Almost a whole new ball game…
Every year us journalists go through the same predictable dance when it comes to Football Manager reviews. We state that the simulation is top notch, criticise the match engine and explain that the database is accurate to an absurd degree, yet we also hint of an unavoidable truth that every year it’s getting harder and harder for Sports Interactive to improve their immensely profitable franchise.
Simply put, the UK studio has become a victim of their own success as FM has already jumped all the simulation hurdles that really matter. After successfully tackling the challenges of developing a convincing 3D match engine, player morale, media interaction, tactics, contract negotiation and training systems, what important managerial duty is really left to emulate? The answer to that question has proved illusive, as more and more complicated systems have been chucked into the mix. Slowly but surely alienating those who just want to steer their favourite club from obscurity to success whilst empowering the anal mclooneys who live and breath the world’s favourite game.
Bridging the gap between those seemingly similar audiences has been the bugbear of this series for near enough a decade now. Sports Interactive has tried numerous interactive tutorials and delegating the small duties to support staff (both of these aspects are still in ’13 by the way), but this year they’ve tried a different tact; splitting the simulation between two entirely separate modes – full and Classic.
Full is the regular simulation with all its maddening bells and whistles, whereas Classic teleports gamers back to a simpler time in Football Manager history. When there wasn’t the need to assign player’s individual instructions, carry out team talks or constantly answer media enquiries at the end of each match. You have less responsibilities, but seasons progress faster and the overall pace of the game seems quicker. This mode takes out the stress and confusion associated with the regular simulation and only includes gameplay decisions which casual football fans would recognise. Most of the tactical depth is still available during matches, including touchline shouts and detailed team instructions, but all of the fluff surrounding that ninety minutes has been nullified resulting in a purer, more enjoyable experience. There are some certain aspects that we miss from this mode though, teamtalks being the most noticeable omission, but overall it feels slicker and more akin to wish fulfilment rather than a bonafide test of how you’d do in the real management job, which is really what we want of Football Manager in the first place. We already have a job, we don’t need another one thank you very much!
Classic mode isn’t the only new way to play Football Manager though, there’s also a new Challenge mode that sets specific goals such as remaining unbeaten during a season with half of the matches still to go, save a club from relegation, recover from an injury crisis while still doing well in the league and winning a championship with a team of young’uns. The kicker is even though these scenarios involve very particular objectives and play states, players can still choose the team they want from thousands of different clubs from across the globe. That’s an impressive feat, and furthermore completion of these scenarios leads certain perks to be unlocked in Classic mode, including work permits being given to all international players regardless of their status, and juicing your club’s finances with millions of dollars/pounds/euros/pesos instantly.
These harmless yet fun cheats can also be purchased via some rather pricey micros-transactions, and even though that is an immensely slimy proposition for any developer or publisher to offer even in 2012, there’s no necessity to use them.
Multiplayer is the other big improvement this year, as finally after all the years of typing in IP addresses and struggling to match up game states, Sports Interactive has finally added Steamworks support. This means that players can easily create and find specific versus games without much effort thanks to servers being easily located by an in-game browser. Truth be told this technology has been standard for most PC games for years, but it’s still worth mentioning. Multiplayer modes vary from co-op career to special one off leagues, cups and and head-to-head competitions and there’s even the ability to upload your career team when playing other real managers to prove without any doubt that your version of Havant beats anyone else’s. Unfortunately there are still problems with clients de-syncing with each other during matches and strange anomalies like not being able to implement new tactics during games thanks to the necessary buttons disappearing, but Football Manager 13′s multi-faceted multiplayer offering is a big step up from last year.
It would be easy to imagine that with all these new ways to play Football Manager, the main career mode would have been left alone, but that isn’t quite accurate. The default skin has been tweaked with lots of smart ergonomic improvements, for instance hovering over tactics now shows more buttons underneath, neatly folding away all the different tactical options into seven different sub-headers, and there’s the ability to apply tone to any dialogue be it team-talks, individual briefings or talking to the press. This small touch gives the numerous canned responses a bit more personality, even though if we’re honest we’re unsure how much of a difference there is between cautious and calm response but then Football Manager has never been a very transparent simulation.
It’s impossible to mention the 900 or so new additions/tweaks/improvements that are new this year, but overall it’s easy to see that this is the most important iteration of the Football Manager series in years. Finally Sports Interactive has been able to offer an experience which all different fans of the ‘Beautiful Game’ will appreciate, while at the same time implementing lots of real changes which make the full simulation that much deeper and engrossing. Football Manager 2013 is a big jump for the series and its various improvements easily excuse reinvesting £40 twelve months on, regardless of the online bugs and slightly ill-judged convenience items. Lord knows what features Sports Interactive are going to add to next year, but rest assured ’13 is absolutely worth snapping up, especially if you’re one of the millions of gamers out there who has been left behind by this increasingly complex series.
The most important and versatile Football Manager for several years, yet still a teensy bit buggy.
Tags: Football Manager 2013
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