Football Manager 2009 Review

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 0:45 | Filed in Gaming, Reviews

Football Manager 2009 is, I believe released on the 14th November 2008, so you may well be wondering how exactly I am reviewing it now. Did I get sent an advance copy by the nice developers, so eager were they for me to review their product and tell the world about it? Did I buggery.

Nope, I downloaded the demo, same as everyone else. The demo is available from the Football Manager site, and it comes in two ‘flavours’. The vanilla flavour offers just the English and Scottish leagues, it doesn’t have many pictures, and it weighs in at around 170Mb. The strawberry flavour includes lots of leagues (all of them?), more pictures, logos and so forth, but weighs in at a rather considerable 1Gb in size.

Despite only wanting to manage in the English Premiership (Haway the toon!), I decided to go for the strawberry version anyway, on pretty much the basis of “me wants it”. So I set up my manager, started as manager of Newcastle United, and got cracking.

The question is, what did I think of it?

Well, I noticed one problem immediately: Damien Duff was due to miss 5 months with an injury that I rather suspected was the one he had in August 2007 — as he’s certainly been playing for Newcastle this season. Other than that, I didn’t notice any problems with the Newcastle team.

Well, I didn’t notice any other inaccurate problems with the Newcastle team. They have no money to spend, have a woefully thin squad, have about five players out of contract at the end of the season, have a chairman is trying to sell the club yet still expects a top half finish as a minimum. Although on the bright side, it is you, rather than Dennis Wise, who gets to choose which players to buy and sell.

One of the first differences you notice is the press conference. You’ll no doubt be sat down and asked some questions about what your plans are when you take control of a club, and at least for this press conference, you can’t fob them off with the assistant manager.

Football Manager 2009: Pre-Match Press Conference

This particular example is a pre-match press conference part way through the season, where I’m being bombarded with really tricky questions by the press, such as “the fans say player X is playing well at the moment; do you think this will help him play better?”. You also have the option of offering ‘no comment’, or even storming out of the press conference if the journalists are particularly getting on your nerves (although I’ve not tried this yet!).

Football Manager 2008 2D match engine (flickr)

The second difference you’ll notice, and probably the most striking although it’s really a cosmetic difference rather than a difference to the game-play, is the change to the in-game match engine. Those of you who have played other versions of FM will be used to the 2D match engine, with little circles representing the players. While this frequently looks like Andy Gray’s tactics counters on acid, it has in fact been great for gameplay: you can see who is making runs, where they are making them, who is being successful with their passes, who is and isn’t winning headers and so on.

Which is why I was a little sceptical of the new 3D engine, thinking that as soon as they started prioritising fancy looking graphics ahead of the gameplay, tactics and management options, they were going down the wrong road. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Football Manager 2009: Game Engine

For a start, while it may be 3D, the graphics are hardly fancy; they are probably the equivalent to the early versions of Sensible Soccer, and they do actually help; it’s easier to see whether you’ve just lost the ball because your player was tackled or beaten in the air, and it’s nice to watch the goals.

In the example above, we have Shola Ameobi, having come off the bench because of injury, scoring the only goal of the match against Sunderland to win the derby. Nice one, Shola! Although I must admit I’m not entirely sure why, when Newcastle were at home, we had to wear that revolting purple strip as opposed to the standard black and white stripes…

The match stats also shows extra features; you can now see the number of “blocked shots” and “clear cut chances” each side has had. I did particularly enjoy mugging Chelsea 1-0, when they had 7 ‘clear cut chances’ and I had one shot (which obviously went in) which wasn’t even described as clear cut. Unfortunately, that luck was not to last against Arsenal in the next game…

However, you will also have noted that the in-game view takes up almost all of the window (in the new ‘TV mode’: you can still play in ‘classic mode’ with the menus down the side). If you are playing in TV mode, you can open and close little mini-windows which overlay the screen, so you can keep an eye on the match stats, how well your players are performing, or even look at some of the new options, such as how confident and well motivated your players are, or what your assistant manager thinks…

Football Manager 2009: In Game Display (flickr)

The chairman selling up thing almost became an issue for me half-a-dozen games in, when it was announced that the club was on a brink of a takeover, and the new chairman wanted Hristo Stoichkov as his manager. Fortunately — and seemingly exactly like real life — the takeover bids mentioned in the in-game press ended up coming to nothing, and Ashley is still in charge, still looking to sell up…

People who are fans of the Football Manager series will probably buy this game anyway just to have the latest version (yes, I am talking to you Anthony). People who don’t like management sims won’t buy it — and certainly shouldn’t, as despite the new whizzo in-game engine it is still very much a management sim: it’s not gone all player-manager, you understand!

