The FIFA Manager series has always struggled when compared to Sports Interactive’s Football Manager titles. While the latter was jam packed with intelligent AI, a realistic transfer system, and more tactical options than you could shake a hefty stick at, the latter was all about the style.
This high level of polish, something synonymous with all EA published titles, continues. The bright starting skin is easy on the eye, something essential considering the vast amount of time you’ll be staring at the monitor. The addition of a wide range of real world brand names such as tabloid "The Sun" is a fairly important decision when attempting to drag you into the world of professional football management.
That’s not to say that the ultimate design is anything special. The entire screen is jam packed with masses of statistics and information, not all of which is even vaguely relevant to the job you’re currently tasked with. It’s tricky to get to grips with, particularly for those well bred on the Football Manager series and its delightfully uncluttered appearance.
Setting up your manager consists of the standard options with regards to name, date of birth, and favoured and disliked teams as you’d expect from a modern football management title. What isn’t quite so seemingly relevant is the inclusion of the ability to add your relationship status, going so far as to enter your partner’s details, as well as any children who can appear in your club’s youth team if over the age of 10.
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The ridiculous inclusions don’t stop there. Where the Football Manager series sees your trophy cabinet as the true show of managerial greatness, FIFA Manager 09 is all about the money. You can trade in basic shares, spend money on houses, luxury items, and various bits of fluff that have no impact other than a tick of a box on your manager’s stats screen.
It’s not that these additions are inherently bad. They could, if included to a high level of design brilliance, easily improve the overall realism of the game world. But here they’re simply a superficial distraction from the action on the pitch, and obviously a disturbance for the development team themselves.
This is inherently obvious with the basic stats and positions of your squad. While all the top players are rated realistically, drop down the leagues and things start to go awry. Only a dip into the English Championship, one league below the money spinning Premier League saw one team with two first choice centre-backs that in real life are staunch full-backs.
Out on the pitch things aren’t all that either. The 3D match engine is reasonably detailed, but it still feels akin to the FIFA series almost a decade ago. The player AI on show isn’t always the best, with mysterious passes and decisions certainly not a rarity. And the less said about the frustrating ability to actually take control of one player on the pitch the better.
Your tactical options too simply aren’t up there with the best the genre has to offer. Hover between the two extremes of all out attack or defence and you’d be hard pressed to feel as if your orders have any effect. It feels incredibly lightweight, particularly when compared to the latest in the Football Manager series.
FIFA Manager 09 simply isn’t good enough to take on the current king of the genre. The unneeded and unrealistic additions simply detract from what is essentially a fairly standard take on the footballing management genre.
Add some quite blatant errors to players and their positions/skills as you drop down the leagues and EA’s latest attempt is one to only pick up if Football Manager 2009 proves much too complicated.