In a bid to keep up with the Sports Interactives, developer Bright Future has also added a touchline order system, which you can use to yell instructions at your players. Your 17 options include telling a player to attempt a one-two, ordering them to get forward and informing them how you believe they should be passing, tackling and marking. It's a decent enough addition and to FIFA Manager's credit your players do visibly attempt to follow your commands. On the rare occasions your orders do make a key impact, the feeling of smugness is so overwhelming you're tempted to dislocate your arms so you can pat yourself on the back more easily.
Press and player interactions remain relatively unchanged from last year, though your dealings with journalists do at least possess some charisma, unlike Football Manager's rather sterile offerings. However, with so few genuine innovations on show you can't help feel that after several years of impressive progress the FIFA Manager series has lost some ground on its two main rivals.
FIFA Manager 2010's biggest new feature is its online mode. But if you're expecting to be able to play the single-player game in a long, protracted battle against other players, you're in for disappointment. What is on offer is a massively stripped-down experience that bares almost no resemblance to the single-player game whatsoever. After you've either chosen to host a game or join someone else's, you must pick a team to manage from the selected league and then play through an entire season against other human players and AI opponents.
Every turn is restricted to a stringent time limit, during which you must select your formation and line-up, pick from a surprisingly small number of tactical options, define training sessions and manage your ticket prices. Players' stats are shown as a single level of ability (ranging from one to 20) and a set of specialist skills (strength, speed, crossing etc), but other than these, it's virtually impossible to gauge how one player differs from another. The addition of bonuses that reward the best players and rapid transfer auctions are decent enough ideas, but they're not quite enough to make this a genuinely long-lasting pastime.
After you've made your tactical choices it's game time, though the text-only match view is incredibly limited, providing only brief accounts of the action and rarely truly informing you of how each player is performing. The lack of match-day player feedback restricts you to making tactical tweaks and substitutions that are often more guesswork than informed decisions. In its own simplistic way, multiplayer can be briefly fun, but the shortcomings soon become clear, causing your interest to wane rapidly.
While FIFA Manager 10 is by no means a poor game, there's an underlying suspicion that the energy that's been pumped into the hit-and-miss multiplayer features would have been better spent on genuinely innovating the single-player game, which sadly feels a little too similar to last year and a little tactically thin compared to FM and CM. However, if you didn't buy FIFA Manager 09 and you're looking for a genuine alternative to CM or FM that offers a unique slant on the genre, then FIFA Manager 10 still warrants a closer look.