However, is it worth buying? Well, even assuming you could the new data (i.e. the transfers, promotions/relegations etc) without the game, I’d say a definite yes. The addition of press conferences, and the new match engine are definite improvements, and there have been numerous other little tweaks and touches which makes it look and play better than the previous versions.

Best of all, there’s no need to buy it unless you’re convinced you want it. The demo game (which, if you remember, can be downloaded from the Football Manager site) can be played for half a season (you can play 19 League games and the 3rd round of the FA Cup), and the save game is supposedly compatible with the final version, so you can try it for yourself before you need to make any decisions as to whether or not you want to buy it.

As for me… well, let’s just say that I’ve got a League Cup Semi-Final against Fulham I’m itching to play. Maybe then the board will give me some bloody money for transfers…

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31 Comments to Football Manager 2009 Review

  1. Anthony says:

    November 5th, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Oh aye, I’ll probably buy it anyway – but I’ll still have to fit it around my FM Live game. The 3D engine intrigues me. FM09s game engine is apparently heavily influence by the FM Live beta testing – so it should be solid. (The 3D is apparently coming to Live next year)

    My FM Live Game World kicks off for real tomorrow night. However I stupidly booked a couple of days away with the missus without realising the catastrophic clash!

    Anyway I’m off to grab the demo (I haven’t got it yet due to FML and discovering FIFA 09). I favour playing as low league teams. Most recently as Elgin City manager in Scottish Div 3 – now that’s a challenge!

  2. mike kirby says:

    December 1st, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I bought FM09 the day it came out after months of anxious waiting! I have to say i dont think ive ever been so excited about a game release before! I have been playing management games since I was about 7 i think starting on my old speccy 48k(i had over 100) and then when the Collyer bros brought out the first Championship manager in 1992 i fell in love instantly and have aquired every version since then! …. Anyway back to FM09, first of all the negatives: the game is littered with bugs and a patch is needed straight away to help with this! I find this a little disappointing given the fact theyve had a year to write the program! secondly you have to register the game online or via a phone-line which ive been told costs the earth and doesnt always work! lastly, my final gripe is with the 3d match engine.. its only a minor problem but the players sometimes freeze for a split second whilst running! hopefully further patches released by sports interactive will correct this. Right, the positives!…. the press interaction is brilliantly done and although it can be time-consuming its a great touch to the game adding even more realism! be careful what you say though as you could upset the players, fans or your board if you handle it the wrong way. The 3D match is a step in the right direction even if theyre are some issues with bugs… i have heard from miles jacobsen at sports interactive who has informed me that by the time of the release of the 2nd patch all the niggly problems will be corrected. Overall (bugs aside) id say this is the most realistic and enjoyable game in the history of the management sim. Its worth noting also that SI has totally re-written the transfer system making it more realistic in terms of who goes where and for what price.. the transfer gossip section is a great touch too!… with rumours circulating constantly just like in real-life! … I am currently in March 09 on my game with Man Utd and im 2nd in Prem and in qtr finals in champions league! I signed 2 players (Arshavin £14.5m & Barnetta £5.7m) both have been superb for me! but Ronaldo has been out of this world! keeping hold of him is going to be difficult with real madrid sending enquiry after enquiry trying to unsettle him(as in real-life) luckily he seems happy still even after i rejected a £46m offer from the spaniards for him! I would rate this game 9.5/10 its that good!

  3. Gabriel Sutton says:

    December 31st, 2008 at 12:45 am

    I have bought Football Manager 2009 and am Birmingham City (the team I support from the cradle to the grave!) who are about to start the Championship season. They have, like in real life, done a pre-season tour of Austria playing three games, winning them all 2-0. We are about to play Burnley away on the first match of the season. Then we have a League Cup match against Millwall away, followed by Southampton at home on the first match of the season. My team: Doyle-Kelly-M Taylor (Ridgewell is currently injured)-Jaidi-Murphy-Agustien-Carsley-Watson (Newly signed from Crystal Palace)-McSheffrey-O’Connor. Subs:Krysiak-Sammons-Mutch-Joyce-Wilson. I really enjoy playing it.

  4. Joe Harding says:

    January 31st, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Dose anyone know how to sign a grey highlighted player?

    Im Liverpool and england and when im selecting my England team from the national pool for a friendly some of these grey highlighted guys crop up on the England squad list with there personal status claming there looking for a club, but no way of trials or contract offers. Some of them are awesome! ! can you sign these players???

  5. Barney says:

    March 16th, 2009 at 11:31 am

    I’m Birmingham City on Football Manager 2009 and I have currently played 7 league games, winning 2, drawing 3 and losing 2 with 9 points and in 14th position.

