Right then, another year; another Football Manager release…
As seasoned veterans of the series will be aware, it’s very much been a case of evolution, rather than revolution, for a while with the Football Manager series and this year’s iteration is no different.
The short version is that this year’s experience is, at a base level, the same as you’ve had for the last few years. Functionally, the game plays the same as it has done for a long while now. The fundamentals remain at their solid, industry-leading standard and that’s a good thing.
There are a number of tweaks and improvements that we’ll get into in a moment, but if you’re just looking for a high-level view; rest assured the game remains that same at a fundamental level. You can carry on enjoying in the way you always have.
That out of the way, let’s look at what’s been changed or added for this year’s instalment:
This year has seen a fair bit of change to the match day experience visuals. A new camera angle has been added that sits behind the goal and is designed to showcase goalmouth action more clearly. It mostly comes into play for corners and it’s a nice little touch. It doesn’t make a huge difference (I was happy with the existing views to be honest) but it’s a nice extra option of those that like it. It does occasionally give you perspective whiplash when a clearance gets about 40 years out and the view crashes to a different view, but that’s fairly rare, so how much of an issue it is can be down to your own tastes.
Sports Interactive have included 1500 new motion-capture animations for the players. This is pretty noticeable, as your on-screen players do feel that little bit more natural in the new versions. There’s still the occasional physics-defying momentum shift, but, again, that’s pretty rare.
The referees now use the vanishing spray to mark out free kicks and the like, which is a nice little addition. The spray fades quite quickly, as it does in real life. It has no real impact at all, but it’s a neat little bit of detail that helps maintain the suspension of disbelief.
Kick offs now incorporate the new laws allowing single-player kick-offs, which basically means you get one player kicking off rather than two. Again, purely aesthetic, but a neat touch.
Your manager avatar is now featured in the match engine, prowling the touchline during games. Another visual feature with no practical effect beyond the aesthetic, but welcome. Personally I barely even register the bench area while watching the match unfold, so adding a manager model there makes no difference to me, but I’m sure it will be more prevalent for others…
The last match day addition is the pre-match player walk-out, handshake and line-up. Its nifty to see the first time or before big games, but quickly gets a bit tedious, so it’s nice to have the option to skip it with the same button press as skipping a highlight. The feature has obviously been added for those players who like to build up the spectacle of the game, so will be most welcome to those people particularly.
In probably the most high-profile addition to the Football Manager series of all time, the game simulates the impact of the Brexit referendum for the United Kingdom. Due to the uncertainty as to how the exit from Europe will play out, the developers have coded various versions into the game and which one you get will be randomly select for your playthrough. You might get a version that means little changes from now, or you might get one where all non-UK players need work permits, or some version in between.
A nice feature and one that directly impacts gameplay, but one that will, firstly, date the game dramatically in future years and, secondly, may introduce an unwelcome ‘random’, potentially non-real aspect to the game that some fans may find unpalatable.
The manager creation screen now included a face-capture feature that will allow you to upload a photo and use it to create a face for your digital counterpart. I found the results a bit weird and hit-or-miss, but I can’t claim to have spent a great deal of time trying to perfect the settings, so it could just be that my slightly wonky visage is more my fault than the software… that or I just have a strange face…
A nice new feature is the media screen where you get fictional social media posts about current in-game happenings. It’s obviously been based on the twitter timeline structure, with hashtags and @ handles, but it works nicely. You quickly get repetition of post structures, but I liked it a lot. It helps make the game world feel more alive and tangible that in previous years, so it’s a big plus in my book.
And that, as they say, is that. Football Manager is back for another year and, as ever, it’s very much a Marmite game. If you loved it before, you’ll love it now. If you don’t get the appeal of staring at spreadsheets and ‘not actually playing the game’ this isn’t going to get you on board.
Sports Interactive have got their demographic and they’re playing to it and more power to them.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; just maybe add a few animations and some vanishing spray…
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Paul Izod is a lifelong gamer. Since he was old enough to tap at his Dad's PC's keyboard he's been a gamer. Dedicated and often opinionated, you can be sure he'll always have something interesting to say about the subject at hand. Find him on Twitter at @PaulIzod or @FaultyPixelUK or email him at email@example.com