james debate
james debate

Sunday 29 November 2009

Directed by Richard Curtis
Written by Richard Curtis
Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Hilary Bevan Jones
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh
Release date(s) Out Now
Running time 135 minutes

This latest film from Richard Curtis, the man behind such British classics such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones and Love Actually, as well as sitcoms like Blackadder and Mr Bean, tells the story of how a pirate rock and roll music station from the 1960s rebelled against Government repression and changed the world.

pirate radio boat that rocked

In past reviews Richard Curtis has mentioned popular music to be his true passion, so it comes as little surprise to see him at the helm of Pirate Radio (titled "The Boat that Rocked" in the UK), essentially a love letter to rock and roll. Indeed it comes as a departure from his recent films of which almost all deal with the doomed romantic endeavours of a poor simple everyman, typical rom-com fare, and frankly I see this as a good thing.

On the surface this film has everything it needs to be an utter classic: a great setting aboard a rock and roll party boat in 1960s England, one of the best soundtracks ever created full of 1960s rock classics, a seasoned director (Curtis) who is simply best in show when it comes to the britcom genre, and an utterly fantastic ensemble cast featuring some of the funniest people on the planet. However, it manages to fall just short of 'absolute classic' status.

Pirate Radio is loosely based off of real life events, specifically the famous Radio Caroline which broadcast from the North Sea at a time when the BBC monopolised radio industry frowned upon such frivolities as rock music (then again I'm 21, so most of that comes from Wikipedia). This story follows "Young Carl", woodenly played by Tom Sturridge, who following expulsion from school is sent onto the Radio Rock boat owned by his godfather Quentin, played absolutely perfectly by the always criminally underrated Bill Nighy, in order to find himself. Fortunately we quickly learn that this film is a true ensemble piece, and that Carl only plays one of many central roles.

He is joined on the boat by "The Count", a big brash American rocker played by oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who as I'm sure many of you know is one of the finest actors alive right now. There is Gavin, the sexy superstar DJ played by Rhys Ifans, a fantastic comedian, and a top notch comedic actor as I can attest to as someone who has seen him perform on the London stage, probably best known in the cinema world for playing Spike in Notting Hill. We have Dr. Dave, played by the unmissable Nick Frost, who having initially launched himself onto the scene as Simon Pegg's cheeky partner in crime has now fully cemented his big screen cred with this role. And of course I've already mentioned Bill Nighy, playing his typical smarmy old bastard role to perfection.

Meanwhile stiff upper lip government types are looking to shut down Radio Rock for polluting the innocent minds of British kids with their filth, led by Kenneth Branagh flexing his considerable acting chops by playing a complete text book caricature of stiff authority types. Perhaps a bit too textbook though if you ask me. And he is supported ably by Mr. "Twatt", played with aplomb by Jack Davenport, who no doubt people will recognise as Commodore Norrington from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as well as more recently playing a key role on the tv show Flash Forward.

It speaks to the amazing strength of the cast that you also have smaller roles played by Rhys Darby, who many will recognise from Flight of the Conchords, as well as recent Jim Carrey film Yes Man. He's a fabulously talented comedian who is rightly starting to become a known entity in the business. Meanwhile Chris O'Dowd also deserves much acclaim for his performance as "simple" Simon, the breakfast DJ, who delivers one of the more multi dimensional and nuanced performances of the show and is really quite impressive.

I've been going on about the cast for a long time now, and really it's because they're all brilliant performances. The movie is absolutely a pleasure to watch with such an excellent cast, and especially with the rocking soundtrack and exuberant energy Curtis imbues the project with. The problem is that he doesn't do this quite enough.

The original British cut of this film is over 2 hours long (although this has now been cut down for Americans), and while there are a number of ball tighteningly fantastic bits, mostly at times when the music is playing and people are rocking out, there is a lot of filler which features few laughs and a severely depleted energy level. Most of these scenes can help you through simply on the charisma and awesomeness of the actors on screen, but by the end you'll be feeling a little tired, right when the big endgame setpiece starts to take place.

It's also a problem that while this is a very charming and enjoyable film, it's perhaps not consistently as laugh out loud funny as one might expect. This is ok by me as I enjoy a good character piece, but elsewhere in the film, Curtis makes the conscious decision to skirt over all serious subject matter. Major conflicts between characters are resolved in like 3 seconds with a pat on the back and a laugh, and for a movie that's all about rock and roll and piracy, edgy topics like drug abuse are only lightly touched on. Curtis holds back on the real belly laughs, and yet shies away from any form of deep thinking, and the result is that the movie feels slightly lightweight.

