Football Manager has long been a game of love for us for many years, from the heady days of its original conception in the form of Championship Manager on the Amiga/PC to its current form and more recent name change; it has been a game that ends up taking over your social life.
Well with Football Manager 2012 it will be more of the same for football fans once again as you prepare to spend your next few weeks in from of your monitor attempting to get your favourite team to the top of the table. To put it all in layman’s terms, during the past week playing the game, I have put in over 24 hours of play, there has never been any other game that has taken my time up in such a way that I don’t realise where the time went to.
The game has now become a yearly release in the same way that EA Sports keep rolling out new versions of FIFA just in time for Christmas, but that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t improve massively with each new release. Every year SI Interactive manage to cram in the most minute features into the game that add more and more to the already huge array of depth and detail the game has.
This year we have what SI interactive say are around 800 new features and while we can't go into every single one in this review, we will try and cover as many of the main ones as we can.
The best new feature in our mind is the option to let you add or remove playable nations in your save game whenever you want to. This means that you are not forced to play in the same league you chose at the start of the game. Meanwhile we also see some major changes to transfers and contracts, now adding loyalty bonuses, rolling contracts and better negotiations, meaning a better range of options to try and narrow down the fine details in a players contract.
There has also been quite a change with the user interface, adding more boxes and detail the bigger your display is, something that is a godsend when you are playing Football Manager on a large screen. It is also one of the few games that we love playing in a window and that once again works perfectly, we are even doing so as we write this review.
One of the more impressive additions comes in the form of Team Depth within the “Team Report” area of the game. This area lets you see your best set of players in various positions. It is based on the star system and shows your 1st, 2nd and 3rd best players in each area. It gives you a very easy overview of what areas of your team you need to improve or go with for formations.
Next we have the position and strength overview showing details on player’s best positions and potential strengths. It also lets you see player potential in each position too and allows you to ask any member of your staff about a player’s role rather than having to rely on your assistant manager.
Many of the more recent features added in the past couple of years such as conversations with players and the media system have seen drastic improvements too with far more depth in replies and the addition of the “tone system” which lets you choose the specific way you want to say something. For example you can slam your team in an aggressive way or calmly tell them how poor they were. It all adds to the reality of the experience.
There are now team meetings to be arranged too. It lets you have a go at how the team are playing or praise them for their recent performances. You can then allow players in the team to express their opinions on both your performances and the team as a whole.
Player profiles now have a new look too, showing far more details on individuals than ever before, the good news is that if you don’t like the new display, you can change it back to the old view via a settings option.
As has become the norm with Football Manager, the game is very deep, so deep that many new players will be overcome with the stats and details very quickly and not bother getting the most out of it and become frustrated. The good news here is that the tutorial system has seen a drastic change that makes things so much easier to learn than ever before, it really is a huge plus to the game overall.
Graphically despite what has been classed as a big change in the 3D Match engine we couldn't notice too much difference, bar the much better looking crowd and some of the changes to animations. Weather makes a bit of difference but it isn't the big change that we hoped we might see. What is good to have is the directors camera, this means you get to view the action behind the goal which makes corners much more exciting to watch and easier to pick out players making mistakes at the back.
Once again it is more of an evolution rather than a revolution, but that isn’t a bad thing. The game is so detailed and in-depth that even the most ardent football fan will find it hard to see where new features can be added each year, but SI do keep managing to find them.
That isn’t to say that the game is perfect because once again there are a lot of bugs in this review copy we have been using, with press comments asking how we will deal with our previous loss, despite us actually winning etc. We have no doubt that these problems will be ironed out quickly (probably with a day 1 release patch from SI) but they are there.
Overall we have to say that if you loved previous Football Manager games we are in no doubt at all that you will love this one, it adds more features that are not just there for show, but actually add to the game and that is hard to come by when a game is as detailed as this.