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Football Manager 2008 (PC) artwork

Football Manager 2008 (PC) review


"You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only play one more match, only to play three more. One thing that hasn’t changed about the series is its scary ability to draw you in and keep you addicted."



At its core, Football Manager 2008 is still the same football management simulator as before – albeit an incredibly addictive one. You pick a team to take charge of, mould your inherited squad into your own, and send your lads out with the hope of winning every match you play. From the backroom staff to the training sessions to your transfer targets, there is a lot under your control.

However, the gratifying sense of managing a club wouldn’t be there if the matches themselves were lacklustre and forgettable. Fortunately, they are undoubtedly one of the best parts of the game. With a refined and realistic match engine and a plethora of options when creating new tactics and formations, match days are extremely gripping as you will your team on and witness them excel or flop. You’ll freeze when your defence falls apart, gifting the opposing striker a clear shot at goal. You’ll grin you’re your skilled winger earns the side a penalty. You’ll cheer when your substitute scores and wins you the match. Though your players are just names and numbers, it’s surprisingly easy to empathise with them and feel like you’re part of the action.

On the touchline, you’ll have to use your wits to lead your squad to each victory, often tweaking your tactics to counter your opposing manager’s changes. Sending scouts to observe your opponents beforehand or doing the research yourself can give you that crucial edge. Learning their style of play (do they pass the ball along the ground with a high tempo or hoof it up and play route one football?), preferred formation, and key stars should help in forming your own game plan. If they like to play short passes through the middle, fielding a defensive midfielder might be wise. If their strikers have pace and prefer low balls they can run onto, you could ask your defenders to sit more deeply. It’s good to find out if your usual forms of attack will be effective. If your team usually relies on pumping crosses into the box and getting your star striker with excellent jumping and heading attributes to nod the ball into the net, you might want to see how competent the opposing centre halves are at winning headers in the air. And if you’re the clear underdog going into a match, your free-flowing slick and attacking football might not be wise if your defence is vulnerable to fast counter-attacks.

Each team is unique – their stature, rivalries, facilities, and squads are all represented superbly well when compared alongside real life, and they come with their own set of short-term challenges. Manchester United supporters expect silverware, and you’ll be backed by the board to achieve instant success with a generous transfer budget. Leicester City wants Premier League football, and getting them out of such a competitive league as the Coca-Cola Championship is no easy feat. Maybe you’ll build your team around the likes of Steven Clemence and James Chambers and send your scouts to unearth some bargains from the lower leagues. Or perhaps instead of staying in England, you’ll take charge of Serie A strugglers Cagliari, as you try to keep the board off your back by keeping the team away from the relegation zone. Funds are low, so you might be tempted to loan a few fringe players from better-off teams instead. If you do that, you could take advantage of one of the game’s new features, using your excessive transfer budget to expand your wage bill, and vice versa.

It’s true that all teams have the same long-term goal: progressively move up the table and be in a much better place a few years down the line. But while football is a results-based business, much of the success could boil down to what you do off-the-field. For instance, a top team like Chelsea has to ensure their next multi-million pound foreign signing will fit in and adapt to English football. My first managerial role was at Manchester City, and in my first month, I had to make a key decision. Chelsea and AC Milan were both showing significant interest in the talented defender Micah Richards. Should I cash in, or should I put up a fight and keep him at the City of Manchester Stadium? I fought tooth and nail to keep him, declaring that he wasn’t for sale and rebuffing any offer. Richards wasn’t happy that I prevented a move to a team more ambitious, but being a professional, he got over it and pulled out some stellar performances to steer my side into fifth place in the Premier League. Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the first signing I made – a Ł10m deal for Newcastle’s Michael Owen. Banging in more than twenty goals in his first season, he has already established himself as a fan favourite.

It’s times like these that fill you with a sense of accomplishment, just like when you succeed in nurturing a young talent into a competent first-team player, or when you have an excellent cup run that exceeds everyone’s expectations, or when you see that your players actually respect you. I was feeling pretty damn happy about myself when I took my beloved Nottingham Forest back into the Premier League after a few seasons of hard work. Ah, how reality sucks sometimes.

If you’re new to the series, Football Manager 2008 is a good time to start. SI Games has introduced a new skin and an advisor system that serves as a tutorial that you can turn off at any time, as well as improved navigation around the game’s many screens. For returning players, it’s more of a refinement than anything groundbreakingly new. Aside from an updated database that features more than 300,000 players and staff and 5,000 teams, the game also claims to include more than 100 new features – some that you’ll notice, some that you probably won’t at first. International management, transfer negotiations, and board interactions have all seen welcome improvements, and the addition of collective win bonuses, a new transfer centre, and randomly generated faces for “new generation” players are all rather nice. You can even ask your groundsman to alter the pitch dimensions to suit your team’s style of play. Together, the changes provide a more enhanced experience than last year’s outing. Whether that’s enough to shell out for the latest iteration is up to you.

For the die-hard fans, though, all of this will inevitably contribute to many more late nights. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only play one more match, only to play three more. One thing that hasn’t changed about the series is its scary ability to draw you in and keep you addicted.

Rating: 8/10

Ben's avatar
Freelance review by Ben Lee (December 24, 2007)

Ben used to freelance for HonestGamers. Now he spends his spare time dying repeatedly on Spelunky.

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