This year’s edition of the Football Manager franchise brings a huge improvement to the series: a full 3D match engine! You can imagine that, having this in mind, I was up at 8 AM waiting to get my hands on the FM strawberry demo. Now you can see for yourself my impressions about the game as a whole, the 3D match engine in Football Manager 2009 in particular and why I still like it old school. Read on!

The first thing I noticed was that FM 2009 loads and moves smoothly, much faster than Football Manager 2008 does on the same system. And that is, from the beginning, a huge advantage. Of course, this could change after 6-7 leagues are selected, but I doubt the game will move slower than its 2008 little brother.

The first thing you notice after you are thrown into the game is the fact that the interface in Football Manager 2009 is identical to that of last year’s game. Which is not a bad thing at all since there’s no reason in fixing something that ain’t broken (unless you consider that division of the manager option into tabs an interface change). Next, as I started to search for players and see how updated is everything, there were no surprises either: Sports Interactive appears to have done a great job this year too with the already known huge database, with updated transfers and well researched players, from Barcelona’s superstars to Darlington’s reserves.

Then, a few chaotic clicks followed in the search of “new stuff”: there are small changes here and there, mostly considered improvements by me – but I’m not going to talk about them all here since it would take me tens of pages and I’m sure you’ll find them for yourself and have no problem in understanding and using them. What I will talk and complain about is the tactical screen: the attack position arrows offer you now far more options than FM2008 did and I don’t like that. I want my forwards to move left and right and let the AMC rule the world, OK?

But the biggest thing in Football Manager 2009 is the 3D match engine. I was curious and afraid at the same time and it seems that I had my reasons for that. Without being bad or able to ruin your gameplay experience, the 3D match engine in Football Manager is not at all the best thing of the game.

Visually, it’s not as attractive as the match engine in FIFA Manager but I doubt visuals ever mattered to Football Manager fans anyway. However, there are a few other problems that manage to make the 3D match engine a miss: first of all, the ball physics seems a bit out of the roof since the ball bounces and jumps around higher and stranger than a House of Pain fan after smoking a big fat… you get the idea! On the other hand, players seem to be ghosts most of the time since they pass through one another without any problems (and without interfering with the ball movement). And that’s just the beginning.

The player animations are all identical, giving you the feeling that you’re looking at clones playing ball. It’s also hilarious up to a point to watch players tackle, get fouled trying to catch the ball: when they hit the ground they remain there for a few seconds in a contorted position and then jump up as nothing ever happened. Also, the positioning of the cameras is pretty bad, no matter what choice you make: there’s a hefty total of five locations for the match camera, but I was not satisfied. First of all because, no matter which of the five preset camera positions you choose, the players will seem to be miles away from you (as in tiny little ants). Play your game in a resolution lower than 1280×1024 and the names shown over the players’ heads will seem bigger than the players themselves! Also, the players seem to be very small compared to the stadium, which is huge (this might be just an illusion, though… I have friends saying that the player size is OK).

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