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A game to live and grow in, that's all I want in life, not too much to ask. Somewhere where the world makes sense and I can see and feel my place that mini universe and be happy. Well Football Manager (Football Manager) 2009 has lashings of life - in depth, dive into, life. The question is can I find a way in.
With a robust history back to the days of Championship Manager, Football Manager is going to do well on that basis alone. But with FIFA Manager from EA snapping at their heels they need to keep their faithfuls hooked to avoid an exodus.
Football Manager menus are where you spend most of your time. They are nicely laid out and very functional, throwing at you all the information you need to build a successful team, such as players available to transfer and players coming of age and the like, to the nth degree of detail.
It feels like there's a rule book somewhere but no-one will let me have it.
Starting as randomly selected Oxford United I planed to climb to premiership stardom and the big name players. There is little in the way of tutorial advice, more a case of making the best of, and applying the plethora of information and stats available to you. I spent my first season losing game after game desperately trying to figure out which players where performing best in which formations and which I could drop or sell. As I entered into the second season I began feeling a bit jaded, losing so many games and not really finding a system that works consistently. It feels like there's a rule book somewhere but no-one will let me have it.
So entering into my second season I was determined to do better. I knew which players were the best in my team; surely I could find a way to win. In my frustration I turned to other virtual managers in forums to see where I was going wrong. It seemed to me that very few people were starting from lower teams, but just playing with their favourites; Liverpool, Man United and the like. Those who were braving the lower leagues sounded as frustrated as I had become.
You find yourself growing fond of your faithful goal scorers and the little bit of hope they give to your team.
The matches do bring a great sense of elation when your disgruntled team go ahead. You find yourself growing fond of your faithful goal scorers and the little bit of hope they give to your team. Watching them play on the new 3D engine gives a real feeling of the genuine managerial seat the game tried to create. Although interpreting what's happening on the pitch with off pitch decisions is tricky. The learning curve in Football Manager 2009 is huge. If you have not poured you life into a previous incarnation of the game, you'll be hard pressed to feel you are on top of thing at any time.
The moments of joy at seeing your team do well are outweighed by the frustration of trying to break the code of the game; as to how it thinks and works. Is this what real football management is like? I wonder. If so it's not for me.
Football Manager 2009, I am sure, has very clever statistical outcomes and strong database behind it. It could not have had the success it has without this. But as a newcomer it is very inaccessible and although it is a place to ‘live' as a perpetual gamer, it is not a place where growing in the game seems feasible without weeks of frustration and endless patience.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: