Some things simply get better over time, and the Football Manager series is one such thing. OK, so it's not strictly the same game every year, but new games in the series have essentially become stat updates, plus a few changes to the main game, but no one's complaining. Why? Because it's so damn addictive, that's why. Football Manager 2007 on the Xbox 360 is the second version to find its way to Microsoft's next-gen console, and with a few changes it's ready to take over your life once again.
If you read our review for the PC version of Football Manager 2007, you'll know all about the main additions to the game this time around. For those who didn't read it (or are too lazy to click that link), the big news was improved interaction with players and the press, board involvement and additional transfer options. All this has been ported over to the Xbox 360 game without any sacrifices, so the real crux of the matter is what's been done to improve on a hit and miss control system from last year.
While FM 2006 on the 360 was more than playable, it required more than a little investment to get the most out of it. After a good few hours the menus became navigable and things approached being second nature, but it never really felt like the perfect solution to a PC-centric series on a console. This year things are much, much better. At the heart of the new system are the left and right bumpers on the 360 controller, which now let you switch between tabs in an instant, while the 'B' button now functions as a 'Back' button as it does is most other Xbox 360 titles.
The left trigger brings up what is essentially the main menu in the PC game and the right trigger brings up an Actions menu. Everything feels a lot simpler, with practically everything you want only a few buttons away at most, and you spend less time looking at the screen to see which button you should be pressing to perform the right action or to get to the required menu. On this front then, it's certainly a job well done from Sports Interactive.
Other areas haven't had quite as much attention paid to them. One thing that certainly could have been tweaked is the amount of information available on one screen. While HD TV owners do get more info than a standard definition TV owner, there's still room left over in most cases.
The 360 game includes a few exclusive features, but they're nothing that'll enrage PC players, with only the Xbox Live Fantasy Draft competition worthy of a special mention. Here each online player picks a team (your own offline team is allowed) and then each round of matches sees you picking a new team from the players available. The picking order changes after each round, so everyone gets a fair go, making for a true test of management skill, rather than bank balance competition.
Presentation is functional as ever, with no compromises made over displaying information. If you want flashy menus, 3D visuals and lifelike animations, look somewhere else. The best you're going to get here is a few blobs moving about the screen, some slick menus and lots of numbers. It's all stuff Football Manager fans expect, and it's hard to imagine it being any other way. The day fancy visuals make their way into the series will probably be the day the series as we know it ends.
Fans of last year's console title will be thrilled by the new control scheme, making the game even more of a social life risk than before, while newcomers will have a far easier time getting to grips with things than they would have done last year. As far as addictive games go, few can hold candle to the Football Manager series, and combining that addictive quality with a comfy living room environment is just asking for trouble. With the Achievement points being so hard to gain, you'll be playing this until FM 2008.