Ultimately though, none of this ruins a thoroughly enjoyable and easy watching film. What it lacks in straightforward laughs it makes up for with great characters, buckets of charm, and a heavy dose of awesome. It rocks, plain and simple, and you probably won't have more fun watching any other film this holiday season.

Saturday 28 November 2009

song of the week: "Love Made Visible" by "The Delays"

thing that makes me happy today: Moved into my new flat, pretty sweet.

pic of the day:
Paranormal Activity
Virgin Media

Blair Witch Project
Sky Digital
Flash Forward

Saturday 21 November 2009

song of the week: "Islands" by "The XX"

thing that makes me happy today: The Daily Show, keeps going from strength to strength.

pic of the day:
Redcliffe Gardens
Pirate Radio

Queens Club Gardens
Empire Records
Flash Forward

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Developed by Infinity Ward
Published by Activision
Genre First Person Shooter
Platform PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Release date(s) Out Now

I seriously doubt there's anyone reading this who is not at least aware of this game. In the build up to release, it had been attracting attention for the wrong reasons. Controversial civilian killing levels have got the media and shrill housewives in an uproar, while unnecessary restrictions on multiplayer modes have been met by strong resistance from PC gamers. But frankly, I really couldn't give a crap about any of this. Read on to find out what really matters when it comes to this game.

modern warfare 2

First of all, I know it's taken me a long time to write this review, a fact which is completely unrelated to the amount of time I have spent playing this game in the past week, though clearly that didn't help. But before I talk about how awesome much of this game is, I'm going to tell you about the bad stuff. Note their will be spoilers.

Now anyone who has read my reviews in the past know how completely fed up I am with buggy games that get rushed out to meet deadlines with little or no testing, and sadly for those of you who are thinking of purchasing the PC version I tested, this is pretty much what you'll get.

In truth, I ended up spending the better part of a day just trying to get this to work, given the temperamental relationship between this game's PC port and ATI videocards. So if you have one, then beware. Even after this, my play-throughs (plural for reasons that will soon become clear) were frequented with random crashes, error messages, and occasional freezing. At one point the game crashed and, even though all my save data was intact, the ridiculous checkpoint save system the game employs is entirely dependent on a single settings file, which corrupted, therefore rendering all my save data useless and forcing me to start over from the beginning. Absolutely horrific, back up your user data folder. The multiplayer side of things was equally buggy, taking a significant amount of time and effort to connect to a friend for a simple game.

Once you get past the kinks and technical bugs however, this game is about as awesome as they come. It's incredibly well honed to the point of being as perfect a shooter as you'll find, with tried and tested mechanics that have made the Call of Duty series one of the most enduring in the industry. There are no major changes in that respect, but it is further refined to the point of excellence. Meanwhile the level design in this game is amongst the best I've ever seen in a shooter. Each one is memorable and absurdly good fun, whether you're fleeing across the rooftops of Rio de Janeiro, cliffhanging in the alps, or SPOILER fighting commies in central DC. It's all incredibly fun.

What's more, it is all absolutely beautiful to look at, with fantastically detailed environments and lifelike characters. If you have a powerful enough computer to run it, then you won't be disappointed. The overall experience is really something quite special, with a series of explosive, fun, and truly mesmerising levels to play through.

But there are still things that bug the hell out of me about this game. The first Modern Warfare was a really fantastic game, fun, pretty to look at, and featuring a truly gripping story to play through, that was fascinating precisely for its (relative) realism and believability. For this sequel, they've ramped up the fun factor, but completely thrown the believability out the window.

The plot of MW1 saw you hunting terrorists in Iraq and combatting Russian extremist groups in the Siberian wilderness. MW2 sees MORE MASSIVE SPOILERS a Russian mercenary perpetrating a terrorist attack on a Russian airport and framing the Americans, so as to provoke a full scale Russian invasion of America. The framing is completely unconvincing, the notion that poverty stricken Russia would respond to the discovery of an American terrorist with a full invasion of the most powerful nation on Earth is crazy, and then that they would somehow land a surprise invasion on both coasts of the United States without anyone noticing, not the Americans, not their allies in Europe or Asia, not the Intelligence agencies, is completely preposterous. But that's not the best part. It turns out one of the American generals, bitter about the cover up of the incident in MW1 that led to the death of 30,000 of his troops, is pulling the strings, because he wants to start world war 3 and then become a hero by stopping it. What one thing has to do with the other, or how this in any way avenges his fallen men, is simply never stated.

