There was a glorious moment last night when my brave Glovers fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie a crucial cup game against Ipswich just before the whistle for the end of regular time. It had been a glorious comeback. Conor Sammon had been terrorising my defence in the first hour of the game, but a fiery team talk, a change in formation, and the introduction of some speed on the wings changed things around. As the ref blew for 90 minutes, momentum was firmly in Yeovil's favour.
And then it all went wrong.
A Hail Mary long ball from Ipswich's full back sailed over the top, but it was too long, Chris Weale would surely get to it, there was no one else around. Sure enough, Weale came forth confidently. Everything was going to be fine.
And then he fell over.
This wasn't the staggered trip of a man with his foot suddenly caught in a rabbit hole, or the clumsy scrabble of falling over your own limbs, no. Instead, Weale decided that the best course of action would be to do an impression of a dead fish. This might have been fine had he actually been headed for the ball. His body could still have provided a low-slung blockade for the charge of the oncoming Sammon. Sadly, though, he'd veered off course, heading instead for a shiny thing out towards the penalty spot, and had then been felled by an unseen sniper.
My verbal reaction was deemed unsuitable for print.
The review embargo is up for Football Manager 2015, but I don't feel I can give it a score, and I'd advise you take most of the other "reviews" that have currently been published without any sort of disclaimer with a fat pinch of salt. FM15 is still in beta at the time of writing, hence the calamitous goalkeeping described above, and thus the game that will be out on the 7th may well have tweaks and fixes that today's doesn't. Given that it's not actually out yet, we'll be scoring the game at launch.
That said, here are a few things things to note ahead of part two of my review later this week.
The front-end has been improved. The new sidebar makes navigation between your various areas of interest an absolute doddle, that the big fat search bar at the top is a nice catch-all that you can use to hunt for teams, players, competitions and the like with greater speed than before. The full-fat experience of Football Manager 2015 is intimidatingly deep, and so you really need all of the help you can get.
That said, the tactics screen is now an absolute mess in an effort to make things more readily visible. SI have made much more of player roles in this game, with drop down menus galore illustrating how and where players might best be deployed. It's a takes a bit of getting used to, and having player roles displayed on the main tactical screen hurts my eyes, such is the mess of text and colour, but there's more information at your disposal than ever before. It took me a few minutes to work out where everything was, but ultimately fans of the series should acclimatise fairly quickly, though God help newcomers plunging in for the first time.
Scouting is of paramount importance this year, and quick scout reports will yield spotty information, with player profiles now featuring attribute ranges if you've not been thorough enough. Building and sustaining an expansive scouting network is fundamentally necessary if you want to peruse the transfer market without fear of splurging money on unknowns. You can still search for players you already know about, and a quick trip around the FM forums come release will no doubt net you some wonderkids, but it makes the process of finding them yourself even more of a test of patience than before. Thing is, I rather like that. It makes that feeling of reward even more palpable.
If there is a running theme in FM15, it's that you can't do everything yourself. At the start of the game, new for this year, you choose between being a manager who gets stuck in in a tracksuit, or one who preens about the touchline in something more tailored. There are advantages to both, but you're compromising somewhere. As much as you might be a cracking tactician or a defensive whizz, you're going to need help, and doing your research, staffing up, and establishing team harmony in the dressing and back rooms is crucial.
There's more to pretty much every facet of the game than before. Journalists will really try to needle you on gossipy issues, actively fanning flame wars, and engineering rivalries out of innocuous comments. It's easy to pick out the necessary comments to have a decent effect on your team, but it's quite fun watching the media carousel all the same. Agents, those snakes in suits, are still as annoying as ever, but you can actually circumvent their reptilian requests and take directly to their charges. Amusingly, it's not uncommon to see players firing their agents when a deal falls through.
Classic mode is back, of course, offering a much deeper experience than SI's mobile version of the game, but moving things along more quickly than the full game. You can still get stuck in with the transfer market, and muck about with tactical screens, but it's more geared towards those with less time on their hands. That's even more true thanks to the new interface, which really does vastly improve navigation. The Challenges, however, have barely changed in recent years. To be honest, I don't see the appeal of them at all, really, but that might have something to do with the unreliability of the match engine right now. I'll talk more on that in part two, but it's very difficult to enjoy spotlight scenarios that require quick on-the-pitch tactical thinking, when you don't have much faith in that system.
The backroom aspects of FM15 are cracking, though, vastly expanded and engaging, but now with a greater degree of user-friendly orientation and navigation thanks to the revised UI. The new hints system goes some way to helping newcomers (and rusty veterans) get up to speed, and Classic mode is always there if things prove a little overwhelming, but the choice is there.