It’s 2am. You have a 9am lecture but cannot drag yourself away from your screen. ‘Just one more game!’ you tell yourself; but who are you kidding, you’ve been telling yourself that for the past two hours.
This situation will become a reality for students across the country this week with the release of Football Manger 14, a gripping management simulation that consumes both your time whilst playing and your thoughts when away from your virtual office.
Sports Interactive always encourage fan feedback, even offering those who pre-ordered the game the chance to test drive it for two weeks before release, suggesting changes and pointing out bugs. This offers a consistently more realistic and engaging experience each year, with FM 14 the pinnacle of the sports simulation genre.
The biggest change in this year’s game comes in the form of the revamped tactical system. Previous tactical preparation meant finding the strengths of your players and setting up the team to make the most of their skills, regardless of opposition instructions. The improved AI, however, means that in this year’s version it is more important than ever to read scouting reports on how opposition teams will line up, along with watching for changes to their instructions during a game, creating a real battle of the clipboards between you and your opposite number. New player positions also add depth, giving you the option to play with a Spanish false 9, or have your attacking midfielder play off a front man as a shadow striker.
Little details make huge differences in Football Manager. Assigning instructions to individual players rather than a position on the tactics screen automatically changes the way in which you play based solely on your line-up, saving constant pausing and tinkering every time you bring a target man on to replace your nippy poacher. The transfer system is subject to similar tweaks, with clubs no longer waiting days to respond to offers, instead rejecting or countering immediately in a more real time manner.
The match engine has seen major visual improvements to player animations, lighting and the stadium crowd. Matchday feels more immersive than ever with a clear distinction in atmosphere between a World Cup final and a rainy Tuesday night away game at Plymouth.
Another small addition is the increased depth of player, media and board conversations. Whilst press conferences are still dry, with you likely leaving your assistant to talk for you, it is interesting to see the media approach you over failed transfers and publish stories when your players publicly criticise your methods. Players will be brutally honest at team meetings, telling you exactly what they think of what you say, whilst you can attempt to coax older pros out of retirement or ask your captain to have a word depending on their influence. These changes seem small but add a nice level of realism within your potentially hundreds of hours long career.
Board interaction has also had a makeover in several regards. Being summoned to board meetings to explain your team’s poor run of form is a scary experience, but gives you the chance to claw your way back from chopping board by accepting a points target to reach over the next few games in order to save your job.
Additionally, instead of being offered a job and blindly accepting it, clubs will now call candidates in for interview. This gives you a chance to meet your potential chairman and discuss philosophy. Winning games is great, but if your effective long ball game does not match the board’s wish for a quick passing style then, like Tony Pulis, you might soon be touting yourself out for media work instead of taking your seat in the dugout.
Whilst small features add a lot to the FM experience, little issues can pull you out of the normally immersive world. Being called for interview by a club and quizzed on your hopes and ambitions is a nice touch, but failing to ask why you should be taken on following back to back relegations in your previous job is frustrating if relieving. Visual glitches within the match engine also occasionally crop up.
Classic mode, the stripped down version for those who play in pyjamas rather than opting for a suit on match day, returns with a new layout allowing players to absorb the relevant information in a fast and engaging manner. Added Playstation Vita support also allows users to take their classic save on the go via the cloud save system.
Football Manger 2014 continues to set the standard when it comes to realism in simulation games. Niggles with repetitive press conferences and lack of challenging interview questions are mere irritations in what is a superbly engaging experience offering players hundreds of hours of fun. The main issue with the game is how it affects your priorities, convincing you that winning the cup final might just be more important than getting that essay in on time.
Will Brookesbookmark me