And yes, you can just say 'oh its just a videogame, a bit of mindless fun, stop analysing the plot', but no. This is not even mindless fun. Independence day is mindless fun, Halo and Mass Effect are mindless fun, but they at least achieve a semi reasonable level of coherency and immersion, such that the average viewer can suspend disbelief and enjoy. The same was true of MW1. But this, in MW2, is simply laughable, it's too ridiculous even for mindless fun, and it frequently ruins the sense of immersion and pulls you out of the experience. It feels like the developers of this game cared more about creating controversial and shocking images, like a war torn DC or a terrorist attack, than actually making any sense. Neither of these scenes land anywhere near as hard as the far more believable nuclear explosion in MW1 anyway.

There is, however, one thing that I do like about the plot of this game, and that is that for the first time in the series, they are actually trying to create and develop characters, with Soap and Price returning from the first game, and ending this game on a cliffhanger that will leave you wondering about their fate until MW3.

Ultimately it's a shame, because you have this beautiful and incredibly fun and well designed game, which then aspires to be an engaging and cinematic experience but fails miserably on account of seriously half assed and manipulative writing, and game breaking bugs and technical glitches. Admittedly the latter won't be a problem if you have this on a game console, so add on half a star to my final score in that case.

FPS perfection
Proper characters

Absurd and incoherent plot
Technical bugs

Saturday 14 November 2009

song of the week: "Wake Up" by "Arcade Fire"

thing that makes me happy today: Job prospects.

pic of the day:
Modern Warfare 2
Tiger Tiger

Modern Warfare 1
On Anon

Saturday 7 November 2009

Developed by FreeStyleGames
Published by Activision
Genre Music/Rhythm
Platform Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Release date(s) Out Now

It's an idea that has torn apart the music game community. Is it a logical next step in expanding the magic of guitar hero styled games to a new genre of music and a new fanbase? Or is it simply milking it? For better or for worse, DJ Hero is here, read on for the full low down.

dj hero

So here we have DJ Hero, a bit like guitar hero, but for the clubbing crowd. Let's explain how this thing works then. You have your plastic turntable (or your much better quality, but overpriced turntable if you get the renegade edition) which has a turntable with three buttons on it, a crossfader over to the left, and a turnable knob with an extra button next to it.

Let's begin with the turntable itself, which is after all the core of the gameplay mechanic. Forgetting the middle red button for a minute, the left (green) and right (blue) ones are your main buttons. Each of these corresponds to one of the two tracks that is being mixed in your song. You press the corresponding button in time with the notes on the screen just like in guitar hero, and when you see a long bar note for one particular colour you hold the button while "scratching" the turntable. Then in addition you will crossfade between the tracks when you see the corresponding track shit out to the left or right on the screen as appropriate. Simple then.

The red button plays samples. For the most part playing the red notes will play a sample that has been pre-chosen by whoever mixed the song you're playing, but occasionally you get a long red bar note, which is essentially a "freestyle" zone, in which you can play samples from your sample set (which you choose before the song, and can switch between different samples using the knob) in any pattern you see fit. It's an interesting idea, but in reality you have like 5 sample sets to choose from and they inevitably won't really go with whatever song you're playing.

Meanwhile there is this turnable knob, which for most of the time will just allow you to select a sample to play during freestyle segments, but really what it's supposed to be is a low/high pass filter, but only actually works in designated segments of the song. The button next to this is how you trigger "euphoria" which is essentially the DJ Hero version of Guitar Hero's star power.

Great, so now you know how to play the game, but is it worth playing? Is it any good?

DJ Hero is a lot of fun for sure. The gameplay is addictive with a range of difficulty settings that run the gamut from absurdly piss easy to ridiculously anal and difficult, and the presentation is appropriately slick through out with lots of colour and flashing lights and (perhaps a bit too overdone) "attitude".

First of all, there is no failing on this game. Instead the game punishes you by forcing you to listen to how much you suck, and not being able to unlock more songs, DJs, decks, skins, etc, which you do by earning "stars" for beating songs. You continue in this fashion, playing through a series of set lists until you've unlocked everything, and of course there's the mandatory "custom set list" option.

You can also play along to certain songs with a guitar hero guitar, but frankly playing the same looped samples over and over gets old very quickly. Also for some reason when you're playing single player they still inexplicably feel the need to show the computer character's guitar note chart on the screen next to your's, meaning for those songs your turntable note chart is crammed into the tiny corner of the screen. Pretty stupid actually.

