Football Manager 2012 Review
Football Manager 2012 finds its way into our lives slightly earlier than it’s usual November release date, and with so much competition for gamers money during the festive period, getting a head start on the likes of Modern Warfare 3 and Uncharted 3 might be enough to grab the attention of some, more fickle gamers. The question, as last year, is whether or not Football Manager 2012 is worth the £29.99 retail value, or is it simply a case of sticking with an updated 2011 version?
The simple answer for me, as it seems to be every year, is that Football Manager 2012 is the best football management simulation currently available. I may have said the same about 2011 last year, and probably will about 2013 next year, but the level of detail involved is quite frightening, and as far as the market for this genre of game, there is not another title, indie or mainstream, that comes close. Football Manager proves just how far off the management modes in games like FIFA 12 and PES 2012 are from being elite, and does so with the swagger and confidence expected by a market leader. If you’re a fan of the franchise, simply log on to steam, and get downloading or pre-ordering, and if your new to the management genre, forget about your research, and simply start at the top, because FM 2012 is exactly that.
Getting all this from simply 8 hours or so review time is of course impossible. In fact Football Manager is a game that simply has to be reviewed on potential. If you don’t invest the time and effort into a ‘game’ you will end up with, what is at best, a decent casual gaming experience. Flick on as Manchester City or Barcelona, and reap the rewards of having unlimited resources and the best players. Fail to live up the expectations at these clubs, and you will find yourself sacked and ultimately frustrated. Younger gamers or those without a passion for football gaming in general might find themselves leaning towards this category, and questioning both the reasoning why I am scribing such a glowing reference, and whether or not football management is indeed their idea of fun. However, as someone who has clocked up the best part of 300hours on the previous couple of titles, the new additions to FM 2012 are only set to enhance the overall experience.
The first topic which instantly jumps out from FM2012 is that the new skin looks slightly more polished. Menu systems and overview screens feel more user friendly, and clicking through four or five tabs to get a simple fact is no longer required. Nowhere is this more true than on the on the Player Profile Screen. Clicking on a player’s name now gives a more detailed snapshot about that individual, focusing as much on personality as on their stats. Graphical representations of the player’s form also work better this year, and whilst the plethora of usual player information is just one tab away, it really helps managers dealing with along of young or new players get a feel for that particular group. As someone who likes to keep his eye on all aspects of his squads (including the reserves and youth teams) this is a real aid, and a particular bonus during my time at Malmo. As a novice of the Swedish League, I found out quickly exactly what I needed about my young forwards, and could make a swift and seemingly informed decision on who should be my 7th substitution following an injury to one of my 1st choice strikers.
The second notable and key improvement is the addition of the manner in which your team talk is delivered. Before, the set options for a team talk were limited to approximately 6 lines of text, a couple of which would only be appropriate to the situation. Now, team talks come under several categories, ranging from calm to passionate to aggressive, all of which will have different effects on your team and individual players. This is taken further into one on one chats with players, and gives you the opportunity as a virtual manager to develop a in game persona to suit your style. Being aggressive might have some sort of sway with younger players who will learn to respect you, but speaking that way to your veteran international centre half might cause an uproar. Failing to show passion towards a local derby or cup semi-final might see some long servants at the club become disillusioned with your management style. This ‘personality’ aspect gives you a real feel of control, and stops team talks becoming the run of the mill quick click affairs they were in 2011.
Unfortunately, this personality and emotion is restricted to simply speaking to players. Press conferences and other interactions are still very much multiple choice and bland, which is a shame, especially when you are attempting to build the aforementioned character. Being able to build a siege mentality within your camp would be a lot easier if every press conference see you extra defensive and awkward. Furthermore, investment in the press area would have allowed you to potentially gain a media persona, asked to comment on other world events in football or even act as a pundit on international matches. Raising your profile as a manager is something that, rightly or wrongly, is still very much orientated around the actual football, when the real world a manager has to do so much more to remain both popular and in the minds of potential ‘bigger clubs’.
But going back to what FM 2012 does do well, the new way players are dealt with pre and during games is a massive improvement, especially for newbies. Instead of the form and condition arrows, which whilst statistically helpful were unrealistic to a real manager, you can know judge player’s body language and in game performance via handy lines of text. A player looking nervous before a game might need a word of confidence to prepare him for the game, whereas an overly fired up Joey Barton is probably best spoken to in a calm and controlled manner. The same can be said for at half time, when your assistant manager will inform you just how players have been playing. A player who has seemed to panic ion possession might need reassuring to take his time, and this new feature, coupled with the aforementioned team talks makes for a greater feeling of control in terms of man management.
In spite of all of the above, perhaps the biggest addition for me is the ability to add or delete leagues on the fly. This means that half way through a saved game, you could add a new league, for example the Spanish league, and move on to a brand new club with new challenges within the game universe. In the past, the only way of doing this was to pre load your chosen leagues, which is ok, but limited your managerial path. Now, if a poor run at a Championship club has left you less desirable than a Steve McLaren umbrella, you can go and have a season or two abroad in Greece or Turkey, forge yourself a new reputation and attack the English League again. The feature also allows you to start the game with minimal leagues installed, thus allowing for a quicker gaming experience (for those that are stuck with a slow laptop or PC).
Other minor improvements in FM 2012 will be appreciated by some. The ability to lock certain aspects of contract negotiations, a new look tactics and pre game screen along with the usual in game database updates all make the game a worthwhile package. Further to this, FM 2012 still does what it’s predecessors have done so well, including the 3D game engine, exceptionally in depth database and overall gaming experience. So many games add one feature yet take away another, whereas FM 2012 only ever builds on its previous offerings, never detracting from its features.
As mentioned, if you are a fan of the franchise, you probably have already pre ordered a copy of the game, which means this review was more for information than persuasion. At the same time, people who aren’t really a fan of the game FM 2012 probably won’t have done enough to make you want to try it out again, especially if you ventured into last years offering. However, Football Manager 2012 is well worth the retail price, and in terms of value for money, if you get into a particular game, £30 for what will ultimately be 100 hours or so of entertainment is definitely worth it!