For the past few years, the FIFA Manager series has resembled the kind of big spending underachievers so common in the Premiership, a Newcastle United to Football Manager's Chelsea, tipped pre-season by its owners for greatness, then utterly underachieving when the tackles start flying in earnest. However, while this year's footy management crown once again looks to be heading to Sports Interactive's east London offices, the contest isn't quite so one-sided as in previous seasons.
We all like different things. Some adore FIFA 08, some hate it. Some love PES 6, others abhor it. It's all a matter of taste. I'll warn you now, a section of you are going to hate PES 2008, simply because it doesn't dance to the right footy rhythm. Others amongst you will think it's the best game of the series to date and lavish it with the type of love usually reserved for a firstborn, while some of you will just groan and write it off as more of the same. Question is, which is going to be?
I'm assuming you've seen Aliens. No, not the small grey men with engorged craniums that suck you up into their ships, prod your erogenous zones then spit you back to earth like a globule of hacked up phlegm. No, I'm talking about the James Cameron sci-fi masterpiece in which large black monsters with engorged craniums chop up an elite marine taskforce in about two hours. I'm also going to assume you've seen Aliens: Special Edition (AKA Director's Cut). If not, go watch them, then come back when you're done and we'll pick things up from there.
Just three weeks to go. Still, if you can't wait that long for a taste of the full game, fear not, as we've just returned from a four-hour playtest of the latest (approx 90% complete) PS3 code. We did try the 360 code, but bafflingly, the shoot and pass controls insisted on defaulting to the trigger buttons, making any kind of dissection virtually impossible. So without further delay, let's get to it...
Let's rewind twelve months. ‘Watch your back, Konami' was the ominous warning that rounded off our review of FIFA 07, a statement fuelled by a belief that after years of churning out identikit pap, EA had finally taken the hint that tacking on a novelty feature onto the previous year's game and slapping it onto the shelves was no longer a recipe for global domination. Having had its nose blooded by the mesmerising Pro Evolution Soccer series, FIFA 07 was an attempt to bite back. But it wasn't quite enough. Now, FIFA has returned, refocused, leaner, hungrier and eager to retake the crown that PES swiped off its cocky head a few seasons ago.
It's that time of year again, the time when all your dreams for the new footy season are still fresh, the time when you still have an unshakable belief that this will be your team's year. It's that magical time of self-delusion before your head sinks slowly into your clammy palms as your team pathetically capitulates to a collection of part time construction workers and decorators for the fourth week running and sets itself up for another soul-destroying season. If only you'd been the manager things would be different, right? Well, in a few weeks you'll be able to find out when Football Manager 2008 hits the back of the shelves.