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Writing a Football Manager review is hard for me. That might seem like a strange way to look at a living which involves playing computer games, but it is because I hate to appear like a gushing fan boy and the trouble with the latest edition of this stunning series was for a few weeks I was convinced I was going to sound like one. Then something rather more sobering dawned on me…
While the rest of the industry predictably swoons once again to its favourite son I’ve developed a major gripe. So much so, that I’m going to dedicate a large portion of this review to it. Ready? *Drum Roll* It’s Too Real. Confused? Let me explain. With every incarnation of Football Manager (or Championship Manager as it was before the blah de blah…) it seems more is added and nothing is taken away. For instance, in the 2006 edition we have half time team talks, touchline commands, one-on-one player interaction, direct board level contact, a more detailed tactics screen, more in-depth training, extra stats and greater media interaction. Fine.
The problem with all this, unless you’re a decade long aficionado, is that it has become rather too bloated to just load up and play. In fact, I’ve owned every Sports Interactive coded game under both CM and FM brands and even I’ve come to feel rather daunted by each new release. There is a certain reticence that presses upon me to leave behind a version I have finally mastered to be swamped by even greater depths of number crunching and day-to-day responsibility.
Take my first two days with the game. I only got through pre-season. That's over 12 hours playing before I reached a competitive game. It is not insignificant either to point out the last time I managed to have a regular two player game of Football Manager was three editions back and even then my flat mate and I both admitted the fun had gone when you each wait the better part of 30 minutes for your turn. It is said when Sir Bobby Robson first took over at Ipswich his duties extended to changing toilet rolls in the latrines. Well, I don’t want that from my football sim, but I have a feeling Sports Interactive may introduce the option next time around.
So the get-up-and-go factor has gone, long gone, but that is not to imply it is a bad game. To the contrary, nothing could be further from the truth. Football Manager 2006 is a technically stupendous achievement. Depending on the power of computer at your disposal it is possible to play with leagues from 51 countries simultaneously, populated by more than 275,000 players, managers and staff and from the moment you walk into the job the pressure is on. The media is immediately on your back for being an unknown and the fans are sceptical. In fact, kicking Graeme Souness out of a job was the only pleasurable moment in what was otherwise wave upon wave of player and boardroom troubles. That said, I did pick Newcastle…