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Football Manager 2010 (PSP)

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1 Review

Genre: Sports - Football / ESRB Rating: Rating Pending / Release Date: 2009-10-30 / Published by Sega

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      08.02.2010 22:05
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      Football Manager Handheld 2010 is simply an essential purchase for soccer loving PSP owners.

      The combination of Sony's portable device and the best football management sim on the market is a dream ticket, offering fans the chance to take charge of their favourite team wherever they are.

      Relax on the couch, take it on a plane, sit on a bench during your lunch break.

      There is no need to be glued to a PC or carry a laptop around when you can put your PSP in your pocket and make those all-important team selection and transfer target decisions whenever you want.

      Football Manager, published by Sega, has been on the PSP since 2006, getting an update every year as sports games do.

      I reviewed the 2009 edition and found it to be excellent - so good in fact that I decided I wouldn't touch the overly complicated and demanding PC version again.

      I found the level of detail in the PC version had become frustrating to the point of me wanting to pull my hair out when playing it.

      In my first experience of handheld football management, I found the lite, pocket-sized experience offered by FM09 to be much more to my liking, and I was a convert. The 2010 version of Football Manager Handheld is, as you would hope, even better than last year.

      Last year's FM was already fully featured for a portable game and so any major enhancements would have put the 2010 version in danger of getting obese like the PC edition.

      Instead developer Sports Interactive has sensibly concentrated on tweaking the gameplay rather than cramming in too many new elements.

      So what we have is a range of improvements, none of which are really wow, but all of which add some small degree of extra depth and realism to the game.

      Before getting to the upgrades for 2010, let's look briefly at the basics of Football Manager, just in case there are any soccer fans who have been living under a rock for the last two decades and have never played a football management simulation.

      If this is you and you have just emerged from hiding then you're in for a surprise as Man City are quite good now, Arsenal play decent football and Ryan Giggs is still going strong.

      Football Manager, as the name suggests, puts you in the boss's seat at your choice of any Premier League, Football League or Blue Square club. You can also manage in Europe, Australia or Brazil should you wish.

      There are multiple decisions to make, affecting team line-ups, tactics, transfers, media, contracts and training. The game follows the cycle of fixture, team affairs, next fixture and so on.

      Everything in the game boils down to stats. Obviously there are the usual figures for appearances, average ratings, goals scored etc, but there are also around 20 different attributes for each player rated from 1 to 20. Mastering how these figures impact on your team and using them to your advantage is key to success.

      The game tests your all-round management skills including your ability to react to ever-changing situations, such as overcoming a two-goal half-time deficit, placating a stroppy star player, coping with board demands and dealing with an injury crisis.

      As in the real football world luck plays its part, but handle the pressure and make the right choices then your team will be well on their way to glory.

      That's the basic concept explained, now on to those improvements.
      The most noticeable development from my point of view is the improved coach and scout reports which provide much better, and therefore useful, information on the thousands of players within the game. These make it easier to assess your own team's capabilities as well as to assess potential acquisitions.

      Another helpful addition is assistant manager team reports. Your right-hand man plays a much more active role in this edition and provides a detailed assessment of your team and any improvements he can see.

      The next most visible upgrade is to the game's skin. With Football Manager being so stats-driven it's important for the information to be displayed cleanly and tidily. Last year's game already did a good job of this but the extra spit and polish given to the presentation in FM10 makes it even easier to see all the key details.

      Navigating around the game is a piece of cake using the L and R shoulder buttons to flick through the multiple layers of information. Another claimed change in FM10 is to the match engine. Supposedly the AI has been massively updated to make the engine more realistic.

      I haven't seen much evidence of this, mainly because the level of realism last year was already very high and I haven't yet been able to decipher exactly what's been improved.

      It's hard to pinpoint subtle changes but overall I can say FM10's match engine feels very realistic. Player performances, match incidents and results are all authentic for the most part.

      Given how credible the scores and player stats are, it's disappointing that my chief criticism of FM10 relates to the matches. Their presentation is just a little unsatisfying.

      The main indication of what's happening comes from a single-line running text commentary at the bottom of the screen. This is a perfectly adequate method of relaying the action - I'm not asking for flashy 3D graphics or anything.

      The problem is the commentary is too flighty. It doesn't flow totally freely, and on occasions it makes very little sense. With text commentary you need to be able to use your imagination, and sometimes in FM10 it's not easy picturing what might be happening on the field.

      There is also no sound in the matches, which makes it a bit eerie. The games lack atmosphere as if you're playing in an empty stadium. A bit of crowd noise would be good.

      Another element I'd like to see worked on next time is the very limited amount of media work involved in FM10.

      In real life a manager's every action and comment is put under the microscope. Some bosses buckle while others use the media to their advantage. Football these days is as much about image and conduct off the pitch as it is about the action on it.

      Every game comes with massive pre-match build-up and then there is all the reaction afterwards.

      FM10 comes with very little media interaction. There are a few other areas of the game which are quite shallow, such as scouting, man management of your players and training but the text commentary and lack of proper media relations would be my main complaints.

      With the things which FM10 is slightly lacking it's hard to be too critical. As I said at the outset one of the best things about the PSP version of Football Manager is that it's less complex than its PC counterpart, so there needs to be some sacrifices.

      Overall, FM10 achieves the almost impossible result of being a cool nerd. It's not got any exciting graphics or clever visual tricks. It runs at a pedestrian pace and is little more than pages and pages of text and figures.

      Yet for football fans who want to test their skills at being a manager this game is fantastic fun and is a must-have purchase.

      Verdict: 9 out of 10 - Football fans are constantly judging Wenger, Ferguson and co on every little decision they make. Though it might not offer the same pressure and complexity of real-life management, Football Manager Handheld 2010 at least provides an insight into what life in the hot-seat is like, and it's far and away the best game of its type for the PSP.

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