As you’d expect, this year’s Football Manager release matches expectations by bringing a mass of new features and tweaks while maintaining the core experience every FM player’s grown accustomed to. Hours spent with the tried and tested formula for many is in the hundreds, if not thousands; mods have exponentially expanded the capabilities of the games if that were even thought possible beforehand. Football Manager games are glorious ways to waste away days and it’s good to say that once again, Sports Interactive have released yet another reason to forego any form of social interaction beyond the virtual realms.
Interestingly, this year the focus is on improvements in accessibility above all else. This is apparent first and foremost within the first few moments of opening the game up: the start menu’s more streamlined now and once you’ve done the customary preferences tweaking and booted up your career you’ll notice that the game more than ever is attempting to cater to more of your needs. Football Manager 2013 is the most approachable game in the series thus far, but thankfully within the core career mode the freedom to take complete control is still there.
The game does do you the courtesy of asking you first though just how involved you’d like it to be in your day-to-day running of the club of your choice. You can instantly get cracking with management or take the time to talk to your staff and selectively delegate tasks you don’t want to bog yourself down with. You get the luxury of picking and choosing just what you want to do, but at the end of the day you’re in charge. There are over 900+ new features apparently, but Sports Interactive know it’s vital that maintaining complete control is an option always available.
“A lot of the changes do enhance the overall quality of the game but, beyond the aesthetic and the tweaks to the formula, potentially these are to the detriment of the core group of loyalists who buy these games day one each year.”
That being said, the biggest thing being touted is the addition of a new game mode: Football Manager Classic. The ‘classic’ subtitle is a little misleading however, though ‘basic’ doesn’t really make the mode sound as appealing. The new Classic mode brings with a new simplified layout and greater accessibility, but the mode’s largely redundant to the masses of pre-existing players. Most of your pre-match tasks are automated as are most of the match settings normally available to players. You can’t give team talks or shout instructions in FMC matches, nor can you handle the finer points outside of games. A lot is taken out of your hands in a move to make a variation of Football Manager that’s a “less time-consuming way to play”.
A revamp of the calendar layout (which is better presented than previously and groups together several aspects of club management), more features for the match day experience and the introduction of a Director of Football are features spread across the entirety of the game yet Classic doesn’t show much of the new beyond these since FMC is refined to be a much smoother experience that removes frills. In a first for the series, Sports Interactive are using Steam to handle the online portion of the game, which should prove mightily beneficial to those who choose to dabble in network play or in the new and intriguing Versus Mode.
What’s a little disappointing though is that this new Versus offering – which allows multiple players to compete in brief tournaments of sorts with imported Career teams or the standard crop available across all leagues – is in Classic Mode and as such limits what you can do with your team as you compete against others. This means that should you play against someone with a much weaker or more superior team you’re unlikely to truly compete because your tactical options are limited, and you can’t speak to your team directly in matches.
A lot of the changes do enhance the overall quality of the game but, beyond the aesthetic, that’s potentially to the detriment of the core group of loyalists who buy these games day one each year. Visually, the game’s improved and surface-level functionality has been given a real boost, but with the new Classic-enforced modes preventing players from accessing the minutiae, one has to wonder just how much notice fans will pay to them.
That’s not to say that FM Classic, Versus or the new short-term Challenges Mode – giving players the chance to temporarily take charge of a team in a range of different scenarios – but if long-term players are to notice changes they’ll be in the core mode and network play first. While many of the enhancements will be appreciated some may take greater note of changes to the game engine and the restructuring of the club management options, but potentially a few of the issues too.
I’ve been informed that the match engine has a few problems beyond those addressed by Sports Interactive in beta phase, which need ironing out before the full release; I myself have noticed for instance that crossing is significantly more effective bordering near-ridiculous efficiency, and player fatigue/injuries occur like bus arrivals. Moments in matches this year can cause disbelief courtesy of bizarre player actions, and with team talk options unchanged providing the same predictable reactions frustration does occur. Fans will notice the good things too though: little new improvements like wage taxation (which can affect a player’s decision to want to move to a country which a worse tax rate) and 3D view improvements definitely improve the realism, and the push towards a more realistic club structure has been noticed and is worthy of praise.
It’s important though to note that Football Manager 2013 is largely the same experience as before. Sports Interactive’s desire to expand the available content and introduce new game modes that offer variance to the typical structure is admirable, yet these inclusions may be ones only a few truly wanted. Versus Mode (with Steam server backing) has excellent potential to be a sweet refrain from the standard play though, and the Classic Mode skin is very sleek; as far as the core Football Manager experience goes though, it’s getting better each year but Sports Interactive do have to be careful that they don’t try too hard to fix what ain’t broke.