Another highly addictive and enjoyable addition to the Football Manager series!
The formula for this latest Football Manager (or Worldwide Soccer Manager, for the Americans) is very much the same as for its predecessors - you create yourself in the game as a football manager, take charge of a team and try and lead them to glory. As your career progresses you may change jobs, you may go from managing on the lower rungs of the football ladder to clinching the Champions League with Barcelona (or vice versa!). Your success depends on a combination of your tactical ability as a manager, your financial sense (no use signing Ronaldinho if its going to bankrupt your club!), and a little bit of luck.
While there is nothing radical about this update to the series, Sports Interactive have continued to fine tune the Football Manager experience to make it more realistic and enjoyable. They have updated the media engine and players reactions to comments from the press and other characters in the football world. They have also improved the match engine so that the movements of players are in line with the positioning and movement of real people in real football matches. Two notable differences are the tweaking of the scouting system and the introduction of club relationships. To find the best players at the best prices it is now necessary to educate your scouts by sending them around the world on scouting missions. This builds up a greater knowledge base within your club, resulting in a wider range of results when you search for players. For example you will not find that talented Argentinean striker that would be ideal for your club in your search if your scouts know nothing about the Argentinean league. Club relationships sees the ability to create parent and feeder clubs. Small clubs will benefit from a relationship with a big name team by having easy access to players on loan and lucrative friendly matches, while a big club will do well to affiliate itself with a smaller local team through which youngsters can gain first team football experience.
In terms of graphics, this years Football Manager sees a slightly new look and an improved user interface (which takes some getting used to for series veterans!). The sound is very much the same as before with generic crowd sounds given at different volume depending on the amount of people watching the match. Graphics and sound aren't what this game is about though and aren't integral to it's success. It is all about the gameplay and the ever changing, never-ending world of the game. Much like the real world of football, there is no way to reach the end of the game and win or lose because the game will continue to develop new players forever. This open-ended gameplay means that the game keeps on dragging you back to it for just one more season!
I haven't encountered any bugs with the game. It has a few little quirks (like only recording player's league appearances in their history, and a few minor syntax errors in media messages), but there are no major problems. I did find that the recently released patch for the game detracted from my enjoyment though as it messed up a lot of the club colours and made the match engine less realistic. I have now gone back to playing without the patch. Hopefully the next patch will fix all of these new problems.
So in all, Football Manager 2007 is nothing revolutionary, though fans of the series will become even more addicted to this game than they did to it's predecessors. Kiss goodbye to your girlfriend, your social life, your personal hygiene and the world outside as a whole, because now the next few months of your life are going to be spent playing this game.