I can't help but feel that it's all a bit thin though. There are only a handful of venues to play in, and a really awful selection of characters to play as, with no custom character designer at all, which has become such a standard in this genre. To begin with you get to choose between a giant gorilla with a Mexican wrestling mask, an ugly midget, and a girl with too many piercings. Frankly I like to just play as someone who looks normal, or at least vaguely like me, and such a thing is not really possible in this game. Fortunately this is almost made up for by the large number of real life superstar DJs you can unlock, the undoubted highlight of which is none other than fucking Daft Punk.

But ultimately such superficial details are largely irrelevant, and what matters is how good the music is. I'm pleased to be able to say that as a whole the music in this game is of a VERY high quality, which some absolutely breathtaking mixes that frankly I wish they would release a compilation album for this game. As I mentioned, the highlight is definitely Daft Punk, who for this game have produced 11 mixes featuring a bunch of their songs and a few from other bands like Queen, Beastie Boys and err... Gary Numan (which is pretty awesome actually). There are a number of absolutely brilliant mixes aside from this as well, including Gorillaz mixed with Blondie, The Killers mixed with Eric Prydz, and Jackson 5 mixed with Third Eye Blind. The glory of this soundtrack is that you'll even enjoy songs that you otherwise wouldn't like because the vast majority of the mixes are so catchy and well done.

But the soundtrack is not perfect. Frankly there is a gross overemphasis on rap music with the likes of Eminem and Jay-Z, and not nearly enough trance or dance tunes. Seriously, bring on some Basement Jaxx, Avalanches, hell I'll even take Moby, it'd at least be something different. Oh and the Chemical Brothers, definitely. And while we're on that note, let's have some Girl Talk for the dlc, he's without a doubt the best mash up artist out there, so it seems like a waste to leave him out. If Girl Talk makes a few mixes for this game it would actually be the most epic thing ever.

In the end, this is a pretty fun game, with a decent soundtrack. However, a lack of certain pretty obvious features, a skewed list of songs in terms of genre appeal, and a few questionable gameplay design choices makes this feel slightly half baked. More a proof of concept rather than the genuine article. If you've been dying to get your hands on this game, go for it and you'll enjoy it. If not, then you might as well wait for DJ Hero 2, which will probably be a much more complete package.

Awesome tunes
Addictive gameplay
Glitz and flashiness

Too much rap
Those stupid play along guitar songs
Lack of a character designer, seriously what is this 2003?

Developed by Rockstar North
Published by Rockstar Games
Genre Third Person action
Platform Xbox 360
Release date(s) Out Now

The latest DLC for GTA4 puts the fun right back into this most intricately designed of game worlds. Thank God!

ballad of gay tony

GTA4 was one of the biggest games of last year, or of any year really, and while it may have been criminally overrated, it was still pretty good. Crucially, where many companies in recent years have made ambitious promises of vast reams of dlc to augment the longevity of their products, Rockstar games have actually managed to deliver on such boasts, whereas most companies have not.

Unfortunately, what they delivered was Lost & Damned, which, while being a decent enough game, was so completely uninteresting as a subject matter that it really didn't even begin to stack up next to the other fine products the developers have created. Fortunately they have more than made up for it with the Ballad of Gay Tony, which is not only the best GTA4 episode, but one of the finest GTA settings, period.

The Ballad of Gay Tony owes much of its success to the introduction of 'fun' which was sorely lacking from the last episode of dlc, and indeed had been scaled back for much of the original game in favour of a gritty realism. Clearly this latest episode is more Lethal Weapon than Mean streets, but all in all, it just works.

You play Luis Lopez, the business partner and bodyguard of the titular Gay Tony, who is the kingpin of the most successful chain of night clubs in Liberty City. Much of the game consists of you bouncing around clubs, partaking in champagne drinking competitions, scoring with the ladies and dancing the night away, so clearly this is my type of game. Frankly, it's just fun. It's an electric, flashy, energy filled setting which makes the proceedings all the more gripping, and for college students like myself, all the more relatable.

This new playful attitude comes through in the missions as well, which are far more reminiscent of the all action silliness of San Andreas, with plenty of helicopter based missions and base jumping from various tall buildings onto various moving vehicles. There's a lot more explosions and action, so anyone who felt that GTA4 until now had been too boring will find exactly what they're looking for in this episode.

