The first impression you get while playing Football Manager 2012 is how it’s improved as an imitation of the real thing – a genuine simulation of what it means to be a football manager, inasmuch as you can simulate the experience digitally.
Granted, there are no fans screaming pedophile chants at you, the BBC isn’t running documentaries about your son and no one stopping you from managing Barcelona as your first job.
But when it comes to football, and specifically, the myriad of opportunities available to a person wanting the experience of managing a football club, Football Manager is miles ahead of what you can expect.
Miles has been talking about the new features for the last month or so, but instead of features I’ll be talking about what broad changes you can expect in your playing experience.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Your assistants are now better at ‘assisting’ you. During training they will make recommendations on which areas a certain player needs a special focus in, or evaluate a player’s previous training levels and make recommendations accordingly. Leading up to a match you will get feedback on your match preparation and whether you need to change focus based on the next opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. You can also create ‘Shouts’ – a set of touchline instructions that players can automatically apply, as they would in the real world based on their training. In other words you can ask your team to tighten up and defend better instead of asking them to do 5 different individual things. You know, as you would in real life.
The 2012 edition of Football Manager makes you realise more than any previous edition the sheer amount of work that goes into running a football club (thankfully SI stick to the footballing aspects of the game), and that you can be as involved as Arsene Wenger, running the rule over every player’s training and customising it, or delegating to a strong team of coaches and trusting your team like Alex Ferguson.
Player / Coach negotiations are now more realistic, thanks to the subtleties of personality, tone of voice and the ability to lock certain aspects of your contract offers (for example if you have a wage ceiling but can afford higher bonuses).
There’s a bit of randomness in there – in one installation Berbatov’s agent happily accepted a reduced contract extension, in the other he wanted a pay raise – but overall you’re at a more realistic set of interactions between yourself and the football world – press, players, coaches and fellow managers.
And it would be remiss to talk about realism without mentioning the improved match engine – The 3D match engine looks more natural, and like I said about the last edition, Football Manager is that rare game where your football team is simulated the same way you end up playing on FIFA yourself.
And slightly unrelated, but despite the quality of Berbatov as a player, you can’t play him and Rooney in the same team. Just like in real life, I had to drop Berba for Hernandez because he just didn’t move fast enough.
Still a bit surprised at Anderson’s low ‘shooting’ rating though.
The tactical / player instructions system has been upgraded and so have the coach recommendations on player roles. It all feeds into the overall philosophy of having your staff assist you in picking the right team and the right role for each player within that team. Phil Jones hasn’t had the # of games in my playing time to show if he marauds up the pitch as effectively, but watching Vidic snapping into tackles, Carrick plan interceptions to perfection and Chicharito breaking clear of the last man to race onto a through ball and bear down on the opposition goal – it’s all a combination of knowing what tactics to use and the match engine translating them accurately.
Some will say that this makes the game too easy. I would argue that SI’s purpose is two-fold – to open up the game to as wide a demographic of players as possible, and to keep improving Football Manager to make it more realistic. In the real world you have coaches and scouts telling you what position player is best suited to, whether he’s a good future prospect and what his training should focus on. It’s not an ‘easy’ setting in real life, it’s how things are. The better your support staff are, the better the information they give you. At the end of the day it’s up to you (as it’s up to any manager) how they use the resources available to them – in terms of support staff, players, transfer kitty, wages budget and expectations from the board.
And you’ll find that if you cannot motivate your players, then it doesn’t matter how good they are, they won’t play to their potential. Sound familiar?
Play The Game
I could go on for hours – the squad strength screen, scouting options, enhanced player details, improved board negotiations, better training options – a lot of small upgrades and innovations, all of which are designed to make the game more realistic to play. The 2012 edition of Football Manager can feel slightly overwhelming with the information overload but that feeling quickly gives way to excitement over how much control you have, and how good the game has become to allow you to manage your football club your way.
Football Manager 2012 is out on Friday, 21 October. You can pre-order it through Steam, or enter the Soccerlens competition to win a free copy of FM12.