Having spent the last few years avoiding a relapse, I had my arm twisted and sacrificed my social life to the latest offering from the time-stealing miscreants over at Sports Interactive, Football Manager 2012. My previous experience with this style of videogame was with the first two post-Championship Manager titles that were spawned when SEGA took over Eidos’ responsibilities as publisher. Football management simulation games have been around for almost twenty years now, from its text-based and subsequent ZX Spectrum origins to the numerous series we see on several platforms today.
There’s something in simulating the managerial side of football that appeals greatly to those who love to deal with an overwhelming amount of the minutiae. It’s the ability to control every aspect of a particular entity, that feeling of being in total control but also never quite knowing how successful or profitable your decision-making has been until after the fact. Games like Football Manager are intricately designed to tap into a subconscious need to succeed through your own efforts and be recognised for them, and no game I’ve played has done this any better than this gargantuan time-sink of a videogame that has devoured the last few weeks.
“Football Manager 2012 will provide you with the opportunity to accomplish and succeed, but only if you carry this fervour with you as you progress.”
It’s easy to envision where you’d like to take the club of your choice, to visualize your favourite team winning trophies and accolades while you vigorously tweak from the touchline. Sports Interactive understand this – as is evident from their long and successful venture in the football management simulation side of videogame development – and Football Manager 2012 will provide you with the opportunity to accomplish and succeed, but only if you carry this fervour with you as you progress.
Failure for those unprepared will be rife and blunt: Football Manager 2012 has no qualms in telling you that you’re under-performing. The game doesn’t necessarily have a learning curve – this year’s iteration offers both a strong ‘how-to’ section and a lengthy tutorial mode for those either new to the game or looking to polish their skills – but to win the game’s respect you will have to become well-versed in the inner workings of the system that operates both the day-to-day operations and the match simulations.
The game has the tendency to be a bit finicky – especially if your attention to detail begins to falter, but it is largely your prerogative to maintain order and control; while Football Manager 2012 is a game that, when needed, will be the Alfred to your Batman, your career is ultimately what you make of it and a lack of attentiveness can see your managerial status tarnished, perhaps irreparably. If you’re looking to just trim the fat and enjoy the matchday weekends, this isn’t the game for you and this will be made evidently clear to you once you step into a new career, pick your team and the nations that will play a part in your lifework and begin to unravel the labyrinthine layers laid out before you.
For frequent buyers, Football Manager 2012 will yield further redeeming qualities and incidentals to customise and consider through its abundance of new features: for those who should (for all intents and purposes) label themselves a novice early and accept the help offered, it’ll take time to pick up the rhythm and fall into a routine. For me it was the first time I’d played a management simulation since Football Manager Handheld on the PSP and my first fully fledged experience since Football Manager 2006; in the five or so years since I hung up my suit and put my packs of gum in the cupboard the series has developed a much more present and realistic personality.
“It’s a near inexhaustible entertainment resource but it’s also a pristine, wonderfully crafted game in its own right.”
While I am in no position to comment on the improvements made in the last year, what I can say is that the features introduced in Football Manager 2012 are alterations and improvements that give proceedings a real sense of authenticity. The most touted examples include an improved UI allowing for more on the same screen, improvements made to the player transfer and team communication systems and the more modernised, money-influenced player demands help improve the feeling that you are really in charge of a bunch of egos: it’s your job to become the next Sir Alex Ferguson, whip some professionalism into your players and earn their trust.
Further improvements including the ability to chop and change the league choices throughout your career, the heavily detailed team depth and player reports and the changes made to match simulation and viewing (along with the 800+ other new features Sports Interactive claim to have included) all do their part to ensure that Football Manager 2012 is the best and most authentic iteration yet. Whether you’re on your way out of Schalke 04, winning the League Two play-off final with Yeovil following relegation the previous year, or making the signings for Arsenal that Arsene Wenger never would, this game, through its improvements and long-established core gameplay mechanics, will ensure that you’re always catered for, and that dugout micro-management remains as addictive as ever.
Granted, the game’s not without fault. The referee system could do with being examined, since it seems regardless of division or even country your games will be refereed by a select few continuously. Another improvement could be a dedicated auto-save feature that saves after every match/week: while the game saves tactics and allows them to be used across game saves, an unexpected game crash can leave you having to again battle hard to win games you might have barely scraped three points out of. These and other things like custom sizes for windowed mode and an improved system for interacting with the board can be things saved for the next instalment.
Football Manager 2012 has the potential to have you fired from your real job, play a vital part in ruining your education or destroy your marriage. It’s a near inexhaustible entertainment resource but it’s also a pristine, wonderfully crafted game in its own right that provides more value for money than most anything else; at the end of the day, it deserves the twelve hours you wasted prior.