On the bright side, you have lots of gadgets to customize your screen with and get all sorts of information: their size is not customizable, though, and you won’t be able to have too many on your screen if you want to see the match, too. But there are a few very helpful ones like the assistant manager analysis of your tactics, the opposition’s tactics and gameplay (but something that theoretically could ease up your game). I also enjoyed the table showing how confident players are (and, trust me, Obafemi Martins is always relaxed, no matter what!)

Also, the general impression of the match engine is that it’s pretty well done: players do follow your instructions and you can see if one player is much faster than another when they’re sprinting. However, I’ve noticed that very long shots can easily find the net and, for the connoisseurs, the “corner cheat” from Football Manager 2008 is still working in FM 2009 (which is really strange, since I was convinced that this year’s match engine is one written from scratch).

So, summing things up, I think that the brand new 3D match engine in Football Manager 2009 is indeed a step forward, but it will surely be heavily modified in a following patch (which I hope we’ll see pretty soon). We can’t criticize SI Games for a generally faulty and bad for the eye match engine, but try to offer advice on how it should be improved: if you still remember, when the 2D match engine was introduced, people were not too happy by its performances. So it’s just history repeating.

Match engine aside, Football Manager 2009 seems to be the same solid management simulation game it always was: it is complex, it is solid, and it offers the option to spend some quality time. If you don’t like the 3D match engine, you can simply switch to the 2D view (there are two modes – the classic and the improved one and I liked the latter more) and enjoy a great title. As soon as it gets released on November 14.

Below are some more Football Manager 2009 match engine screenshots, including all the camera positions available: