Support a crap club? Success is just around the corner

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Football Manager 2008 is out now, and CaughtOffside will be giving away a free copy next week so stay tuned.

We’ve been playing Football Manager since it first started out as Championship Manager back 900 years ago or whenever it started. Every season, without fail, there came a point when it became clear the clubs we supported had no chance of achieving our dreams and thus we took matters into our own hands through hours upon hours of simulated managerial success.

This year, the good people behind the game have been nice enough to shoot us a copy to try out. The game hit stores a while ago but, wracked by bugs and gameplay issues, many – including us – were forced to wait until a major patch became available a few weeks ago before they could really dig in.

The series is so strong that you’re likely familiar with the usual ins and outs so we’ll save you some time by saying it’s more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, because it’s much, much, MUCH more of the same. Every aspect of the previous versions has been fleshed out in greater detail. Media interaction, transfer speculation, your ability to interact with coaches and players have all been thankfully taken to another level, enriching the experience that many already found too hard to resist year after year.

New features are plentiful, too, although they are more supplementary than groundbreaking. The ‘Confidence’ area will now help you understand how your board and fans are rating your performance so far. Your progress in achieving long-term goals, your last match result, your activity in the transfer market – all are under constant scrutiny and evaluation. Get thumped 3-0 at home to your local rivals and the fans and chairman will let you know about it.

Not all the new additions work that well, however. The past few versions of the game have had some strange results for anything involving player evaluations or awards, and while FM08 doesn’t have anything too glaring it was strange to see players with 6’s and 7’s pick up player of the month while some of our stars were ignored despite collecting 8’s and 9’s. The end of season “Club Eleven” as voted by the fans also includes some bizarre results with some bit-part players being picked. Although that may be a deliberate attempt to mimic the sometimes bizarre way that supporters evaluate their players and club – at least we hope so.

Other annoying bugs include the German national team’s youth and senior players all having staggeringly good attributes due to the fact that they have to be generated randomly rather than use real players. When the U19 team is full of players better than almost any in the world, it’s tough to let that one go.

All in all, this isn’t a complete overhaul of the series but rather a well thought-out upgrade. But when a game is as comprehensive as FM has been for so long, it’s still plenty satisfying.

We’ll be playing this one constantly over the next few weeks and will bring you regular updates, since it’s not the kind of game you can get the full experience of until you’re in the year 2047 and going for your 23rd consecutive title.