It's around this time of year that football fans often see their time just disappear into thin air. Relationships may also become frayed and careers get put on a standstill. This condition gets worse every year too, as the developers at Sports Interactive continue to push the boundaries of football management and this year is no different, as they've brought Football Manager 2013 to the table.
Football Manager 2013 is arguably the most comprehensive, but also the most accessible Football Manager title to date. Sports Interactive claim to have added 900 new features to the core game, but perhaps the biggest changes come with two new game modes: Football Manager Classic and Challenge Mode.
Football Manager Classic arrives to make the entire experience more streamlined. Having listened to feedback from the more recent iterations of Football Manager, but also the response to the handheld versions of Football Manager, Sports Interactive decided the time was right to offer a toned down version of the main experience. With Football Manager Classic, you'll be able to spend more time playing the core elements of the game, instead of having to worry about full-on contract negotiations, individual training routines and team talks. Interaction with the media is also toned down, so it's much more about results, than how you manage the club as a whole.
This mode also features some unlockables, which have been designed to make the experience even more fluid. These include the removal of work permits and the ability to add some extra transfer budget if you feel like it.
The addition of Football Manager Classic can only be seen as a positive step forward for the franchise. In previous years, the game has become rather complex and for those who don't necessarily have the time, it sometimes felt like the game was too realistic.
The other new mode is Challenge Mode. This is a concept that many other sports games have been peddling for years, and now Sports Interactive has got into the act. There are only a few scenarios to try your hand at, but they can be rather challenging. One challenge sees your team on a huge unbeaten run. The challenge is then to replicate Arsenal's "invincibles" and finish the season unbeaten. Another challenge sees you trying to thwart the classic myth which suggests that the team who're bottom at Christmas always get relegated.
Anyway, enough about what's new and onto the traditional Football Manager mode, complete with its rather extreme intricacies. In some kind of ironic twist, with every Football Manager game, you often feel like perhaps it isn't such an enjoyable job after all. There are so many things to consider and it takes a certain type of individual to look it in the face and really take the bull by the horns.
With Football Manager 2013, quite a few of the game's systems have been revamped. The loan system has been expanded upon and the scouting and training systems have also been made much more comprehensive. Sports Interactive has even gone so far as to add taxation for each of the major leagues in the game.
If you're new to the experience, and you want to dive in head first, it can be a little tricky to understand exactly what's going on. There's a tutorial system, but it doesn't ever go into any real depth about what you can actually do with Football Manager. It really is a complete novice's guide, and you will probably be able to figure most of it out by just exploring a bit.
Indeed, experience and knowledge of the game are your best friends. There's no tutorial that can tell you the correct formation to use, or which training regimes suit certain players. There's also no tutorial to tell you how to handle an unhappy player, or when it's the right time to praise a player who you feel is performing well for the team. But that's the beauty of Football Manager. There may well be some "perfect" formations that get banded around the internet and you may want to try and manage every team the same way. Take a step back, and you'll see that that's exactly how the real world of football works. Sometimes managers try to stamp their authority and style of play on teams and it just doesn't work. Others will find an amazing formation, move team and be baffled why it no longer works.
Outside of improvements to the game, which even go so far as to add a Director of Football (who would wish working with one of those on anyone?), Sports Interactive has also improved the match engine. This means there are now many more animations, better camera angles and some decent replays. The entire UI, while familiar, has also been tweaked to make for a much more sleek experience.
Perhaps the best new feature with the game though, comes with its integration to the Steam platform. This means it's possible to play network games across Steam, making the experience much cleaner. There are also worldwide leaderboards, so you can compare your performance with other top managers around the world.
With Football Manager 2013, Sports Interactive have shown once again that they still have much more to give. It's by far the deepest football management experience on the market and with the new game mode, they've also made it the most accessible. With revamped loan, scouting and training systems and a renewed match engine, productivity amongst football fans is sure to diminish yet again.
|» Football Manager Classic exists.|
|» You can now be Harry Redknapp on transfer deadline day.|
|» Now integrated with Steam.|
|» Some bugs cropping up with transfers.|
|» It doesn't feel like there are enough challenges.|
|» While it's nice that there's a Director of Football system, nobody wants to work underneath one.|