When 90%+ of each Football Manager release is the same year in-year out, how do you even begin talking about each new version? Do you choose to highlight that it’s still essentially peerless and more addictive than ever? That it’s more newbie-friendly and yet tweaked and buffed just enough to keep us old-timers happy? How about a quick anecdote about mammoth gameplay sessions ending at 3am, or household chores going unchecked, or real life football matches in which all you can see are the tactical sliders affecting the team in every area of the pitch?
In any other year that last one would be absolutely fine, but this year there’s a catch: much like cycling shorts, nasal strips and undecorated flesh, Football Manager 2014
has finally consigned its more granular tweaks to the great footballing dustbin of change.
|Like FM, Montolivo is evergreen
In the most sweeping set of alterations to the tactical system in years, you no longer tell your players to make specific 10% changes to their various disciplines. Instead, you now lay down tactics in a fashion much more suited to real-life management, assigning each player their position and a specific role (Deep-lying Playmaker, Ball-winning Midfielder, False 9, Trequartista, etc.), and outside of setting some basic stylistic instructions for the team as a whole, that’s all you really need to consider to get your squad up and running.
It’s not that Football Manager 2014
lacks depth with the removal of those long-standing tactical tweaks either, but rather it highlights minute-by-minute management skills that may have gone untapped. Previously I played Football Manager as if trying to perfect a formula; to create the ultimate balance with the personnel at my disposal; to alter the sliders until I gained a competitive advantage in every match, fast-forwarding to goal highlights and altering the setup to try again next time. The match was the result of the experiment rather than the actual experiment
, and whilst you can still play that way if you really want to, the joy of micro-managing each performance far outweighs those old habits.
On-the-fly team and player instructions are now much less of an afterthought and absolutely pivotal to success. Game plans can be set up for the various scenarios you might want to change or bolster, and each set of team instructions now neatly highlights the other options that clash with what you’re trying to achieve. As a result I found myself much more engaged with the match engine, lowering the speed, watching for weaknesses, gathering information from the assistant manager and hollering virtual instructions at my team to “play wider”, “work the ball into the box” or (more aptly as Cardiff City) defend with a “much deeper defensive line”.
|Gameplans make things easier
Another knock-on effect of slowing down the pace and paying due attention to the match engine is that channeling the right information is now of paramount importance. As such, picking the right staff for your assistant manager and coaching roles can be as agonising as trying to sign a star midfielder, and getting a team together that works on common formation goals and tactical knowledge seems to have aided my progress no end this time around. I used to pay a decent amount of attention to my staff every year, but they’re now in the spotlight more than ever thanks to the increased minute-by-minute tactical awareness. (quick tip for low-to-mid table premiership teams: Keisuke Honda is available on a free at the start of the window, snap him up as soon as possible)
As is tradition elsewhere in Football Manager
, there are numerous smaller changes to the UI and underlying simulation, hundreds in fact, and in practice none of them stand out as egregious; most are useful.
The majority are logical tweaks: more information on upcoming games in the processing bar at the top of the screen, better options during transfers for loaning players back to clubs, FIFA’s financial play regulations in full effect, overhauled training systems with better information on player happiness, and numerous others. About the only area that could justly do with an overhaul at this stage is the 3D match engine (the new ‘director’ camera is fantastic, but highlights the ropey contextual animation a little too well) and media interaction, which is still a little too shallow and structured to be believable (although you can now leak stories to the press, in a welcome turn).
Football Manager Classic
|Not a bad price
is also still a part of the package and progressing happily on its own simplified terms, with shared cloud saves between Vita and PC users likely to win favour with a huge number of users. In truth, whilst I can see the appeal of Classic
and its streamlined experience, personally I can’t look past the full experience at this point. And that fully-featured behemoth is still Football Manager through and through, despite the changes discussed above. The sensation of playing the same excellent simulation from a slightly different angle is rewarding however, and it’s refreshing that after so many years of upping the complexity levels and surfacing detail that most games keep behind the scenes, Sports Interactive has taken a long look at their primary tactical setup and made changes to make it more relatable to their audience and also more analogous to the influence that real-life managers are able to exert. As long as they keep pulling tricks like this, Football Manager is a series that will remain evergreen.
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2014 VERDICT
And that fully-featured behemoth is still Football Manager through and through, despite the changes discussed above. The sensation of playing the same excellent simulation from a slightly different angle is rewarding however, and it’s refreshing that after so many years of upping the complexity levels and surfacing detail that most games keep behind the scenes, Sports Interactive has taken a long look at their primary tactical setup and made changes to make it more relatable to their audience and also more analogous to the influence that real-life managers are able to exert. As long as they keep pulling tricks like this, Football Manager is a series that will remain evergreen.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Beating Chelsea 3-2, away, as Cardiff City