Sunday, 21 February 2010

Review - Football Manager 2010

A Guest Review by Barry Burton
  • Game: Football Manager 2010
  • Format: Microsoft Windows
  • Other Formats: Mac OS X, PSP
  • Developer: Sports Interactive
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Genre: Sports Strategy

It’s the eighty-fifth minute of a vital table-topping clash away to Manchester City, and my Manchester United squad is currently deadlocked with its rivals at 1-1. At such a vital stage of the season – what pundits, armchair critics and general football tosspots like to call ‘the business end’ – a victory would represent not only a major scalp for a United side tipped by most for, at best, a solid mid-table finish, but a major psychological boost to a squad whose recent form, following a storming beginning to the season, has been inconsistent.

I am satisfied with my changes.


YEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!!! You bastard!

2 – 1. Two to one. Two FUCKING one.

If you’re wondering why the above sentences are so short, it’s simple – they are typed as I play, and with every ounce of my brain sweating, every electrical impulse hard-wired and every cell containing a formation, a player stat or a training schedule, there is little left over for such frivolities as articulacy and explanation. (The use of the words ‘frivolities’ and ‘articulacy’ in that sentence, incidentally, coincides with the conclusion of the derby fixture; a 2-1 win for the home side, a victory for – fancy this! – the underdogs of United and the pure, flowing football drilled into the side by scholarly manager Barry Burton.)

With that all-important fixture satisfactorily concluded, we can crack on with the review. I would say the review of the game, but Football Manager is more than a game. It’s more than a game about more than a game. It’s a metagame squared. What it is… well. What it is, those of you who ‘get’ it will be able to explain to yourselves. To the uninitiated, Football Manager 2010 is nothing more than a fancy database with a graphical skin and, in a frivolous concession to aesthetics of the sort that have been embedded more and more within the thing in the last decade, a 3D match simulator. And objectively, they’d be right. But, much like football itself, Football Manager 2010 does funny things. It is more than the sum of its parts. Like football, it can be uplifting, it can be crushing, it can be depressingly dull or thrillingly tense. It can be anything.

Unlike most games, there is no ‘end’ to Football Manager 2010. There is no way to complete the game; it simply continues, on into the future, for as long as the player dares to engage. The beauty of it is that there’s always a new twist around the corner - there’s always something to keep you going. There’ll always be another wonderkid, another challenge to set yourself, another project to nurture. The game’s boundaries are set entirely by the player, and the player himself tests himself within those boundaries. For a game that is at once so simple and yet so tantalisingly complex, this is tantamount to giving a 12-year-old a vault filled with sweets; he just wants to try everything, to keep going and keep pushing himself till he’s completely and utterly sated. And then he wants to do it again, and again, and again; pretty soon, he’s sporting a not inconsiderable paunch and can barely move from his chair. But I digress…

If you can find something witty to say about this screenshot, then don't be shy.

There has been little talk, amongst the conjecture and the waffle, of what the bleeding Hell this game is actually like to play. It’s difficult to describe the interface and the tools at the player’s disposal without referring back to previous games, but here goes: The transfers are more realistic than ever, and now other teams will actually bid for your players after you’ve transfer listed them; the 3D match engine is rubbish, an irrelevance, a distraction from the task at hand; player stats seem to be lower even than in the 2009 edition of the game, and the more seasons you play, the worse the standard of player seems to get, a strange pattern that really ought to be patched, either by makers Sports Interactive or by some obsessive bastard with too much time on his hands;  some nice new touches have been added, like stadia being renamed after club legends. The overall ‘feel’ of the game is of a game that is quicker and easier to click through than the 2009 edition, but that is still bloated when compared to the iterations of my childhood. Damn that match engine and damn that pretty game skin!

Those of you who have never played a Football Manager (or Championship Manager pre-2004) game will most likely have no idea what I’m on about, and most likely won’t care either.  You’ll never know the almost paternal feeling of pride that comes from one of your youth team graduates flourishing; never know the feeling of tension that comes with a vital relegation six-pointer; never know the feeling of satisfaction when all of your side’s plans for the season come to fruition.

Or at least, you won’t unless you’re a football fan. Football Manager is the football fan’s dream. Every football fan knows that if only he were in charge, if only he picked the team and set the tactics, things would be better for his team. Football Manager 2010, as it always has done and always will, takes this fantasy and makes it, if not real, then certainly…

Ah, fuck it. It’s real to me. Manchester United 2 – 1 Manchester City. There, on my hard drive, for all eternity.


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