Elsewhere there are even more tweaks to be found. Board Confidence, something that’s existed in the game for quite a while now, has been expanded to give you more feedback about how the board and the fans feel you’re performing. This includes the confidence in the signings you have made, how you’ve managed the finances and, of course, how they feel your team are performing on the pitch.
And out on the pitch things have changed a bit more, too. In the tactics screen, for example, you can no longer set players to move sideways or more than one position forward or back. SI’s reasoning for this is that such appendages served no realistic tactical role and we’re given to agree. Indeed, it’s noticeable over recent iterations that the tactical element of FM has become far more realistic. Thus the game has become much less about concocting weird and wonderful “killer” tactics and more about organising your team effectively, matching the right players to the right roles and ensuring they’re capable of doing what you ask. It might upset some long-time users, but from a purist point of view it makes perfect sense.
Likewise, that player ratings are no longer integer is an excellent move, too. Instead of getting a whole team scoring 7/10 for their performances, you get people on 6.8 or 7.1 and so forth. This provides a more accurate understanding of how each player compares while the distance covered stat is also a great tool to see who is putting in the hard yards and who is being lazy.
Another welcome extension comes in training. Though you’ve been able, for a long time in fact, to re-train players into new positions, it hasn’t been possible to train new ‘preferred moves’ – as they are called in the game. This has now been rectified, so you can encourage midfielders to get into the box, wingers to run with the ball, defenders to not dive in and plenty else besides. This is another invaluable tool in melding and shaping your squad to suit the kind of game you want to play, so you needn’t always dump a player who otherwise is perfectly capable or has potential.
Given the size of the game it’s amazing there aren’t more obvious problems, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Even after the first patch injuries to players within games are far too frequent. Be they relatively minor knocks or more serious injuries players seem far too fragile, even by today’s standards. To illustrate this point, in one game we lost three strikers within 60 minutes and all to injuries that forced them to leave the pitch. This is an extreme example and it’s not like this every single game, but that doesn’t stop it becoming very annoying. Every now and again we also came across graphical glitches in the TV View, like the lines of the penalty box not being rendered. We also encountered the occasional freeze-up, particular when entering matches. Ultimately nothing we came across prevented us from enjoying the game, but these are issues that need fixing.
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Making an already very good game better is difficult, but Sports Interactive has done just that for Football Manager 2009. Every new feature adds a new level of depth and realism, while also being well considered and well implemented. And though there are always little things that could be improved upon, as a whole it’s another great progression for the series.