Ever had a dream to manage your favourite football team or have you ever felt like you could do better than Fabio Capello? Well for most of us football fans, that dream will never become a reality, so for the next best thing enter the Football Manager (FM) series.
Originally released in 1992 on the PC platform as ‘Championship Manager’, it was the first of its kind and has been ever popular with football fans alike. Year after year a new ‘updated’ version of the title with some new features is released allowing the popular franchise to continue.
In 2004 Football Manager was created after developers Sports Interactive (SI) split from publishers Eidos Interactive, but they managed to retain the rights to the source code although they never kept the name.
So let’s crack on and talk about Football Manager 08 (FM 08). FM 08 remains the classic game that first graced the Earth in 1992. You create a profile – this time utilising the Xbox Vision Camera – select a Domestic or National Team and your good to go.
Sports Interactive claim to have included over 100 new features not found in FM 07. Firstly they have revised the look of FM 08 with a brand new skin. Its easy on the eye and everything is where is should be. Secondly they have improved the matchday experience linking together match previews, tactics and the all important team talks, making you feel more like a manger. The boards confidence system has also had adjustments. It allows you to see you how your board and your fans feel about how you are running the team; so if you keep winning you’ll be fine, whereas if you start to lose, your fans might lose patience with you and start calling for your head.
Other realistic features added is the communication that the board have with you directly. At the start of a season the board will ask you where you think the club will finish in the league. You can tell the board that you want to win the league, and the board will give you more transfer funds and wage bills to spend. But by gaining the extra funds it will also boost the boards expectations of the club. The board will now expect you to win almost everything or at least be challenging for everything. This puts pressure on yourself and your players to do well. But the extra money does come in handy. The transfer system has also had an overhaul allowing you to negotiate, re-negotiate and then negotiate some more to get a fair price, and we all like a good price.
SI have also added a new advisory system to guide first timers to managerial glory. It pops up almost after everytime you continue, which for a FM veteran like myself and even the first timers, it can get a little frustrating! Happily, this feature can be turned off, which is exactly what you will be doing if you have half an idea about the Football Manager series.
FM 08 has clung onto the excel style spreadsheet as that’s obviously what works best. I cant really comment much about the graphics as there isn’t really anything to comment on! The new skin looks nice and the only animation in the game takes place during matches on the 2D pitch. Players are represented as little circles with tiny feet that move around the park simulating the movement of a football game (Surprisingly). This works well and will often get you on the edge of your seat as you see your prized striker (which you purchased using the extra funds that your board gave you) go through on goal to attempt to score that all important winner.
As for the Audio: Non-existent. You will get the occasional grunt or groan from the crowd when you score a goal but that’s about it. Some menu music would have been nice but at least with the Xbox 360 you can put on some custom soundtracks so it wont bother you too much.
Using the Xbox 360 control pad for FM 08 is frustrating at first. You will often find yourself pressing the wrong button and ending up going somewhere you don’t want to go. Although frustrating at first you do get used to them and it soon doesn’t become a problem. Unfortunately it’s not the classic mouse found in the PC version of FM 08.
Online play is where you really get the chance to show your wits and outsmart your opponents. Online play allows you to take on other human opponents in Xbox Live cups and league’s. This would be great but for a few minor issues. Finding a game just seems impossible thanks to the new search engine, then when an opponent does come along the game just seems to take forever to move on as your opponent is tinkering with their team. There also doesn’t appear to be a default clock to speed things up which would have been a welcome addition to the online aspect. For some reason gamers can also pause the match at any time and with no clock, this can become annoying as you could be sitting there all day waiting for your opponent to continue. Online play comes alive when playing with friends however. You can start with a default team, a career team or even play the Fantasy Draft team. Fantasy Draft teams allow gamers to take turs and pick players from the best teams in the world to create a squad of galacticos (another word for amazing player). This is a very welcomed addition to FM 08.
The achievements in FM 08 are similar to those in previous FM games. Get your player to score a hatrick, get 5GS points and so on. For the bigger points you are required to win leagues and cups from different countries but these take time and if it’s achievements that you are after then stay clear of FM 08.
Overall FM 08 has its ups and down. For fans of the series, this game will keep you gaming month after month if not year after year but in doing so your partner might be joining the ‘FM stole my Boyfriend’ club [or girlfriend -Ed]. You will often find yourself saying ‘one more game’ but this soon turns into ‘one more season’. But with badly thought out online modes and no major improvements from previous FM games, my advice to you is to buy the PC version if you have a PC, both for cost and the fact that using a mouse is much easier. If you have no PC, then it’s certainly not a bad buy and should be in every football fans game collection.