Let’s start with the facts. Football Manager 2012 is undoubtedly the best of the series. As ever, it’s addictive enough to mortgage your house, divorce your wife and leave your kids without feeling any remorse. At the same time it’s still the glorified spreadsheet that expects the player to create football narratives. It’s a blank canvas ready for you to paint the ups and downs of your club with mathematics and statistics. If in 2011 you weren’t a fan, you’ll have the same opinion a year on. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.
The core game remains the same, there’s no doubt about that. For those unfamiliar with the franchise, you pick any team (or start unemployed) from a bewildering selection of officially licensed leagues and begin a journey to glory. Want to take a foray into the lower Korean leagues? You can. Wish to take the helm at moneybags Manchester City - expect the pressure. Maybe it’s Brazilian flair that entices you – Corinthians are there waiting.
Once you’re behind the managerial trench-coat, it’s up to you to do everything. Hire staff, uncover hidden talent in the youth cup, or sell your biggest player to your rival for a huge pay check. How about screaming as your star man skies a penalty in the Champions League final? As we said, it’s the same Football Manager. The highs and lows of football realised in an astonishingly detailed way. If the review was down to depth and scale, Football Manager would be the number one franchise in the world.
So we move to the most important part. What’s been overhauled and does it work?
Lots. Lots. And more Lots. It has so many tiny cosmetic changes, UI tweaks, and under the hood adjustments, that listing them all would take as long as the next edition will take to develop. The short story – things have changed for the better. It might take a while to adjust, but Sports Interactive have listened to the community and refreshed the necessary.
A lot of the game remains the same, and rightfully so. Why break it if it doesn’t need fixing? Cosmetically there’s a new skin which displays more information to take advantage of PCs with larger resolutions. The ability to customise your Home Screen was introduced several years ago, but the developers have upped the widget space, allowing you to display more information to help your managerial campaign.
An easier way to evaluate FM 2012 is to name a feature and presume it’s been changed for the better. Training? Easier to customise schedules and see the results. Tactics? The ability to train several tactic choices allows for on the fly adjustments. If you’re 1-0 down at home, you only have to click a 4-3-3 reserve, and your players know what to do (with training set formations increasing their familiarity and helping squad harmony).
How about transfers? Want a quick way to look for GKs? Click of a button. What happens if you get stuck? A recreated tutorial system helps those new to the franchise. You don’t have to enter a player’s screen to see their stats anymore; you can simply tool-tip over them.
Sports Interactive have streamlined the experience. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s so accurate in Football Manager’s case that it’s perfect to use. All those little actions that took up your time in previous editions – they’ve been thought about and either removed, or altered to save your mouse clicks. It essentially cuts out the repetitive screen hopping and tries to focus your attention on what’s important; the football.
It’s hard to think that several years ago we were still watching circles kick around a miniature football. Ever since FM introduced the 3D match engine it begun to feel more like the world of football and less about luck.
This year it’s akin to the HD era. A vastly more detailed engine brings matches alive with the help of a ‘Director’ led camera, weather, better sound and smoother animations. Before we were stuck with what were essentially stick figures ‘kicking’ a ball which ignored the laws of physics. Now players look humanistic and thanks to the TV-style perspective that shifts its viewpoint according to the action, it’s as though you’re watching Sky Spots.
For example with free kicks the camera shifts behind the player for a better view. The scale of players has been improved and what they do makes more sense – the silly mistakes which occur aren’t so infuriating when you can actually tell what’s gone wrong.
Obviously if you wish to shout at your players, you can. Team Talks and Team Meetings are the areas which have had the biggest work. You now get a visual indication and real-time feedback on how your words affect players. Tone comes into play as well. You might need to shout at your egotistical defender in front of everyone, or your Defensive Midfielder might need some calm encouragement. It’s a welcome adjustment and one that gives actual use to the morale of the game.
Scouting, contracts, and finances – they’ve all changed for the better. You can create custom shouts and tactics with ease. Matches have been brought alive; the monotonous has vanished. If you suddenly have the urge to manage in Africa, you can now add and remove leagues on the fly. You’re no longer stuck with your starting choice. We could go on, but we’d be here long into extra time. The key question is this. Do you like Football Manager? Then you’ve already got this on pre-order. There’s not much more to say and if you don’t have it queued in your shopping basket, get it now. The best FM by far - the definitive football management simulator. Want to know the best thing? It can only get better.
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2012 VERDICT
The key question is this. Do you like Football Manager? Then you’ve already got this on pre-order. There’s not much more to say and if you don’t have it queued in your shopping basket, get it now. The best FM by far - the definitive football management simulator. Want to know the best thing? It can only get better.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Seeing Fernando Torres score goals.