Football Manager 2010 PC DVD
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sports Interactive
With any game that's released on a yearly basis there comes a point when adding more and more features simply isn't enough. Sometimes, what is needed is for the game to undergo a process of refinement and for the existing features to be tweaked to make the whole thing a better overall experience. Since the first Football Manager back in 2004, the series has continually added new features and the result has not always been as impressive as it should have been. Whilst Football Manager 2010 does have several significant new features, the emphasis this year has been on polishing the existing experience to make it much more intuitive and enjoyable.
If my memory serves me correctly, we've had to use a sidebar-based interface in a Sports Interactive game since the days of Championship Manager 3 right up until last year's Football Manager 2009. This year sees the end of the sidebar however as a new tab system interface has been included. I've found this to be much more comfortable and intuitive to use than the old sidebar systems which forced you to move your mouse to either the left or right side of the screen. The various screens in the game have all been redesigned to make all of the information easier to access and for the most part it's very impressive. Yes it's possible that veteran fans of the series might find the changes a little disorienting at first but the interface is far superior than in previous games and it's well worth getting to grips with.
Whilst Football Manager 2010 comes with a multitude of leagues that you can manage in, there might be a lower English or other nation's league that you want to manage in which hasn't been included in the game. Thanks to a new data editor you can now not only update player data but also create new competitions, new leagues for nations that haven't been included in the game and also new lower level leagues for nations that already have leagues in the game. The editor is very easy to use and it only took me around twenty minutes to add a fictitious Japanese league in addition to an Emperor's Cup competition. You can tweak a variety of settings ranging from how many points you want for a win to many home grown players have to play in every match. You'll even get to decide on the amount of TV money and whether there are any parachute payments to be paid out upon relegation. In short the editor is impressive and should allow anyone to add a custom league or competition to their game with ease.
As well as being able to make substitutions and make tactical adjustments during the course of a match, you can now shout your orders from the touchline. Instructions such as "Pass the ball into space," "Clear ball to flanks," "Take a breather," "Drop deeper" and "Stay on feet" (and many more besides) can be issued from a drop-down menu. The good part about this feature is that it seems to work well (the effectiveness of some orders is dependent of the quality and intelligence of the players you're working with of course) and it does add to the match day experience.
The other new features this year all serve to make your life as a virtual manager a little easier. There's a match analysis tool that allows you to analyze the shots, passes, crosses, headers, tackles and fouls (amongst other things) that your players have made. It's not a sophisticated analysis tool by any means but it's effective and much easier to use than those found in other football management simulations. The tactics system has been overhauled and it's now much easier to set roles for your players and have them playing in your preferred style. There's even a tactics wizard that will walk you through every stage of creating your own special tactic. Series veterans can still opt to return to the less obvious method of tweaking their tactics with sliders if they wish but I find the new method to be much more approachable. Rather than simply being bombarded with news items, most of which won't interest you, you will now only be given news items that are to do with your running of the club. You can choose to subscribe to any other news items (for any player and club etc.) but by default you won't be bombarded by them which is much better. You can now have meetings with your backroom staff and they will offer advice on what action they think you should take which is a nice touch.
Some areas of the game still need work. One of those areas is the media interactions that you have to deal with. The press conferences seem almost identical to what was in last year's game and they can feel like they're getting in the way at times. Yes you can offload the responsibility to your assistant but you can never be sure of what he's going to say so while they still feel like a chore, it's better to take care of them yourself than have your assistant say something that isn't going to go down too well with some members of your squad. Whilst the tactics system has been overhauled and made more user friendly, the same cannot be said of the training system which still relies on you adjusting sliders. It's not a bad system but it's not as user friendly as it could be.
The big new feature last year was the 3D match engine but it was a little rough around the edges in quite a few respects. In truth, it's still not perfect this year but the amount of progress that has been made is impressive. The quality of the 3D graphics has improved slightly and you now even have some rudimentary crowd graphics this year to add to the atmosphere. The player animations are definitely better this year and there is a greater range of them. The goalkeeper animations in particular are a big improvement on those found in Football Manager 2009. There are still moments when it looks a little unrealistic. You might see some impromptu head tennis or some bizarre triangular passing patterns on the odd occasion. However, I've found the matches to be much more watchable and if Sports Interactive continue to make progress at this rate, it won't be long at all before we are watching virtual games of football that look completely realistic.
Football Manager 2010 won't cause deaf gamers any problems. All of the information is shown visually either through the use of text, numbers or icons. The game also uses colour-coding to good effect too, in its presentation of player attributes and so forth. The only sounds in the game are the crowd sound effects during matches. Last year we grumbled about how small some of the text and icons appeared when playing at a screen resolution of 1280x1024 and above. The text that's used to show the player names during the course of a match is still a little too small in all honesty but for the most part the text in the game is a lot easier on the eyes this year. In fact you can make it even easier on your eyes by using the dark interface skin which is much more relaxing on the eyes than the default light skin.
Football Manager 2010 is easily the best game in the series to date and it's a must purchase for anyone who has even the slightest fancy of being a virtual football manager. The 3D match engine has been significantly improved, the new interface is much better and the tactic system has been made much more user friendly. All of this, in addition to other, more subtle tweaks that we haven't mentioned, serve to make this the best, and certainly most polished game in the series and arguably the finest game that Sports Interactive have created to date.