FIFA Manager 09 PC DVD
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: Bright Future
Release Date: Out Now
It's that time of year again when we usually have three new football management games vying for our attention. This year there are only two as the latest Championship Manager game has been put back until April next year. That leaves SEGA's and EA Sports' efforts and first up is EA's FIFA Manager 09. The first two entrants in the FIFA Manager series weren't up to much but last year's FIFA Manager 08 showed real signs of improvement. Fans of the series will be pleased to learn that FIFA Manager 09 manages to keep the standard of last year's game but they might be disappointed to learn that not much has been done to improve it.
FIFA Manager 09 remains very much in the same vein as the previous games in the series. That is to say it's not a football management simulation that only tasks you with a real football manager's responsibilities. Whilst you can just concentrate on managing your team, and there are many leagues to manage in, you can handle virtually every aspect of running a football club from developing the stadium to selling the advert boards. There are many aspects of the game you can alter to make the game as easy or as challenging as you wish meaning virtually anyone should be able to find a difficulty level that suits them. You have some lifestyle options here too. Will you be single or married? Will you play golf or take up sailing? Want to learn a second or third language? Want to control a player during the course of a match in a rather simplified fashion? These are options that are all open to. In short FIFA Manager 09 is trying to be more of a straightforward and approachable game that doesn't require you to be a tactical genius.
Having an approachable game is certainly admirable but the interface isn't as intuitive as it could have been. There's far too much ploughing through various menus to get to things. It's all far from intuitive. I found myself looking in the manual to find out how to do certain things, such as removing an injured player from the squad, which is something I've never had to do with a football management game before. Sometimes the screens can take a few seconds to move from one to another. At first this is fine as it looks rather swish but before long you find yourself becoming rather impatient with the lack of immediacy. In the developer's defence I should mention that the ability to bind a menu to a hotkey (F1-F8) has been included, so you can access eight of your most visited menus at the touch of a button which does cut down a little on wading through menus. You'll also find a series of widgets at the bottom of the screen and you can customise these to display information that you want to hand.
So what else is new this year then? There's now a youth transfer market allowing you to offer contracts to players in other teams' youth sides. Of course the other teams will be after you best youth players too, so this new feature is a double-edged sword. New merchandising options are available allowing you to buy, sell and manage stock. New items can be produced just in time for Christmas to rake in that extra cash. Those who like to develop their manager's personal life will be interested to learn that you can buy shares and long-term investments. Those simply wanting to concentrate on what a real football manager would concern himself with will be pleased to learn there are some new tactical options to tinker with and the text commentary has been improved too.
The 3D match engine looks better than ever but whilst it looks great it's far from being perfect. The players still don't behave in a realistic fashion a lot of the time, although it's definitely improved in this respect. It can be very frustrating to see your player go round several defenders and be ideally placed to shoot only to hit the ball out to the wing or back towards their own goal. Most of the unrealistic behaviour isn't this extreme and it has to be said there are fewer of these occurrences than in previous versions of the game. The replays can be annoying too. You don't only have a replay after a goal. Occasionally you'll have a replay after a near miss. This is fine of course but all too often the replay is of an earlier event and nothing to do with the missed chance which is just silly. The default camera angles aren't that good but thankfully you can customise the camera angle which allows you to set a up a view to suit yourself.
FIFA Manager 09 won't cause deaf gamers any problems. Although the 3D matches are commentated on and the commentary isn't subtitled, it's so repetitive and provides no useful information at all. All of the important information in the game is shown visually through the use of numbers, icons and text meaning you'll always be aware of everything. Last year we commented on the manual not being good enough and this year it definitely seems to be an improvement. In fact it certainly helped me when I needed a little help with the interface.
Taking everything into consideration, I think FIFA Manager 09 just about manages to surpass FIFA Manager 08 and those who enjoyed that game won't be disappointed with what's on offer here. Those expecting the game to take more of a simulation approach to football management probably won't find the game to their taste however. That's not to say the game isn't fun or that it lacks depth. There's a lot to take on board here and if you choose to take control of the complete running of the club you're going to have a lot of things to juggle. If you find the Football Manager games too unforgiving or if you want an alternative style of game then FIFA Manager 09 could well be the game you're looking for.