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After the game-changing addition of the 3D Match Engine a season earlier, Football Manager 2010 debuted with a less dramatic suite of new features, but sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
That's certainly how players felt when they got used to the new user interface. In a series where the menus are the game, a new UI was a huge deal. Changing to tabs along the top of the screen confused veteran managers initially, but they grew to celebrate the way FM10 grouped information and functions more intuitively.
This year we also went in two-footed on tactics. The Tactics Creator allowed you to choose an overall philosophy for your team and easily define roles for players. Turning a midfielder into a "deep-lying playmaker" used to involve tuning individual instructions for things like passing and tackling; now it was just one click away.
Elsewhere, the new Match Analysis tool helped you judge how well your players were delivering on your vision, while being able to adjust tactics from the touchline was another seemingly small but valuable addition.
If the 3D Match Engine was the banner signing a year earlier, this was the finely tuned champion team built around it. Critics agreed, helping FM10 to its highest ever metascore.
- Radical User Interface Overhaul - For the first time, a system of ‘tabs’ was used to group information along the top of each screen, presenting key information in a new way that felt more intuitive to players.
- Streamlined Tactics Creator - Managers could now select an overall playing philosophy and give players specific roles and instructions, saving loads of time previously spent hunting for individual settings.
- Influential New Touchline Presence - Managers could now shout instructions during a match and quick-switch between tactics to outwit opponents!
- Ground-breaking Match Analysis - Keeping pace with developments in the game, managers now had access to a suite of analytics during and after games to assess and respond to performances.
- Game-Changing League Editor - Whether you wanted to add divisions to existing leagues or invent new divisions and cups, League Editor let you explore the football management fantasies you most cared about.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Football Manager 2010 retains its title as the reigning champion of the football management PC gaming league. There is much to love about FM 2010. It is not a giant leap forward, but it does not suffer any for that. Veterans of the FM series will still love it, while newcomers will pick it up and never want to put it down."
"Make no mistake, Football Manager 2010 is the best football management game on the market by some stretch, a game of unrivalled realism, depth and longevity, and the most accessible FM game we've seen for many years."
"Football Manager returns with further improvements. The new version allows us to maintain better control of our team during games, and also increase the quality of 3D visualisation. FM 2010 goes deeper in the interaction with our players, media and the coaching staff, creating a great gaming experience with its fantastic artificial intelligence. Year after year, the series takes hold their place in the genre, adding new capabilities without sacrificing any of the features seen in previous versions. This sports title keeps on top of its genre, setting a benchmark for every football management simulator."
As one sun sets, another rises. While the PlayStation Portable series continued going strong, this was also the first time FM had appeared on the increasingly popular (and growing) iOS range of devices.
For Football Manager Handheld's latest PSP outing, we shipped an improved match engine, a new UI skin that gave the game a fresh and vibrant look, and a range of other tweaks. You could learn about the board's confidence levels, and access reports from coaches, scouts and the assistant manager as you strove for glory. We also had unlockable managerial abilities and - fittingly as the PSP came towards the end of its career - testimonial matches.
The iPhone was less than three years old when FM10 Handheld brought our simulation to its screen (and those of the iPod touch), and the initial offering would have been familiar to PSP players. 34 leagues in 11 countries, squads of up to 36, and a shrunk-down database of around 20,000 real-world players (complete with January 2010 transfer data) made for a pocket-sized take on the beautiful game. In a nod to the new format, you could even play music while you managed.
There was still room for improvement, but it was already clear that the touch-screen management of the iOS version was the future for portable Football Manager.