Last year, it was mainly about polish. In comparison to its predecessors Football Manager 2011 ran like an absolute dream; finally allowing you to run more than one league at a time without the slightest hint of slowdown. There were some fantastic new additions – like social network integration, the ability to train your squad in two different formations before a game and being offered context-sensitive advice from your staffers – but those neat augmentations aside, it was a marvel primarily because those technical goalposts had been shifted so thoughtfully. The uber-slick, streamlined menu systems were no slouch either.

Football Manager 2012 is an even glossier proposition. The 3D match engine – which made a comeback last year after a brief hiatus – looks even better now, and even the old-school devotees who’ve remained adamant that 2D was the only way to go are very likely to be swayed here. The matches generally feel sleeker too, with yet more new player animations and celebrations, and some refreshed weather effects. Maintaining such a rich sense of presentation is clearly still important to the game’s creators, and even though loads more information is crammed onto each and every page – making it all seem that much busier and, potentially, intimidating – you can still fully customise the layout to suit you.

In terms of non-aesthetic changes, the reworked tutorial is certain to prove massively helpful for anyone who’s never bitten before. CM tutorials have previously been somewhat slapdash and oddly evasive: this isn’t. The rest of the modifications are minor but hugely comprehensive, and you’ll now spend far less of your time idly tinkering. Adding and deleting your leagues and teams now couldn’t be easier, regardless of what stage of your career you’re in. There’s also real-time feedback during the meetings and chats that you have with your team, and you’re given greater control over not only what you say to them, but how you say it.

Unsurprisingly, Sports Interactive haven’t deviated from the core of their winning formula this year, but then nobody has ever asked them to. Put simply, Football Manager 2012 is an absurdly addictive videogame and still the premier football management simulator. The changes all smack of a development team who are constantly listening to their community very closely indeed, and although the alterations are relatively minor this year, there’s so many of them (and they’re so balanced and coherent) that this feels exactly like the kind of pernickety upgrade that the fans now annually demand. Thoroughly terrific stuff.

Football Manager 2012 is available now on PC and Sony Playstation Portable. 

Watch the Football Manager 2012 trailer below: 

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