How will you manage?
Football Manager 2013
Off the top of our heads, we can’t think of another game in existence that manages to be both as niche and popular as Sports Interactive’s Football Manager series. It’s obvious that footie is big business, both on and off the pitch, and the sales of FIFA every year proves that it’s an almost guaranteed seller, but the idea that a title that is essentially a big old database with some sleek interface designs could possibly become so popular is simply baffling. Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that the games are so addictive, but despite being huge FM fans (and CM fans before it) we always find ourselves wondering just what the hell is wrong with us for loving it so much.
Regardless of the whys or hows though, this month saw the launch of the latest game in the series, Football Manager 2013, and it has brought quite a few new features to the table – arguably making it the most in-depth update to the franchise for many years. Appreciating that many players no longer have the time to pump into crafting the tactics and masterminding the transfer coups to take their team from the lower leagues to the top of the continental game, the biggest change in terms of the overall offering of FM 2013 is definitely Classic mode.
Harking back to the more streamlined, less detailed titles of yesteryear, it’s the ideal tonic for those of us who can’t afford to see hours upon hours disappear into the Football Manager wilderness – although we’re not entirely sure it’s had the intended result. It’s definitely a lot easier to get to grips with than the main mode, particularly for anyone who’s been away from the series for a while, which is mission accomplished. You don’t need to worry about the serious micromanagement that comes as part of the main FM experience anymore; simply pick your team, chase your transfer targets, pick your tactics and take on the world. The problem is that it’s still incredibly addictive, and despite the claim that it’ll allow everyone to play, even those who don’t traditionally have the time, it’s still a massive time sapper. Not that that’s a bad thing, but we’re just pointing out that your teenage Football Manager addiction issues are likely to resurface here, and then some!
If you’ve played any of the Football Manager Handheld titles, be they on PSP, Android or iOS in the last few years, you’ll have a fairly good idea of what’s expected of you in Classic Mode. To say that it doesn’t have much detail would be a gross misdirection, however, because it’s got plenty to see, do and learn about the players in the game, and without a reasonable level of time investment you’ll find yourself unemployed in short order. What it does accomplish is offering player a more accessible jump in, jump out style of management simulation, perhaps catering more for newcomers than for series stalwarts. Though we’ve found ourselves running a game of Classic Mode in the office, purely because it mostly entails pressing space bar to skip through to match day unless you’ve got something big in mind, and one game of the full on mode at home, for the rare occasions we have time to actually sit down and enjoy a game while not at work.
Before we completely close the book on Classic mode, it’s worth pointing out that if you’re particularly impatient, you can spend some real world money to unlock certain perks in the game. It’s hardly in the spirit of Football Manager, but the option is there should you need it. You cheating bastard.
Streamlining was obviously a big thing in the Sports Interactive offices this year, and that’s quite apparent even in the full version of the game, if that’s even the correct term for it. While the look of the interface will certainly be familiar to long-term fans, FM 2013 has gone back to the drawing board in terms of the presentation of information. Pop up dialogue is more informative and useful than it has ever been, everything is a lot more self explanatory and few of the more important features are hidden away from view.
While taking part in a match, you’re fed continual updates from your staff about the well being of your players, whether or not they’ve just taken a knock, how the team is faring in terms of performance and much more. As a quick reference point, it’s a fine way of conveying what’s going right and what needs some tinkering, and it’s a much better game for it.
Added depth can now be found in the training side of the game, allowing you to get into as much detail as you would like, while there’s still the option to pass over control of the aspects of the game you don’t really fancy to your virtual assistant. The press conference engine has also been on the receiving end of a lick of a paint, and you can now set the tone you’d like to convey in each response – unfortunately there’s still a lack of variety in the stock responses, so eventually you’re likely to find yourself handing control of all but the most important of conferences over to your second in command.
The addition of a Director of Football is an interesting one, as you can now pass on the responsibility of transfer and contract negotiations to him once you have identified your transfer targets. It’s certainly a touch more representative of the real-world game, but if you’re going to be handing everything off then there’s little point in opting for the full game ahead of the Classic mode. Just saying.
Football Manager is becoming an increasingly difficult title to review with each passing year. You know exactly what you’re going to get with it, and at this stage it’s evident that there’s not much SI could do to screw the whole thing up, so for the most part the changes are evolutionary as opposed to revolutionary, which is fine. But the fact that it’s just such a vast experience makes it impossible to narrow down just what players will stumble upon as they play. We’ve not encountered anything particularly unfair, or game breaking or bizarre in our three weeks with the game to date, but that’s not to say they aren’t there. With a database as vast as the one running beneath that lovely skin, and so many calculations running behind the scenes, there are always going to be glitches and anomalies, but based on our experience to date, they would appear to be few and far between.
The only real problem that FM2013 has is the fact that it’s such a resource hog. While we previously had no problem running with all leagues on a large database with a moderately specced PC, our latest gaming demon, an Intel Core i5 machine with 32GB of RAM and a moderately sound graphics card can only manage 3 ½ stars in terms of performance, which is a touch frightening – particularly if you’re planning on playing this on your laptop. Fortunately, like the rest of the gameplay experience, everything is scalable, and with a bit of experimentation you should have no problem figuring out which settings will afford you the most pleasurable experience.
Football Manager 2013 is essentially more of the same, which is no bad thing. It’s done some good work in reshuffling the way information is conveyed and there are plenty of neat additions in there to help with the authenticity, so fans will love it. The addition of a Classic mode will certainly help get some lapsed fans back onside again, and the Challenge mode offers something a little bit different for those of you who want to have a go at guiding your club through the most trying of situations, but without us even giving a score, you’ll already know whether this game is for you.
It’s unquestionably the greatest, best executed and most in-depth football management simulation of all time, but that’s going to mean something completely different for everyone which is why the customization options are a gift from the heavens!