    Got knocked out of the League Cup 3rd round to Sothampton 1-0 away after beating Dag & Red 3-0 (1st round) away and Preston North End 2-1 (snd round) at home.

    Current squad:

    M. Taylor (GK)
    S. Kelly (RB)
    M. Taylor (CB)
    R. Jaidi (CB)
    D. Murphy (LB)
    S. Larsson (RM)
    D. Johnson (CM)
    L. Carsley (CM)
    D. Murphy (LM) – £1.3m signing from Sunderland
    G. O’Conner (S)
    J. McFadden (S)


    C. Doyle (GK)
    F. Quedrue (LB)
    M. Nafti (CM)
    G. McSheffery (LM / S)
    C. Jerome (S)


    D. Murphy (LM / S) – £1.3m signing from Sunderland
    G. Taylor-Fletcher (RM / S) – £450,000 from Blackpool
    R. Fowler (S) – £80,000 from Blackburn Rovers
    J. Ruddy (GK) – Loan from Everton
    T. Kupicz (RM) – Loan from Wigan Athletic

  6. Matty says:

    May 15th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Here is my Birmingham City squad for Football Manager 2009:

    GK: M. Taylor

    RB: S. Kelly
    CB: R. Jaidi
    CB: R. Rocha (season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur)
    LB: F. Quedrue

    RM: S. Larsson
    CM: D. Johnson
    CM: L. Carsley
    LM: J. McFadden

    F: G. O’Conner
    F: M. Bent

    Subs: GK – C. Doyle, CB – M. Taylor, RM – G. Taylor-Fletcher (£450,000 signing from Blackpool), LM – G. McSheffery, F – C. Jerome

    Transfers in: J. Ruddy (GK) – season-long loan from Everton, R. Rocha (CB) – season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur, G. Taylor-Fletcher (RM / F) – £450,000 signing from Blackpool, M. Mat?jovský (AM) – £1.8 million signing from Reading

    Transfers out: S. Parnaby (RB) – £275,000 to Cardiff City

    League position – 11th (played 8, won 4, drawn 1, lost 3, points 13)

    League Cup – 1st round (beat Aldershot 3-1 away), 2nd round (beat Leeds United 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at home), 3rd round (lost 1-0 at home to Tottenham Hotspur)

  7. Anonymous says:

    October 20th, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Newcastle Season 2010/11

    1st team:
    GK Diego Benaglio
    DR Cesar Azpilicueta
    DL Alexander Lukovic
    DC Steve Taylor
    DC Sebastien Bassong
    ML Jonas Gutierrez
    MR Christian Maggio
    MD Gojko Ka?ar
    MD Arturo Vidal
    ATT Oscar Cardoza
    ATT Guilherme

    GK Craig Gordon
    DR Rafinha
    DL Jose Enrique
    DC Nedum Onuoha
    DC Mark Beevers
    DEF MID Joey Barton
    MID Danny Guthrie
    MID C Adrien (Silva)
    ATT MID Sofiane Feghouli
    ML Juan Angel Albin
    SUP Simon Vuksevic
    ATT MID/FW Alex Teixeira
    ST Marco Borriello

  8. Marco says:

    October 20th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    So, here’s my team. I’ve been playing managers since 1993 and now I am playing FM2009. Haven’t got that much time to play so 2010 still have to wait.

    Anyway, my strategy is always to buy cheap and sell high. With this I acheive success in games.

    Many people tell about how many goals their strikers do in a season. I don’t care about that. I consider tactics as a whole package. So, how many you concede is as important. Especially if you want to be successful both in Europe and league, it’s enough to win 2-1 home with your backups. Then you have frest squad against AC Milan!

    So, here’s my great team. I won premier and still have eurocup and FA ahead.

    Newcastle Season 2010/11

    1st team:
    GK Diego Benaglio
    DR Cesar Azpilicueta
    DL Alexander Lukovic
    DC Steve Taylor
    DC Sebastien Bassong
    ML Jonas Gutierrez
    MR Christian Maggio
    MD Gojko Ka?ar
    MD Arturo Vidal
    ATT Oscar Cardoza
    ATT Guilherme

    GK Craig Gordon
    DR Rafinha
    DL Jose Enrique
    DC Nedum Onuoha
    DC Mark Beevers
    DEF MID Joey Barton
    MID Danny Guthrie
    MID C Adrien (Silva)
    ATT MID Sofiane Feghouli
    ML Juan Angel Albin (½ season)
    SUP Simon Vukcevic
    ATT MID/FW Alex Teixeira
    ST Marco Borriello (½ season)

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