Sports Interactive are in an enviable, but difficult position. For years, they have been the developers of the best football management simulators both critically and commercially, and it must be difficult to keep coming back with new, interesting ways for consumers to delve into the wonderful world of football. They keep managing it though and this year, the improvements make this simulation even closer to reality.
Before we delve into some of the finer changes, it's worth pointing out one of the major ones - it's a real game changer as far as Football Manager is concerned. In the past, you had to carefully craft out what you wanted your career to be like and at times it would often depend on what your PC could handle. Let's say you wanted to achieve goals around the world, you wanted to compete in Major League Soccer, the J-League, the A-League, La Liga, Serie A, Die Bundesliga and the Premier League. You'd have to know you wanted to do that from the start and if you decided half way through the season that you wanted to then manage in Ligue 1, then you'd have to start all over again.
It's not the case any more, as Sports Interactive has given you the option to swap leagues in and out at any time. If you start off with a basic English management scenario, but you get sacked or you're bored, the game no longer restricts your options. You aren't forced to stick it out in England as the option to just add a new nation is now available. In other words, it's now possible to do what so many English managers are afraid to do when they don't succeed, go abroad.
Aside from this major change, another one is evident almost as soon as you choose which team to manage - tone. It's now possible to have full-on interactions with your team and even players on an individual basis. It adds a whole new level of depth that gets a little bit unnerving. Not only do you now have to worry about winning matches, you have to worry about hurting people's feelings. This kind of system has been present for many years since the addition of team talks before and during matches, but now you can have interactions throughout the week and you will be able to see how people react to you on the fly.
For example, if a player's agent comes to you asking for an improved contract and you say no. This could lead to showdown talks with the player whereas in the past, they would have just changed their status to unhappy. Through using these talks and using the correct wording and tone (there are 6 options), you can turn negative situations around.Other improvements can also be seen with how transfers take place. You can now offer loyalty bonuses and it's also possible to stand firm in contract negotiations. If you're wanting to sign a player who's slightly out of your budgetary range, you can also have discussions with the board on an individual basis without worrying about them getting too angry. In the past, making requests from the board was a sure-fire way of picking up your P45.
The game does offer a whole new tutorial system, but it does feel as though with every new iteration, the game just becomes even more difficult for novices to get involved. If you go back five years, the game had a much more "pick-up and play" feel to it, whereas now it just feels as though there's so much that you need to do, it can become quite overwhelming. Sports Interactive are in a difficult position. They want to make Football Manager as close to reality as possible, that's the whole point of a simulation game of this nature, but it also feels that with every iteration, it also takes away some of the fantasy element that people also enjoy. There are still those people who despite supporting Plymouth will just start as Man Utd so they can build the team they want to build. But now, if you want to do that there are so many obstacles.
Improvements have been made to the 3D match engine, but it still isn't all that great. It's best to just set the 2D match engine up to get a much quicker and smoother interpretation of what's going on during a game. Or, if speed is your game, just turn all of the engines off and rely on the text to be all old school.
As with many simulation games, Football Manager offers unlimited replay value. You can make the database rather huge and with the option to add and remove leagues whenever you want, the possibilities are even greater. The fact that new players are always being generated is one of the game's crowning glories, although unless you have some amazing scouts, you may find it difficult to un-earth the next Messi before the other big teams do.
Sports Interactive has been the leading football management developer for many years now and the fact they keep releasing games year after year with the same drive and passion has to be commended. Football Manager 2012 is further testament to their dedication as it includes a host of improvements and ensures that the Football Manager franchise stays at the top of the tree. It may become more of a daunting prospect for newcomers every year, but everyone has to start somewhere and there's no better place than FM12.
|The best football simulator out there by far.|
|Tone and dialogue options add a whole new level of depth.|
|Adding/removing leagues on the fly is a fantastic addition.|
|Still a daunting prospect to newcomers, even with the new tutorials.|
|3D match engine needs further improvements.|
|Sometimes the extreme realism takes away from the fantasy element.|