It also helps that these missions are generally of a very high quality. You still get a few of the typical 'kill these guys', 'steal this car' boring missions, but then you also get the awesome 'blow up this yacht', 'hit golf balls in a driving range into a guys nuts to intimidate him', and the like, it's consistently entertaining and gripping stuff.

As is customary with the GTA universe, the characters and voice acting are impeccable, and simply better than most of what you see in videogames. The main character, Lopez, has a less dominating personality than recent GTA protagonists, but this works to his favour, as he comes across as much more of a relatable and sympathetic creation, making for a far more compelling character than we've seen yet.

Meanwhile, this episode contains a number of new side missions, including the simple, but fun cage fighting arena, and the club management missions. The latter consists basically of Luis walking around the club throwing out trouble makers, occasionally scoring with the slutty chick who works there, and having to tend to various spoilt celebrities in missions that involve tasks like helping them sneak out of the club, to driving them to pick up prostitutes, to stealing a firetruck to hose down paparazzi.

Aside from all this, though, the city is still the star of the game, and even a year later Liberty City in GTA4 remains one of the most spellbindingly amazing creations we've ever seen in a videogame. There simply has never been such a large, detailed, thoroughly unique game environment as the city in this game, and it is truly an amazing piece of work, even today.

Downloading this add on seems like a win-win. If you like GTA4, you'll love it. If you thought GTA4 was a bit dry, you'll love this. If you simply hate the very concept of a GTA game, well you've probably not read this far. So go download it, and enjoy some kick ass gaming while it lasts.

Fun and clubbing
Relatable character

Too short
Some missions fall into cliché
That this is probably the last we'll see of Liberty City

song of the week: "Into the Clouds" by "the Sound of Arrows"

thing that makes me happy today: The club scene, and related videogames. Why not.

pic of the day:
Champagne Mailly
Jon Stewart, just on top of his game

Water that's been left out too long
Glenn Beck, even conservatives don't take him seriously anymore

Tuesday 3 November 2009

So recently, anyone who's been tuning into CNN or other mainstream American news networks will have been bombarded with hype about these super important special elections taking place this month. Clearly this has nothing to do with the fact that CNN reported record tv ratings during the 2008 election and everything to do with how incredibly important the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and the 23rd congressional district in New York are.

But that's not all. That bloated old street-whore known as the mainstream media is also trying to bill these elections as some kind of 'test' for President Obama. In their view, if the Democrats lose these first post-2008 elections, particularly in Virginia which voted Democrat in 2008 for the first time since 1964, it will clearly be an indication of a dissatisfaction with Obama's performance as President so far.

It sounds reasonable enough to your average punter, but for anyone with any prior knowledge of politics, it's completely absurd, and I'm going to show you why.

This silly idea seems based upon two fallacies, first that these elections are in some way related to public opinion of Obama, and second that if it is, then it reflects negatively upon his presidency.

First it's important to note that Corzine (D-NJ) and Deeds (D-Va) were both incredibly unpopular before Obama was even elected to the office of President, so to claim that them losing is somehow unexpected and caused by Obama's performance is immediately quite an absurd claim.

Second there is the fact that for the past 20 years whoever has won the White House has lost the gubernatorial race in New Jersey the following year, and with the Virginia election that number is 36 years. Meanwhile no Democrat has won the 23rd district in New York in over a hundred years. So to somehow claim that losing these three elections is an aberration for a newly elected President is frankly appalling.

Third, and probably most important, it doesn't take a political scientist to see that there is very little correlation between how states vote in local elections and how they vote on the federal level. I draw to your attention the fact that we have a Republican governor in the ultra liberal state of California, or that the Democrats generally do very well in the local elections in Texas. So anyone who concludes that losing these gubernatorial elections will bode well for Republicans in 2012 or even 2010 is simply talking crap.

And of course, even if there was any relation between Obama's presidency and the outcome of these elections, it takes a very slanted perspective to claim that it reflects negatively upon him. The fact that the Democrats are actually competitive in a district they haven't won in a hundred years, that they are competitive in the New Jersey race, which no new President's party has managed to keep hold of in 20 years, a race in which the Democrat candidate has one of the lowest approval ratings of any Governor, if anything, bodes very very well for the Democrats, and very badly for the Republicans who still seem to be facing something of an image crisis. Or at least it would, if there was any relevance whatsoever.

Really this whole concept is just painfully wrong on a number of levels.

EDIT: In case you wanted more proof, exit polls showed that a large majority of voters did not factor Obama into their vote at all. Hasn't stopped the networks from running with this story though.

