With a slick interface and a game mechanic that’s now built on a decade and a half’s worth of solid experience, it’s little surprise that Football Manager 2009 is as exhaustive and engrossing as it is. A sports management game with no parallel, it’s a staggeringly deep challenge, layered with pile after pile of stats and decisions, and one that can still, after all this time, rob you of months of your life.
That much, however, you probably knew, at least if you’ve played a Football Manager game at any point in the past. But credit to developer Sports Interactive here, for it’s pulled a rug or two of its own by mixing things up with a new 3D match engine.
This, while still a little rusty around the edges, is an inspired inclusion that adds further depth to a game that already would need David Attenborough on hand to get anywhere close to fully exploring. With flexibility over camera angles, along with the fast forwarding and rewinding of the match action, it’s surprisingly enjoyable just to sit back and watch the game pan out.
However, the real trick here is that if you watch it carefully you can improve your team. The game gives you lots of control over the instructions you can give to your players, and those willing to dive in and immerse themselves in all of this will be rewarded.
Cannily, the game does provide sufficient welcome to the less experienced player too, who may be bewildered for the first couple of days by just how much is on offer. A good assistant manager is the best guide you could have throughout the game, and like all of the key decisions in Football Manager 2009, it’s up to your good self to appoint one.
Outside of the new match engine there are many further tweaks and improvements. We liked the addition of transfer rumours, for instance, not least because we managed to bolster our ranks with a good midfielder or two by jumping in on a whispered deal.
The now-obligatory pre-match press conference is a bit more fiddly. Sure, it’s entertaining at first to stir things up with a few comments, but this is one of the tasks you can easily delegate to the aforementioned assistant, and are likely to do so.
Still, Football Manager 2009 is an exhaustive game and one that does nothing but enhance the franchise’s impressive reputation. It has the odd stability problem and it perhaps doesn’t move the series on much, but it’s a good, professional job, with a substantive enough new features list to justify the asking price.