Last year Sports Interactive made a very bold move and walked away from their number one selling franchise. However they soon partnered with SEGA and produced the best football management game ever made. It wasn't ever really in doubt that this would be the case but to do it first time around was quite amazing, a bit like Chelsea and Mourinho except Jacobson and his team didn't have 8 billion dollars (although considering the success of CM, it has to be close). This year they are back for another shot at the title and have a secret weapon up their sleeve. This year not only are they on the PC but are also taking the series to the PSP as well and this is by far their boldest move yet, but one that should definitely pay off.
Like last years game you will be offered the management role at any of the world's best clubs in the world's best leagues. And again like last year you will find some weird and wacky leagues to ply your trade in, should you wish to slowly build yourself up for European glory. The heady heights of European football await you but so does the fan's expectations. From what we know so far, Sports Interactive has once again decided to not include a career mode along the lines of Total Club Manager where you begin in the lower leagues and must impress higher clubs to gain top roles. It's a shame really, because TCM falls down in comparison in everything else.
As a manager in the new game you have a lot more power and can demand things from the board during contract talks. This however will put a lot more pressure on the manager because the board will expect a lot more from you if you increase player wages, have a higher transfer fund or generally want more from the club. However this represents a much more realistic take on management. Part of this change is man management as well. Rather than just manage a team, you now have to manage players individually. This may end up being like Pro Rugby Manager where player's morale is affected by things out of your control. Relationship breakups, children and other family issues can affect a footballer's ability.
The game engine is having a slight overhaul as well. Still not going down the 3D path, Sports Interactive has made a few tweaks to what turned to be the most accurate engine of 2004. One major change is half-time team talks. Feeling like spraying your players with verbal diarrhoea? Now you can and get them running on the pitch and not a conference team. You can yell or congratulate the team or individual players with players reactions determined by what is said. The media also now gets involved between matches with rumor mongering. We do wonder whether Mr Viera is rumored to go to Madrid every year.
Perhaps one of the best new features this year will be the referee statistic reports. These will tell you just how prone to cards the referee is. This can change your strategy because if the referee is a bit card happy, sending them on to kick the daylights out of them for intimidation is going to lose the match.
Other than that the game will primarily remain the same on the PC. Where there will be change is the PSP version. SEGA don't want too many details out of the bag yet but they have confirmed it's coming and Sports Interactive have made a few comments such as the fact that it will have less leagues. Six of the worlds best footballing countries will be represented as well as the most up to date details from the PC game. This really could turn out to be the PSP's killer app for Europe as seriously anyone who knows how addictive SI's game is, should fear playing this on a train or bus.
Like Jose Mourinho, the champions won't be resting on their laurels and not only creating what is sure to be the best management game this year but also taking it portable. Sony may not realise it now, but the PSP version could sell PSP by itself, with the PC version keeping the traditionalists happier than ever. Expect a bigger, bolder game now that SI has once again claimed the crown and built a new franchise. SEGA is set to release more details soon.