For those of us interested in football (or soccer depending on your location) the introduction of management simulations in the late 80s and early 90s meant not only the opportunity to take on another aspect of the game, but the potential for lost hours increased significantly. This really kicked in with the likes of Championship Manager on the Amiga, PC and Atari ST where it was possible to lose weekends, if not more in the battle for supremacy.
The early Championship Manager games laid the foundations for what eventually became Football Manager in 2004/5. At the time the change of names was a bold move, leaving behind over a decade of brand building, and especially risky considering the Championship Manager games would continue under a separate developer and publisher. The strength of the game and Sports Interactives skills shone through though and now 7-8 years later there really is only one name in football management sims.
With a new season now in full flow Sega and Sports Interactive are bringing to market the latest version of Football Manager. Football Manager 13 uses up to date team statistics, an enhanced game engine and plenty of new features designed to make playing more enjoyable for new and returning players.
So what’s it all about?
Football Manager splits the gameplay into three distinct modes, though there are a few little mixers in there too (like the ability to play online/offline). Starting us off is the main "Football Manager" mode which is the full game experience. In here Sports Interactive give us control of our career/team to minute detail. Almost everything that a manager would have to deal with in their job is here and we can drill down further and further into the stats, tactics, business as we need to. Match squad picking, tactics (every eventuality), transfers, negotiations, press conferences, in-mid match changes, everything is in here and the list goes on and on…and on.
Easing us into the game are helpful wizards and a how to system along the way which is very much needed for new players. Then when playing we can take as much control as we want, passing tasks to our staff as we see fit. For example we might not have the time, or need to do a pre-match press conference. No problem, send the assistant manager. Really the only time we are forced to do anything is at key points in the game, such as deciding on squad numbers/selection for the competition deadlines.
There is no doubting that Football Manager mode is time consuming, depending on the time of season, or tasks needing done it can be 20-30 minutes between matches and for that reason Football Manager Classic is the next main game mode. In Classic mode we almost take a step back in time to when management sims were simpler, although here Sports Interactive have had the opportunity to take all the key points of the main mode and pick what makes a good, streamlined game. Essentially the challenge and enjoyment are still here but our focus is very much geared towards mainstream tactics, transfers and the match day process.
Also making an appearance are Challenge and Versus modes. In Challenge mode we are set a key objective and play through a shorter game. Join a team halfway through a season and save them from a relegation battle, work through an injury crisis without getting fired, complete a season unbeaten or win silverware with a team of quality young players. In versus mode we take our existing team and create or join a competition with friends (league, cup or head to head), playing for bragging rights.
In recent times one of the key aspects of Football Manager which has set it apart from older games is the match engine. We have very much moved away from coloured lines and dots to a full 3D game environment. It doesn’t have the level of detail associated with the likes of Pro-Evo or FIFA but offers a very clear view of everything that is happening along with offering differing stadiums and the ability to set the game to a speed of our choosing… while still giving us huge control over the team. Even down to what shouts we want to make from the touchline.
Football Manager, now more than ever, is very much the game that each individual wants to make it. The base product is fantastically detailed, intuitive and runs smoothly. The match engine looks great for what we need, in fact it is probably one of the most simple screens in the game and we can spend as much or as little time getting into the intricacies of management as we want. Especially so with the new tweaked media interaction and more detailed training options.
Classic and Challenges modes further enhance this focus on allowing us to choose the way we play. Challenges gives quick snapshots of the main game where as Classic finds a very good balance between depth and the ability to play through a batch of games quickly. It is also worth noting that network games are now handled by Steam meaning we have a solid platform for online play (which is available in Full/Classic, not just Versus). A significant aspect considering that Football Manager is hugely enjoyable when played with others.
Sports Interactive continue their march towards the perfect management sim. Essentially a game over 20 years in the making and one which offers an unparalleled management experience.
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