The old adage of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" has never rung more true than with the Football Manager series.
Year after year we’ve been handed pretty much the exact same game, but with just the right number of tweaks to push the enjoyment level that tiny bit higher. Think of it like Lindsay Lohan and her many bouts under the plastic surgeon’s knife. Allegedly.
Over a hundred tiny fixes have been promised this time around. The big shouting points are the much more detailed match day media fare and the new "confidence" system to show you just how much the fans and chairman love or loathe you. Avram Grant take note.
It’s obvious right from the off that Football Manager 2008 is the best footie management sim bar none. Forget your Championship Managers and your FIFA Managers, this is the pinnacle of the beautiful game.
For the uninitiated, don’t go expecting life on the sidelines to be any easier than out on the pitch. You may not be firmly in control of all those overpaid primadonnas, but you still have a thousand things to ponder a second.
Managing a virtual football team has never been more complex. Not only do you have to try to tempt your players to put in a healthy shift every match day, but you’ve the media to keep happy too. The chairman and fans won’t shy from giving their opinion either.
The brand new "confidence" screen holds a tonne of important info. At the top is the board’s thoughts on hitting your long-term goal – you should keep your eye on these stats if you want to do a Fergie and stay at your club for decades. And yes, some chairmen want their cake and eat it.
Scroll down and you’ll see everything from the fans' opinions of your last gasp victory against the league’s top placed team to ratings of individual signings. So if that overpriced foreign striker isn’t banging in the goals, expect your fans to show their displeasure pretty fast.
Each club has wildly different goals. While Chelsea will happily get shot of you if you drop the odd point, Doncaster Rovers are far more easy going. At the start of every season, your board will give you the opportunity to tweak the expectation levels for the coming year. If you reckon you’ve already got a top side that only requires a few signings, then you can let the board know that you’ll happily do better than they hope for that extra slither of cash to spend.
The new interface takes a little getting used to. While age old FM addicts will be right at home with the same old menus based system, the icons hovering towards the top of the screen will save you some major time once you learn what they all do. The new skin is a little too white and dull, so we encourage you to download one of the new revisions that fans are already knocking up.
There’s one more addition worth speaking of – a far more solid match engine. Be warned though that one Mansized regular has already spotted a few bugs and we’re ever so slightly narked by the high number of deflected free kicks.
Football Manager doesn’t move forward much from year to year, but there’s always a new feature that you really must splash out for. This year we’re less convinced. The lower than normal asking price softens the blow, but you can’t help feeling SI could have released a patch and knocked 80% off the bill.
Football Manager 2008 is best iteration of the series since 2001/2 and fanatics will love it. We’re waiting for next years’s online only Football Manager Live to really take the franchise to the next level.
But aside from these new features you’re looking at pretty much the same game as last year’s version. And that’s why FM 2008 doesn’t get our top score.