With three major football management games out there, each with annual updates, it can be tough for developers to distinguish themselves from the pack. EA's FIFA Manager has always taken the accessible route, giving management virgins an easy way to get into the genre. Of course, the official FIFA licence helps attract casual players thanks to official imagery, stats, and names that are updated throughout the year. With this year's iteration, the German developers at Bright Future have also been able to integrate the brand-new FIFA 09 engine, assets, and spoken commentary from the guys over in Canada.
The game itself remains much the same, offering you a chance to manage the day-to-day running of a football team. You overlook transfers, training, and tactics, as well as more business-oriented considerations such as salaries, stadiums, and marketing. The new changes come most notably in the match engine, which has been given a complete overhaul thanks to the improvements made in FIFA 09. In our PC preview of FIFA 09, we mentioned that the game engine has been completely reworked, and those improved stadiums, textures, and player models have made it to the management game, too. We quizzed the developers about the relevancy of a 3D match engine, given that Football Manager and Championship Manager have long questioned the need for such a feature. Apparently, though, 60 percent of FIFA Manager players use the match engine to watch games. It's these people who will also enjoy the new audio commentary and animated crowds, which appear for the first time.
For the 40 percent of players who like to see what's going on with more traditional text feedback, this element has also been given an overhaul. Live updates are delivered down the left-hand side of the screen, while the right-hand menu lets you react quickly to what's happening by making tactical changes and substitutions. It also allows you to take your eyes off the ticker feed by using an excitement bar which flashes whenever something important is happening. Despite the fact that you'll spend most of your time in menus, FIFA Manager 09 is a beautifully presented game, with an interface that's clearly been influenced by Web sites such as iGoogle and Netvibes thanks to a widget system that pulls in up to nine in-game RSS feeds. The 7,000 new higher-resolution player headshots also lend authenticity to it all.
It's not just the menu system that's been given an overhaul; video clips will play more of a part in the new game, too. There'll be dedicated clips showing your manager as he arrives on the first day at a new club, when a player scores his 10th goal, or when the team scores 100 goals. There are also a lot more opportunities for marketing and promotion for your team, with a new merchandise section, the opportunity to advertise in a variety of media, and fan shops that can be set up all over the world. We questioned the developers about the family feature from previous games, where the first thing you do in your management career is decide if you're married and how many children you have. Apparently the feature will return as it's something the fans like, and there's always the possibility that your children will want to adopt your chosen career and become a manager themselves.
Other new features include a dedicated match prognosis mode, which can be used to predict the outcome of a real-life match. There will also be five to seven new leagues added to the roster, although which ones are yet to be announced. We do know that there will be a more authentic Scottish cup system in place, as well as an improved editor to allow you to change pretty much any part of the game. From the players and teams to the music and the chants from the crowds, you can edit pretty much anything you like in FIFA Manager 09. We hope the community will really get behind this feature, and Bright Future is optimistic that the fans will even help translate the text into a number of different languages.
FIFA Manager 09 is being readied for release at the end of October, with the first feature update expected at the end of the following month. The plan from there is to support the game for the next six months, with a database update in early February and another content patch featuring new player pictures and interviews in April. With the game already looking incredibly polished, we look forward to seeing how it all turns out in October, and fans will be glad to hear that a demo will be released in the same month.