Football Manager 2013 is something of an unusual case. Usually, with some notable exceptions, a new instalment of a game series will maintain the main features of its predecessors, developing upon one or more features, but maintaining the general structure of the original. This being the case, it is rather strange to see Football Manager shift from being a database-heavy management sim to an arcade-style sports game, akin to Fifa or Pro Evo Soccer….
Of course I joke, Football Manager 2013 continues in the traditions of the previous Football Manager games (and the Championship Manager games before them) in being the most comprehensive football management simulator in existence. Now that I’m being serious, the question is, how does one approach a behemoth like Football Manager. The series has been included in CVs in job applications, been the subject of clinically-recognised addictions and been cited on several publicly recorded divorce suits. The game, as much as any other, has a profound impact on its core players. In the interests of context, I much admit myself to being a long-time fan of the series, initially joining the franchise at Championship Manager 08. The number of hours I have spent with the series over the various games since then runs up in the high hundreds.
The human cost overall in man hours is truly staggering: if we assume that every one of the 1.37 million people who had purchased it as of 3rd Nov 2012 has played it for half an hour a week for a year (a low estimate as the game is one lent to extended periods of play, as my figures demonstrate) it would mean the equivalent of 35.62 MILLION hours a year, and as I said, that’s a low estimate. That’s lower than the total sick day loss per year of some countries. (Hey, I did some actual research! I hope you’re all suitably impressed)
Safe to say then that Football Manager 2013 has successful formula on which to build, with it being consistently one of the biggest titles in Europe each year. Indeed, with this being so, one would not expect much change, especially with previous years providing more tweaking to the system rather than much real innovation. Ironically, however, one aspect of the joke I made at the beginning of the article rings true: this year’s title has a distinct move towards Arcade gaming, for this genre at any rate.
Now, before the dedicated FM fans cry ‘Betrayal!’ the main game mode, Full Career Mode, is still intact. The arcade aspect takes the form of a new mode in which the player is set a short-term goal in a specific situation, such as saving a club from relegation over a single season or taking control of a team with no money and no squad. This is effectively a challenge mode and provides an excellent new dimension for seasoned veterans of the series, while making welcome concessions to more casual gamers who may not care for the never-ending main mode. While this mode is nothing new to the genre (LMA manager had a similar mode 10 years ago), it is new to the Football Manager series. This addition seems to be a concession by the developers; recognising that a great many potential players cannot commit to the number of hours the main mode requires to really be worthwhile.
However, the main Career mode is what will make or break any Football Manager game. Well, in this aspect Football Manager 2013 shows more innovation from the previous game than players will have been used to. While most aspects of 2012 are present, the overall feel of the game has been greatly adjusted. The interface has been made much more stylish, with more graphical interfaces and a slick and sleek design. The match engine and match day experience has been upgraded too, even on my distinctly middle of the range laptop.
‘Yes, yes, but the graphics don’t really matter’ I hear you silently cry, in my mind. And I would agree. However, the innovation continues into the general gameplay. There have been many additions and refinements to provide optional automations for those that prefer a more hands-off approach. You can now recruit head coaches, head scouts, heads of youth development and Directors of Football to run the various aspects of club management, leaving you to just deal with the first team squad. In particular, the addition of the Unwanted Player and Transfer Target lists is significant, allowing you to set who you want sold and bought and let the computer do the rest. This I an excellent feature for the casual gamer and again, allows accessibility for them whilst allowing computerised Jose Mourinhos to micromanage to their heart’s content. While you will still get far better results by doing the negotiations yourself and the automated sales and purchases can be frustratingly tilted against the player, Sports Interactive’s successful balancing of viable casual and in-depth methods is truly masterful, maintaining appeal to the current demographic while opening it up to old fans and new users alike.
It is impossible to touch on the plethora of tweaks and additions present in Football Manager 2013; to do so would take many thousands of words and simply replicate their data sheets. What is really of significance is that, as a long-time fan of the genre, I found this iteration to be as addictive and rewarding as any previous edition. It provides a robust main mode in classic Football Manager tradition, while providing new appeal with tailored challenge modes. This year’s edition continues to define what a football management game should aspire to be, just as its predecessors have and is worthy of its title as a Football Manager game.
The only way I can really end an article about Football Manager 2013 is this: if you’re an existing fan you will love it, if you’re a returning fan you will love it and if, by chance, you’re new to the genre, there is enough variety of modes that if this type of game is in any way for you, you’ll find a mode you like. If nothing else, you should give Football Manager 2013 a try to experience a style of game quite unlike any other you’ll have come across.
As ever, If you liked the review (or hated it) let me know! you can email me at email@example.com or follow me on twitter @paulizod
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org