It’s that time of year again – no, not worrying about heating bills or wondering what to get Dad for Christmas (because let’s face it, they have everything already) – but it’s time for the annual instalment of Football Manager being fired up on PCs, Macs and laptops up and down the country. Who needs games consoles, eh? Will Football Manager 2014 live up to the hype and deliver another title winning season, or will it be mid-table mediocrity for Sports Interactive?
Sports Interactive (SI) have been leaking their new features for Football Manager 2014 over Twitter and YouTube over recent weeks, giving us a sneak peak at what we can expect from the new iteration of Football Manager, and trust me, there’s a lot of them! Rather that go tread over previous ground, it’s probably best to tell you all about the key new additions and how they impact Football Manager 2014. Let’s get into shall we?!
Think less Andy Townsend in the tactics truck and more Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher on that big, shiny iPad (other tablets are available). The complexity of tactics is still there in Football Manager 2014, but it now seems a lot easier to implement these with most instructions being able to be implemented from the main tactics screen. From here you can, not only change their position, role and support settings, but also see a player’s role in a certain position and their suitability to that role, which is a great new addition. For example I can see how suitable Mousa Dembele is to playing a box to box midfielder role compared to that of a deep lying playmaker quickly and easily, without having to click into the player’s profile.
TRANSFERS AND CONTRACTS
Realism is the key. Lots of real world features have been introduced for the wheeler dealer. Remember the weeks of back and forth between clubs trying to eek out a couple of extra million out of a transfer deal? Well thankfully those days are over. Don’t get me wrong, you still get the fun of the back and forth, but now you get the ability to ‘suggest terms’ to the player’s current club. This essentially squashes all the back and forth into one meeting, saving weeks of your time and giving your players that extra time to settle into your squad, or even get them in a game or two earlier than expected.
Not to be missed is the added option to loan a player back to the selling club after you’ve bought him. When you’re submitting a transfer offer, you can add a clause which will see the transfer target spend a set amount of time back at his current club before he makes the big jump to your club. Particularly handy when you’ve just signed the next Andres Iniesta but it’s a bit early for him to step up into your first team ranks.
Contracts haven’t changed too much, just a heap of extra clauses have been bundled in to make it a more immersive contract system ever. Agents still asking for ridiculous fees, Brazilian deadwood wanting insane goal bonuses and even players after unused substitute bonuses now! Oh and don’t forget the threat of Financial Fair Play that kicks in in 2016!
A wise man once said, “it’s good to talk” and it seems Football Manager have taken that and given the player a heap of new ways to interact with the boardroom, staff and players alike. In previous games, conversations with staff and players have felt slightly stale and repetitive. Meetings with the media become a bit of a chore and team talks never seem to go anywhere. But this seems to have changed for the better. Players seem to react, for better or for worse, to manager’s comments, which gives you belief that you’re having an impact out on the pitch.
Déjà vu? Yeah, me too. Another Football Manager and another match engine update. I’ll put it out there, I’m not a big fan of Football Manager’s match engine. I rarely use it. And it doesn’t seem I’ll be using it much in Football Manager 2014 either. It does seem better than previous versions of Football Manager, but I’m afraid I’ll be sticking to the legendary commentary bar at the bottom of the screen. The player’s movements just seem slightly unnatural and they end up making some bizarre decisions. Decisions I’d rather not see them make. If you are a fan, then there’ll be nothing to make you turn it off. Just when the ball comes back off the post into across the 6 yard box to an unmarked Roberto Soldado, don’t expect him to tuck it away.
If you’re thinking “that doesn’t sound very exciting”, then think again. News is news, but there are some nice added subtleties to the news interface that give it a slicker edge than previous games. For those of you who spend most of your day organising emails in Outlook or Gmail rather than reading them, there’s a new colour coded news system for you. The colour coding is not as intrusive as it sounds and lets you pick out the key information you need while you skim over your latest scouting report. The headlines section of the news lets you cast an eye over the latest big news from what you’re subscribed to, all easily manageable to make sure you’re only getting the right news for you. It’s another little touch that gives a little bit of extra enjoyment to the game.
I was worried that the Football Manager series had lost its attraction. Football Manager 2013, while great, left me slightly empty. I lost count of the number of games I started only for it to peter out into nothing come February and another game would start.
I was also worried when I saw the new features that were coming to Football Manager 2014. Most of the updates ended with me saying “so what?” but it seems the additions that have been made add a simple depth to the game. It’s just as detailed as you would expect from an Football Manager title, but with a much simpler interface.
On the whole, I’m impressed, and my love for the Football Manager has definitely been rekindled. There was a definite fear factor with this year’s title that it wouldn’t cut the mustard, changes would be make for the sake of changes and that it’d be another year of incomplete seasons. But, making a lot of the deeper features so much more accessible have given the game a new edge. If you were worried about previous versions of the game and thought that the series had run its course, then think again. Football Manager is back and it’s better than ever.