Developer: Sports Interactive
Genres: Management, Simulation, Strategy
Released: Late October/Early November each year
I’m going to start off by saying that it’s without a doubt one of my most played games, with an embarrassing amount of hours spread across the four editions I’ve been hooked to. I’ve faithfully been purchasing Football Manager each year since discovering it in 2010 after growing bored of FIFA and PES (yes I played that!) and decided I might have more luck with a more strategic football game in Football Manager.
I thought I’d try to review the Football Manager game as a whole, instead a review for just the most recent version, FM14. I think I can get away with this as at least since discovering the series with FM11, while there are plenty of new features to justify purchasing the latest edition, the games always follow the same structure and ideas.
How does the game suck you in? The best quality of Football Manager is the sense of achievement that you feel. There are no difficulty options, everyone who plays the game is on the same playing field. The forums are filled with people posting their successes and failures, with tips and guides to help anyone who needs guidance. It means that there is a Football Manager community where you can relate to people’s experiences, and gives you pride if you happen to match them or even have greater success.
My proudest achievement and longest save game has been this year on FM14, where I guided Stockport County from the depths of the Conference North, up six divisions to the Premier League where I made them a real force in Europe, right where the Hatters belong. I almost went to watch a Stockport match when I was up in Manchester just because of this game!
The mix of football and gaming is perfect. It has all the excitement and frustration that you feel with real football. Conceding a last minute goal to your fierce rivals often leads to me storming out of the post-match press conference in disgust, as well as fining all my useless players. However moments like winning a cup final, keeping your side safe from relegation, inspiring your players to stage a dramatic comeback, or massively transforming a small club, is so satisfying that it causes you to punch the air in joy and talk about your obscure foreign signings like you’ve known them all your life!
As the manager you are in charge of player recruitment and sales, sorting out your squad through tactics and instructions, holding press conferences and interviews, team talks to motivate your players, scouting players and opposition, and much more. You do have the option to give your backroom staff numerous responsibilities, but I recommend that you do as much as you can. The database is kept full each in-game season with youth players called “regens” filling academies through youth intakes in order to replace those who have retired or taken staff roles.
It develops your knowledge of real life players and teams. Each version will keep you up to date with the hottest prospects across the globe who have the potential to be super stars. There are always highly sought after “wonderkid” heroes. While Lukaku, the 17 year old teen I poached from Anderlecht on FM11 has blossomed into a brilliant complete centre forward, sadly Khouma Babacar has not managed to match him, at least currently. It must be a difficult job for the scouts and researchers that create the database, they can’t get it right for every player. Potential is difficult to measure.
It also helps you to learn more about the team you are managing. I picked Stockport County pretty much at random on FM14 when looking at a small side to manage, although what stood out was how they were in the Championship fairly recently and have since dropped down dramatically, providing me with a bit of history to help get attached to the club. A selection of my best saves have been Crewe Alexandra on FM13, Palermo on FM12, Boston United on FM11, and naturally use my local team Leicester City every time to help me get a feel for each new game.
The game has a steep learning curve. I think for new players it may come as a struggle initially to become familiar with the interface and what you need to do. Don’t worry, the game provides an in-depth tutorial to help you out, there are plenty of fansites with tips and guides, and there is “Classic mode” which simplifiers the interface and allows you to focus on less, which is useful for beginners as well as players who want to breeze through seasons.
Just like in real life, if you’re under-performing then you will be put under pressure from the fans and the board, and there is a great danger of getting sacked. Don’t feel too wounded if you do lose your job, there is always autosave to go back and try something new, or if you’re playing realistically then your career isn’t over as you can apply for any vacant positions elsewhere.
Football Manager is a highly addictive game that will leave you wanting to play that one more match until you realise what time it is! Adding yourself in the game as a manager is a neat feature, with the game and press involving your name alongside players and managers as if it’s all real life. There is a demo available to help you decide if it’s right for you. I’m always questioning decisions by the managers and Football Manager gives you the opportunity to prove you actually know what you’re talking about. An absolute must for football fans.