In the grand scheme of things, the news that Sports Interactive and SEGA are preparing Football Manager 2008 for release on PC (XP/Vista) and Mac (OS10.3.9 and above) this Christmas is about as surprising as waking up to find Carlos Tevez is still on the back pages. But the news of which features the latest version is focused upon improving definitely is interesting.
As you'd expect, FM 08 has been updated for the new season (Tevez TBC, presumably), and boasts the usual array of Cups, Leagues, European Championships and international tournaments, with 5,000 playable teams from over 50 countries. They're also making the regular promise of faster saving and loading, faster network gaming and faster everything else.
Key new and improved features include something SI's calling "Match Flow". Basically, all the stuff that happens on match-day now flows together, including pre-match previews, team talks, player instructions, half-time and all the rest, and you can no longer pause the game to make tactical changes - instead you'll have to keep one eye on a mini pitch radar while you tweak formations and make substitutions.
Elsewhere there's a broader array of International Management options, allowing for things like player retirements, captain selection and a separation of international and club morale, with improved scouting and interaction with the players. Remember to smile. Meanwhile, a Confidence System gives you feedback on what the fans and board think of your performances on the field, your financial management and your signings.
SI is also introducing Transfer Centre - a new way of managing transfers and loans, making it easier to compare bids and reject/accept them; an overhauled Awards system, which now includes the European golden boot and a "best XI" feature to show the all-time in-game best XI for all teams and nations; Match Engine improvements, along with the option to change pitch dimensions to suit pre-season; Fan Days to boost attendance; photos for all regenerated players; and a revamp to Finances, giving you more information including corporate match-day income, improved sponsorships, collective win bonuses, along with the ability to move funds around the wage and transfer budgets.
On the interface front, they're also promising to clean things up a bit and introduce an advisor system, new notes/notebook system, an updated tutorial/manual, coach reports to make taking over a new team easier and a new calendar system.
Sports Interactive studio director Miles Jacobson says they're "raising the bar" once again. "With dozens of new small features and larger things like a complete revamp of international management and the new match flow system, we’re really looking forward to seeing the reaction from people when they get to play it on release," he said. As ever, you can keep up with the flow of new info over at www.sigames.com, or check out the first screenshots in our Football Manager 2008 screenshot gallery.