As ever, this isn’t a full review. This isn’t even a feature list. It’s just a look at the things which have stuck out from the first 12 hours of the beta release – all of which, of course, are liable to be tweaked by Sports Interactive before the final version of the game is released on 19th November.
1. Looks Nice, Don't It?
There's not been a major graphical upgrade to the match engine, but the games in FM20 look smart, polished and slick.
The players look natural running around the pitch, the ball clangs satisfyingly off the posts and bar, opposition players look great sprinting through on goal and beating your goalkeeper and oh god here we go again.
2. Tactics Are Idiot-Proofed
FM19's tactics overhaul – do you want to play a direct counter? Gegenpress? – was exciting as hell and quite intuitive...but also quite simple to screw up if you're not quite sure what kind of details make each tactic work.
Is your team not actually fit enough to make a high-energy press work for a full match? Is your distribution from the back not good enough to be effective when you're trying to transition from defence to attack at pace?
These things are easily overlooked if you're not the most detail-oriented player, so now your assistant will pick out a couple of systems that will suit the players you've actually got. It's not a big change, but it could save you from wasting half a season on a plan that just won't work.
3. Liverpool Are Ballers?
Actual Liverpool summer arrivals this season:
Liverpool summer arrivals in this particular FM20 save: SvdB, Alex Grimaldo from Benfica for £51m,
Jurgen Klopp's throwing the cash around, baybee!
4. Stress-Free Discipline
Warning/fining players for missing training, getting sent off etc has always been a minefield. A player who's won you a handful of games is going to get let off more lightly than that left-back you've been trying to shift for two transfer windows, who you didn't even want to start in that game but your first choice is knackered and you've got a big cup game coming up and...etc.
No longer. No more of this "it's 2am, I just said 'one more match' for the ninth time today and you cost me a point away at Exeter, I know we were 3-0 down with 15 minutes left when you did that daft tackle but it's definitely your fault" stuff.
Now you can agree an effective code of conduct with your players before the season, set out the punishments for repeat offences, and they'll broadly agree with them. Why's that helpful? It's much harder to irritate a senior figure in an already shaky dressing room by fining him two weeks' wages because you're in a bad mood.
5. We're in for the Long Haul
The best bit of Football Manager? Building a proper dynasty, planning for the long term rather than taking things year by year, getting the stadium named after yourself. The good stuff.
Now, from the start, the club's giving you a three or four-year vision to agree to, broken down by season. All that panic when you're signing a sick young player and you've got to offer them the world and a first-team spot they aren't ready for straight away, just to get them to sign? Dead annoying.
Now you can do what you'd actually do; tell them where they're at now and promise to give them more time and prominence in a year or two when they aren't children, and when your veterans have left. Common sense. It's great.
6. I Suck, Again
It's tradition, 15 years strong, that I start a Carlisle save when I boot up a new Football Manager game. I might have a good pre-season, I might have a bad one, it doesn't really matter. Bring in a couple of loanees – what's a transfer budget? – and get everyone hyped for the first league game of the season.
This is the third season in a row I've had to write this, but...I still appear to have absolutely no idea how to manage a team in this game. Just like last year, I've gone 2-0 up early and let a lead slip. An equaliser with FIFTEEN SECONDS LEFT OF INJURY TIME.
Sports Interactive team. Miles. Anyone. If you're reading this, please get in touch and help me figure out how to close out a match. It's been 15 years. I know it can be done – 90min's Head of Content Scott Saunders has been champion of Europe more times than I can count. I was good with Fulham! I'm good in Spain! I just! can't! do it! with! Carlisle!