As one would expect, match days are the bread and butter of the Football Manager experience and SI has once again tweaked things to improve what it calls the 'match flow'. This entails a number of changes, providing a more structured introduction to events by leading you through each stage, beginning with selection, through to a media preview, team talk, and opposition instructions.
In some respects this helps, but if anything there are rather too many hoops to jump through before you can get to the match. Once you do get to the match, another long awaited change is the ability to change tactics on-the-fly instead of having to wait for a gap in play. This is great in theory, however in practice it hasn't been handled as well as it might. When you do click the Tactics tab you're greeted by the familiar arrangement, with the addition of a small pitch at the bottom to show you what's going on.
On paper this is fine, but it's hardly the sea change it ought to and could have been. In reality I found myself entering this screen and then pausing the match, giving me the time to make the changes I wanted without missing anything important. This is because although it's been made possible to make tactical change in real-time, nothing has been done to streamline the interface to reflect this. Ideally, it would be nice if you could adjust the basic instructions such as attitude and passing style without entering a separate screen, leaving more complicated changes for a new dialog.
Also slightly irksome is the inability to set a default view for each new match. So, for example, I like to use the split view with my player ratings in one pane and match stats in the other but every time a new match begins it takes me straight to the entirely useless match overview screen, necessitating pausing the match every time to set things up as I like them. These little things don't spoil things too much, but they're the sort of things I'd expect SI to be sorting out by now.
Thankfully, one thing remains constant: that being the sheer brilliance of the game engine. No other management title I've played has been able to capture the ebb and flow and emotional troughs that are generated during a game of football. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll shout obscenities and jump out of your seat in fury, a mere number cruncher it is not.
Another continuing strength of the game is ability to defer responsibilities. More than ever it's easy to pick and choose what you want to deal with, allowing you restrict your activities to just match days and the transfers or studiously manage your team's training schedule down to the man. Of course, the other major attraction is simply the depth and variety of challenge on offer, which hasn't changed one iota.