Football Manager 2008 PC CD & Mac
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sports Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
The PC game industry is often claimed to be dwindling away. A look at the decreasing amount of shelf space given to PC games in most game stores would certainly seem to support this theory. That said, there are certain PC games that set like hot cakes. The Football Manager series can definitely be regarded as one of those proverbial hot cakes and it's no surprise that within days of its release the game has soared to the top of the all format charts. When it comes to football management simulations Sports Interactive are the experts and in a football mad country like England their games are revered and eagerly awaited. So eagerly awaited it seems that some stores couldn't help themselves and began to sell Football Manager 2008 early this year. Anyway, let's get on with looking at Football Manager 2008.
Usually when you look at a new version of a game that's released on an annual basis you'll find that developers claim to have a few features that will dramatically change the experience. This year that isn't the case with Football Manager 2008 however, you'll find many subtle tweaks and minor additions that on their own don't really seem to be that impressive but when you put them all together it actually makes the game feel quite different from last year's version.
The first change you're going to notice is the new skin. The green look from the previous versions has now gone and it's been replaced with a whiter, brighter skin. The general look of the interface has changed too with SI taking a more user friendly approach. The overall look is quite a departure from previous versions. Initially I was sceptical about it but after extensive use I actually have no problems with it. It's strange a more traditional skin wasn't offered as an alternative however and some have complained about the colour of the player attributes being unkind to those who suffer from colour blindness.
Starting a new game you'll notice that you're now asked to declare your captain and vice-captain for the whole season. Your groundsman will give you the opportunity to alter the dimensions of your pitch (naturally there are limitations based on the size of the ground). The idea being that a more narrow pitch will stifle skilful teams whilst a wider playing surface will favour those who like to play an attractive style of football. If you've played a previous Football Manager game you'll have had times when you've got a decent transfer kitty but you're unable to land that player you need because he's asking for more money than your board are willing to pay. This has been a common and frustrating problem for me over the years but in FM2008 you can request that some of your transfer kitty be used to allow you to go up the wage limit. This is actually a great inclusion even if on the surface it only seems like a minor thing.
I always make a point of selecting a lower league team when I first play a new Sports Interactive management game. On playing my first game in the Swedish lower leagues the first thing I noticed was how the games actually look like a non-league game. You won't see any fancy play or artistic dribbles at this level of football. In fact you'll often see football that's riddled with mistakes and Sports Interactive has modelled this very nicely. I followed this up by watching games at other levels and, for the most part, I think SI has modelled the different levels of football quite accurately. What you’ll also notice on match days is that the game no longer pauses when you make a substitution. Instead the game will switch to real-time to allow you time to make your adjustments. I’m not sure this adds much to the experience but it’s something that takes a while to get used to.
Other improvements include revamped international management with better scouting, player pools and media interaction. The assistant managers now seem far more useful with the information they provide. The new Transfer Centre allows you to check on the progress of your transfer negotiations on one screen. A calendar has been added so that you can see everything that's happening in any given month. The notebook feature has been expanded and you can even leave reminder notes that appear on your calendar. You're given greater feedback regarding the fans’ thoughts of your management. You'll be told what they think of your purchases and each match result, for instance. Your board will also arrange fan days as a way of trying to win the fans over. All generated players now have a face thanks to the new FaceGen Technology. You'll see your players’ age (and reportedly change their hairstyles too) as they progress through the years. A new Advisor system gives you context sensitive advice on each screen and this is a more useful method of learning how to play the game than the text based tutorial (which has still been included). The game now processes data more quickly and the difference between FM2007 and FM2008 is quite considerable. In fact there are many subtle tweaks throughout the game and in truth I'd be here all day talking about them. Suffice to say that pretty much everything that's been tweaked actually has a positive effect on the game.
Football Manager 2008 is another fine addition to the Football Manager series but it's not without its problems. The tactical option to close down the opposition isn't working at present. There are too many disallowed goals and there are times when referees like to give out cards aplenty. There have also been some reports that when playing in the Scottish leagues the fixtures for the second year are not generated correctly. In fairness the problems that FM2008 has are fairly minor and Sports Interactive are moving quickly to sort them out. At the time of writing a beta patch has been released (the official patch is going to follow in a few weeks) and this does appear to have fixed the aforementioned problems. Bug issues aside the only new feature I don't think does anything for the game is the Match Flow presentation. Instead of checking over your squad and then proceeding straight to the match you're forced to go to the tactics screen, the team talk screen, the opposition instruction screen and then finally the match screen. This adds unnecessary bloat to the whole experience, strings together screens you could access if you really wanted to, and requires too many mouse clicks to get to the match. There is an option in the game preferences to disable Match Flow but it doesn't seem to do anything to prevent you having to wade through all of these screens.
As with all Sports Interactive titles, Football Manager 2008 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All information in the game is displayed through the use of icons, numbers and text. The only sounds in the game are the match sounds and it's certainly no loss that deaf gamers will be unaware of these. I do wish that you could disable the text flashing when a goal is scored however, as this must uncomfortable for those who suffer from photosensitive epilepsy.
Football Manager 2007 was a sensational football management game and it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Football Manager 2008 is a game that generally sees improvements made in most areas of the game and as such, is a must own for fans of the series. That said, there is no feature that particularly stands out and it's the overall effect that the small improvements have on the game that make the overall package superior to last year's game. There are a few bugs, which is to be expected in a game of this magnitude and virtually countless eventualities, but the game is perfectly playable out of the box and the beta patch appears to correct the few problems that are here. In short, it's the best football management game you can buy for at least the next twelve months.