It’s surprisingly painful to review this year’s Football Manager on 360. Not because it isn’t brilliant. It is. It’s arguably stronger now than at any point in its long and illustrious history, sporting new online modes, and a raft of small, but important improvements which elevate the game to impressive new levels of addiction. As a conversion from the PC version, you’d expect downsizing, and although there have been corners cut here and there, you’d be hard pressed to find the joins. Basically, this is as impressive a console football management game as you’ll ever see.
But... there’s one big problem. Just like Command & Conquer before it (and, we suspect, most PC-to-360 strategy titles coming over the next year or so), FM08 is severely hampered by the switch from mouse to pad. Where the mouse gives you immediacy, ease of use, and the ability to swap effortlessly between screens, the pad gives you a sluggish, sometimes confused alternative, where moving between screens takes longer than it should, and accidental tweaking of options becomes an ass-clenching reality. The surprising decision not to allow control of the menus via the D-Pad doesn’t help either - the sticks just don’t have anywhere close to the pixel-perfect precision needed for navigating tiny, clickable options on countless waves of menus. It’s the wrong tools for the job, and even SI’s commendably slick attempts to ease your suffering, placing important options on the bumpers and triggers, isn’t the answer.
The 360 pad is a great controller, and, for 99% of what comes out on the system, it’s a perfect fit. But the joy of turning a 16-year-old African kid into the next Eto’o and seeing him score in the Champions League final can only be replicated on one set of buttons. And they aren’t on a pad.
Apr 16, 2008