Genre Alternative
Label Rough Trade
Producer Jason Lader
Release Date November 3rd

julian casablancas phrazes for the young

Let me begin by saying that I've never been all that big a fan of the Strokes. Sure they have a few decent songs, and one or two seriously awesome ones, but most of those are from like 5 years ago. However, It's been a good year for Julian Casablancas, frontman for the Strokes.

First he reminded everyone how talented a songwriter he can be with his recent addition to Danger Mouse's latest album, and now he has come out with his debut solo album, and it's mostly pretty good.

What is particularly impressive about this album is how Casablancas tries to dabble in so many diverse genres of music. Whether it's the standard Strokes-fare alternative rock of Out of the Blue, or the Keane-alike (but far better) Glass. In fact, aside from the hard rock durge of River of Brakelights, Casablancas takes very few wrong turns in this album.

But the album, without a doubt, is at its best when it takes a turn towards electro-pop, with the excellent Left & Right in the Dark hooking you with ballsy riffs and vintage 80s textures. And of course then there's the euphorically happy 11th Dimension that has been driving fans on the internet crazy in anticipation for this album for the past few weeks.

Ultimately this is a very promising debut in a year where good albums have been few and far between, so you may as well give it a shot.

Must Listen:
11th Dimension

Left and Right in the Dark

Out of the Blue

Monday 2 November 2009

Developed by Sports Interactive
Published by Sega
Genre Sports
Platform Mac, PC, PSP, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Out Now

The record breaking, best selling, grand daddy of all management simulation games is back, with Football Manager 2010. Last year's edition stuttered a bit in terms of critical response, will this one be a return to form? This series has reportedly been cited in numerous divorce cases in recent years, so get ready for another life consuming masterclass in addictive gaming.

football manager 2010

Most notable in this year's edition is a complete interface redesign, with the sidebar removed and everything accessed now from tabs at the top of the screen. It takes some getting used to, but it definitely looks slicker, and once you play around with it for a bit you'll find it easier to navigate as well.

The next big addition is the retooling of the ingame tactics. The slider bars are a thing of the past (though you can get them back if you want), as are the movement arrows. Instead, you will assign 'roles' for players, each of which contains their own specific tactics and instructions (which you can tweak further in player instructions. Admittedly, you could pretty much do this beforehand with the preset player tactics in old games, but now it's much more in the forefront of how the game works, and with far more specific roles than were previously available amongst the presets you can now really get the team playing exactly as you want. You also now have a 'create tactics' wizard which lets you design your system from the ground up.

Quite awesomely, you now have the ability to give touchline instructions during a game, allowing you too instantly affect changes on the pitch withe phrases like 'push up' or 'get stuck in'. It's pretty revolutionary actually. All of the above makes this by far the most tactical football manager game ever. Now before every single game I find myself tweaking tactics, and constantly shifting them during a game to match the changing circumstances. And to help with this I have another new feature, backroom staff advice. Now every member of your coaching staff will offer you tactical advice before games, as well as tips on new training exercises and updates on how players are doing, and you can call these backroom staff meetings whenever you see fit. This is another major new addition which will see you carefully selecting your staff now, and connecting with them in ways you couldn't before.

On top of all this, there is now a much more detailed post match analysis screen with a wealth of information for you to dissect, as well as the expected improvements to the 3d match engine, which include better animations and a more realistic engine. It's not perfect, but It's definitely improved, and with regards to the match engine you will notice far fewer moments where you concede goals from absurd goalkeeper blunders or defenders ignoring the ball sitting right next to them or 50 yard strikes as were so often the case in last year's somewhat buggy edition.

Teams also appear to be better balanced than they ever have been in the past, with my games producing very realistic results and just the right level of difficulty. All in all, this game just felt right, and far more realistic than past entries into the series.

Meanwhile, there are issues. For example, I noted that it is still far too difficult to sell players, where often they will simply reject any contract from another club. Also, don't buy this game online through one of the digital download services. There have been numerous reports of it just not working, and in my case, using the abysmal eSellerate for the Mac download I still keep getting bugged by registration pop ups, and for some reason i keep getting a pop up that opens up at the shopping cart asking me to pay again... hmm.

Overall, this is easily the best Football Manager game yet, and provides a frighteningly realistic simulation of running a football club. Prepare to lose many weeks of your life, because this is the epitome of the genre.

Improved tactics
Backroom staff
Less glitchy match engine

Having to balance FM with my real life
It's still a little hard to sell players
Annoying digital download security

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