fifa-manager10-coverOver the past couple of years, Bright Future managed to turn the FIFA Manager series into a genuine contender for the title of the best football management game, but still lost the battle (at least in my opinion) against Football Manager. This year, with FIFA Manager 10, we’re up for an even tougher battle thanks to the surprise resurrection of Championship Manager. So… who will get the crown this year?

As usual, FIFA Manager 10 comes to impress us all with its looks: to make it clear from the beginning, FM and CM are ugly little sisters compared to FIFA Manager. We have a much better looking match engine, we have high quality visuals, we have an interface that makes you feel you’re browsing through a talented designer’s work… we have all the gloss and bling bling a football management game could offer and that will certainly make some people happy!

Even better, starting this year, the “personal life” element of the game can be completely turned off, so if you don’t want to buy your wife expensive gifts, go sailing or play golf to please the big boss, you no longer have to! Add to that the fact that you can instruct your staff to take care of any aspect of the club (from taking care of the merchandising all the way to selecting the line-ups and even substituting players!), and you’ll get a fully customizable managerial experience in which you’ll be allowed to do just as much (or as little) as you wish to.

Fifa-manager10-002However, to be honest, even though last year I found them frustrating and useless, this year I really enjoyed all the side-quests, so to say, which means that I opted to keep the personal life on – just like every other aspect and I must admit that I had tons of fun.

It’s not everything diamonds and pearls, though. Unfortunately, one of the most disappointing elements in FIFA Manager 10 is the match engine. Except for the fact that the players themselves seem to be a bit too big compared to the pitch, their AI sometimes makes you go crazy. I have seen tons of back-passes when there was no need for that, I saw my central defenders following a specific player all the way into his own court (and the player dribbled the ball backwards, too!), I saw my wingers dribble all the way back to the first third and I saw my keepers look at the ball coming towards them and simply waiting for an opponent player to get to it first…

Fifa-manager10-004But these things, even though annoying, don’t make the match less fun. I must admit that watching all the matches in 3D is like a breath of fresh air: it’s simply a joy and you’ll soon be able to get over the tactical annoyances. Unfortunately for those who are in a hurry, the 3D match engine is about the only viable alternative: the “key moments” setting is really strange and only shows you glimpses of the action – very often just a player shooting, then the screen quickly fading out and the score changing. No, thank you!

The tactical options are also quite limited – which is certainly a turn off for the hardcore players – but instead you’ll have once more the opportunity to “control” what’s happening on the pitch by yelling at your players and telling them what to do (basic stuff like pass, cross, shoot and so on). I found this option quite useful, I must say that!

Fifa-manager10-005The database might also be an issue in FIFA Manager 10 – even though it seems to be a lot bigger than last year and definitely having more player pictures than the competitors, the data isn’t really accurate, especially when it comes to lesser known divisions and clubs – like the Romanian league I played my game in. However, the problems are not game-changing ones and I still got my butt kicked by Manchester!

One of the biggest changes – if not the biggest – brought in by FIFA Manager 10 is the introduction of a free to play online multiplayer mode in which up to eight managers can test their skills against one another. This online mode appears to be really interesting, but there are a bunch of limitations that make an online game completely different from the single player (or offline) campaign.

Fifa-manager10-006In FIFA Manager’s online mode, there are all sorts of restrictions: first, turns of very limited time (decided by the host), which are not a bad thing since they keep the game running smoothly. However, due to these limitations, you’re not allowed to do too many things during your turn, and you’ll rarely be able to do more than selecting your starting eleven and setting up the training sessions.

Another strange thing is the way players look: to keep things simple, player stats are shown as single levels of ability plus specialist skills, but you won’t know exactly what these mean. The matches themselves work only in text-based view and there are lots of other restrictions.

Although the online multiplayer in FIFA Manager 2010 is far from being perfect, it still manages to be fun for the short run and it is clearly one big step forward for the series. I am sure, however, that only starting next year we might be able to talk about a great and fun online multiplayer mode.

Comparing FIFA Manager 10 with Football Manager 2010 would be unfair. Unfair because I consider them to have two distinct targets: Bright Future’s game is aimed at the more casual gamer – the one who doesn’t want to spend 40 minutes selecting one player’s roles and two more hours tweaking the tactics, but the one that still wishes to have tons of fun; while FM2010 is aimed at the hardcore players.

So trying to decide a winner between these two games would be impossible. If you’re a Football Manager fan and you love the complexity of the game, there are slim chances that you’ll love FIFA Manager. However, if you don’t consider yourself a hardcore gamer, you should definitely give the game a try and buy FIFA Manager 10. I guarantee you’ll have fun playing it. And you know what? Leave the personal life turned on and take care of all the aspects of the club!

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