Football Manager Live possesses an impressive number of skills to learn, ranging from coaching talents to the ability to lessen player recovery times after injuries. There's an exhaustive list of sub-skills for each of six main skill categories. While the interface for choosing and queuing these abilities leaves a lot to be desired, the sheer number of them ensures you can mould your skill-set to the type of management style you prefer to employ.
One of the most striking differences between today's FML and its original launch is just how much more the game feels like a traditional MMO. Whereas in its early days it was overly reliant on human players competing against each other, there's now far more flexibility if you're looking to mix in solo challenges.
If you don't fancy playing against a real-life player or if there aren't any willing opponents around, you can undertake a series of increasingly taxing challenges against AI opposition. There's also more room to set up bespoke strategies for competitive games that take place while you're offline (fail to play a tournament game by a certain date and your team will play the game under the control of an AI manager). You can even define when you want to make substitutions and under what circumstances as well as when tactical changes are made.
The 2D matches remain as realistic as we've come to expect from a Football Manager game. Played out as a series of highlights and lasting somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, you and your opponent can make tactical and player changes on the fly without ever seriously breaking the flow of the action. Compared to when the game launched, you now have far more tactical control over your team, while the tactics interface has been revamped and feels more powerful, striking an excellent middle ground between Football Manager's hardcore depth and intuitive accessibility.
Football Manager Live is certainly a game that's improved over the past 15 months. However, it feels like it's evolved at the steady pace befitting a solid MMO rather than leaping forward in any major way. FML is undoubtedly more entertaining and deeper than it was a year ago, but the overall lack of visual finesse, coupled with a general lack of polish and a few lingering balancing issues and bugs, can make the game look and feel less impressive than it actually is.
If you're new to FML, then I'd highly recommend trying the game out for a month, then assessing how much fun you're having on a month-by-month basis. At under a fiver, you have everything to gain and little to lose. But for those of you who've invested over a year of your life into FML only to have the rug pulled from under your feet, the idea of having to start almost from scratch might be just too much to bear.
As it stands, thanks to its continued evolution and improved post-reboot balancing, Football Manager Live still just about warrants an eight and your attention - though it's more than likely that if you're a veteran who's just lost out big time, you'll see it more as a seven, for the time being at least.
Since this re-review was written, Sports Interactive has informed us that Football Manager Live's 3D match engine is in the "advanced stages of testing" and will go live in the next major update, 1.6. It includes advances on FM10's match engine, including night matches based on your local time.