Football Manager is, without a doubt, the strongest football management franchise on the market today. In truth, it has been for many years now and it's commendable that the team over at Sports Interactive still have the same passion and drive now as they did back when they were thinking about creating this remarkable franchise. Such is the scope of Football Manager's depth that information from the game's database is now being used for recruitment in the professional game thanks to a partnership with Prozone Sports. But even with these impressive accolades, Football Manager 2015 feels a little bit underwhelming compared to previous years, even if it's not through a lack of trying.
As usual, Football Manager 2015 is packed full of changes. These range from improvements to the in-game match engine, to updated rule sets and of course, a whole host of changes when it comes to clubs and also professional playing staff. Many of these changes are evident off the bat, with the most noticeable being a modified user interface.
With the old interface, where action was predominantly controlled using the nav-bar across the top, there were often a whole host of dropdowns and sub-menus that were important, but difficult to find. This is still there, but it's been much more refined and many of the core screens you will want to access (and a few you don't) on a regular basis have been lifted to appear in the new left-hand navigation. Go a little deeper though and you'll find that things become a little bit more refined. The tactics screen has had a few modifications, as has scouting, but everything else is pretty standard.
Refinement is perhaps the best way of to describe the changes within Football Manager 2015. Tactics have been refined a bit, with new roles added and some better visuals to represent how your staff feel about player suitability and there's even the new management style, which in many ways can feel like cheating. Other elements such as interviews with the press have also been refined, but that's about as deep as the changes go. For example, many of the same questions featured in Football Manager 2014 appear, but they have been supplemented with a few additional questions. You will still end up getting rather bored of answering the same things over and over again. Yes, I made five changes to my squad for the next round of international fixtures. The game assumes you're trying to make some radical statement and repeatedly questions you on the same line again and again, but it could be that they enforced due to injuries or suspension.
You will also get some rather odd comments when the game doesn't quite understand context. San Marino, and other nations of their ilk, are perennial whipping boys in European competitions, but journalists will quiz you like there has been some kind of inquisition within their FA after a 4-0 loss to a strong nation like the Czech Republic and that it might affect any forthcoming fixture.
For all the efforts spent on improving the realism of the match engine, the scouting, the database and the tactical nuances, the interactions with journalists and players, either through team talks or individual conversions, still lack any real personality or conviction. And this is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Football Management, especially in today's world. You might be impressed initially, but after a while you end up just giving exactly the same answers to every situation that might occur.
Sports Interactive should be commended for the effort they have put into the new 3D match engine. The comparison with Football Manager 2014 is like night and day, with so nuances added. You will now see much more realistic animations and players performing more complicated moves, such as passes with the outside of the boot. There are, of course, still random oddities that arise with player decisions, but the product looks a lot more polished thanks to the mocap. Praise should also be offered for improvements to the Scouting system as it's now a much more integrated system.
It means that overall, Football Manager 2015 is just rather underwhelming. It's still very good, and there are instances where the changes made in this iteration are noticeable, but on the whole they just feel more like refinements. When the inevitable Football Manager 2016 surfaces, let's hope there are some strong, positive improvements that help to push the game and genre forwards, otherwise there's really no need to re-purchase.
|Match engine looks more realistic.|
|Sprucing up non-league teams with rather boosted management credentials.|
|Still the best management game going.|
|Interviews and player interactions still feel far too computed.|
|Changes to the tactics menu are a mixed bag.|
|Doesn't do enough to push the franchise and genre forward.|