Picture of Jack Arnott

Jack Arnott


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Football Manager 2016 review

Playing it safe.

If you follow any of Football Manager's various presences on social media, there's a recurring joke you'll have become familiar with. When something really bizarre happens in the real world of football, followers will inform the account, annotating their tweets with a single word: BUG!

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Brawling back the years.

When you think about it, a wrestling game represents something of a unique proposition for a developer. For the most part, it's a sports sim: the performers can be motion captured and the action digitally recreated just as you would with a football or basketball game.

FIFA 16 review

Moving goalposts.

See if you can spot the pattern. In FIFA 11, pace was overpowered. In FIFA 12, pace was nerfed. In FIFA 13, pace was overpowered. In FIFA 14, pace was nerfed. In FIFA 15, pace was overpowered. In FIFA 16...

In Malcolm Gladwell's 2005 book Blink, the pop science writer casts his contrarian gaze over the Pepsi Challenge, the 1975 marketing promotion that struck one of the most resounding blows in what has since been dubbed "The Cola Wars". Pepsi, it seemed, always came out on top in blindfold taste tests - and hence could, quite fairly, market itself as "America's choice".

FeaturePES 2016 vs FIFA 16: a friendly comparison

Early impressions ahead of review.

In some ways, I imagine writing about football games is a bit like writing about wine. Make a quick judgement, pluck arbitrarily from the glossary of established terms and - as long as you express yourself with conviction - most readers will be happy to follow your lead.

FeatureThe obscure baseball game that went on to be the PC's second highest ranked game

Unravelling the strange appeal of Out of the Park Baseball 2007.

It's the bottom of the ninth, the bases are loaded, and the Phillies need just two runs to clinch a spot in the World Series. But something's holding up play. Jim Skaalen, the pitching coach, and Jonny Estrada, the ninth batter, are arguing furiously as they approach the mound. Estrada, it seems, has lost faith in the abilities of his general manager. "I don't care if he's new to this, skip," Estrada objurgates, "he shouldn't have to Google what a 'bunt' is."

Football Manager 2015 review

Managing expectations.

It's been a memorable year in the life of Jack Arnott, football manager. After an astonishing run of five promotions in seven seasons he brought Premier League football to Rivacre Park for the first time in Vauxhall Motors' history. He developed an innovative 4-3-2-1 formation that so suited some of his early signings they remained integral parts of the team throughout his tenure - including an Irish regen, Jimmy Burns, who never once fell below an average 7.3 rating in his combined wide target-man/set-piece specialist role. When Arnott resigned in a fit of pique midway through his second year in the top flight, frustrated by his squad's perennial unhappiness with the stature of the club and the failure of his record signing - a £23m Brazilian wonderkid plucked from Real Madrid's B-team - to produce any kind of form, there was not a man or woman in Ellesmore Port who would begrudge it being described as the end of an era.

For the most part, documentaries about video games can be split into two camps. On the one hand, the likes of King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts and Ecstasy of Order take a nostalgic look at the surviving remnants of a dead culture, while on the other, films like Free to Play, Indie Game: the Movie and Second Skin look to showcase a niche interest that still burns brightly and bring that world to a wider audience.

FIFA 15 review

Teenage kicks.

Football is a contradictory sport. It's a culture that expresses itself best through the kinships and rivalries of local communities, yet embraces globalism like no other pastime. A world that makes millionaires of its participants, yet through its veneration of supporters claims a special bond with the common man. A team game of predictable shapes and patterns that hinges on unpredictable individuality.

FeatureIs FIFA 15's beauty only skin deep?

EA Sports latest outing has much more to offer than "emotion".

And so, with the meat and veg of this year's Fédération Internationale de Football Association 2015 dispatched, we move on to dessert, with a ragtag assortment of hacks invited down to the Cologne of the North Downs (Guildford) to catch-up with improvements to the match engine and take in a few new features while we were there.

FeatureDoes FIFA 15 fix the series' legacy issues?

Much stays the same for EA Sports new outing, but on closer inspection much has changed.

It was one of those little moments in my personal gaming history that I don't think I'll ever forget. We'd been summoned to a classmate's house to witness the beginning of a new chapter in console technology: Sony's hip and edgy PlayStation. The classmate (let's call him Rob - after all, that was his name) was a rarity in our peer group - someone whose parents considered it entirely reasonable to spend around £300 on something which then, much more so than now, was considered little more than a toy. Rob was unpopular, in an awkward 11-year-old sort of way, but that night his living room would become the centre of our worlds.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil review

Short (passing) game.

When is a game not a game? Because 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, when judged against your average triple-A release, has some pretty major shortcomings. Firstly: its value to you will grow and grow and then suddenly nosedive the day after the World Cup final. If you buy on release day, that's around 88 days of Rio-related fun and then it may as well self-destruct in your disc-drive. Online opponents will become harder and harder to find, the tie-in online content will suddenly become unavailable. And that's overlooking the fact that English readers will be pining for their club teams after a few hours spent in the company of Roy Hodgson's England.

Football Manager 2014 review

Winning tactics.

It's tempting to imagine Sports Interactive's Miles Jacobson experiencing some kind of Damascene moment while visiting Watford's London Colney training ground this summer (for an epiphany to occur at Vicarage Road would perhaps be too neat). An inter-squad kickaround, perhaps, interrupted by a bellow of "get it in the mixer" in Gianfranco Zola's distinctive, Sardinian tenor. Or a blank look from Troy Deeney when asked whether he ever felt like he'd have more stamina towards the end of games if he closed people down 10 per cent less.

FeatureManaging change in Football Manager 2014

Miles Jacobson explains why coming up with new ideas is the least of his worries.

If carrying the weight of a beloved gaming franchise on his shoulders is a burden, Miles Jacobson certainly doesn't show it - in fact, if anything, listening back to my visit to Sports Interactive's head office, it was the interviewer that seemed under pressure.

FeaturePES 2014 preview: Why I'll be making the switch back this year

How the move to the Fox Engine ushers in Konami's boldest update yet.

Leafing through adverts and reviews of football games going back 10 or 20 years, it's immediately noticeable how little has changed - superficially - in the way we describe them. The box blurb for FIFA 95, for example, boasts of its "fast gameplay" and "pinpoint give-and-go passes". Both phrases that will likely feature in any discussion of its descendant in 2013. This rather charming 1997 IGN review of ISS 64, meanwhile, speaks glowingly of the title's "responsiveness" while asserting that there's "no lag time like in FIFA". Sound familiar?

Football Manager 2013 review

A game of two wholes.

"AND LO, it was written: verily from here on forth, every version of Football Manager shall be more time-consuming and complicated than the last, until managers can one day pick the colour of their players' underpants, and the people shall rejoice as it takes longer to play a season in the game than it would in real life. This was the word of the Brothers Collyer. And it was Good."

FeatureWhy Football Manager 2013 won't ruin your life

The new Classic Mode promises not to be bad for you, and revitalises the game in the process.

In 1963 Coca-Cola introduced a diet version of their ubiquitous fizzy drink to the American public for the first time. Despite fears that it would cannibalise Coke's existing marketshare, 'Tab' (later usurped in 1982 by its successor, Diet Coke) was a roaring success for the company, succeeding both by capitalising on a new, health-conscious consumer-base and appealing to existing Coke drinkers eager to try something different.