaving you in a kind of event horizon where minutes become hours, a quick play becomes a weekend of screen burn, and friends become a slightly odd feeling in the back of your mind. I haven’t been so addicted to a videogame since Perfect Dark on the N64, when I was 10 and I did nothing but play games with my brother. While I wouldn’t recommend it on the strength of the updates alone, for a newcomer FM09 is a superb investment, and for football fans I can’t recommend it highly enough. Just be prepared to give up a few aspects of real life for the next wee while.