A time thief returns. If you've played Football Manager before you know you run a risk of spending hours and hours in a digital fantasy world, when you should be focusing on your studies or family life. Last year Football Manager was a quality experience, but with few new innovations. Therefore my expectations weren't sky high as I got busy with Sports Interactive's latest offering.
The first thing that caught my attention was the new news system. It looks a bit like an actual inbox and it is much easier to pick up the information you need than it was in the previous menu system. The same is true for the rest of the interface. It's easier to take in all the information you are bombarded with.
Next I got stuck in with the new obstacle Sports Interactive have put in place of transfers - agents - and that was a positive surprise. In negotiations you are first given a wage demand, that needs to be handled with a grain of salt. This is what the players wants, something that most of the time is more than you can afford to accept. The negotiations may vary depending on the behaviour of the agent. Some are more patient, while others are more erratic.
In addition to this you can also regulate the amount of money that goes to the agent. This also adds something else, the constant nagging from agents hoping to find new clubs for their players. In the real world, big clubs are approached all the time with letters, mails, videos from desperate agents trying to find new homes for their players, and this trend is very apparent in Football Manager 2011. It hardly goes a day without a message from these telemarketers of the football world.
Another great addition apart from the agents, is the option of preparing your team for a match. New formations can be practised and you can opt to focus on a specific component. It's not really all that deep, but definitely something that should have been in there a long time ago. I can already see how this feature can be expanded for the next game.
After the first new player has been signed it's time for a press conference. A feature that has always been a bit boring, and something you can do without after a while. Unfortunately the same has to be said of the press conferences in Football Manager 2011, even if we were promised major improvements. There are a larger amount of questions, but there isn't a lot of variation. I just don't feel motivated to invest time in this part of the game. I leave it to the assistant.
The graphics have also been given a few updates. The players now celebrate goals, and there are a few additional animations and more weather effects. Not a great deal, but much needed. It looks better, but Sports Interactive still have miles to go in the graphics department. The players look stiff and unnatural, and passes and shots also look odd. It looks really weird when the player who scores runs off and celebrates by himself. Not something you see often in real football.
Football Manager 2011 takes new steps in the right direction, more than what last year's edition did. An almost complete game gets even better. The improved interface invites new players to join the fun, agents make for more a more realistic transfer market, match preparations gives us a new tactical dimension. There are of course things that could be improved, but I can't really find much to complain about when the game is so enjoyable on the whole. I know that like last year I'm going to spend a great deal of time with Football Manager 2011.