Review Written for Bits ‘n’ Bytes Gaming by Ashley Yussuf
A New Simulation Game Hops Onto the Pitch
The San Siro; five minutes to go and the crowd is restless. The tension coursing through the stadium is palpable and the players can feel it on the backs of their necks. Five minutes. Five minutes stand between your Milan team and a place in the final of the Champions League. Your heart is racing and your palms are sweaty. You stare aimlessly at the options in front of you, desperately seeking the right move to make. This is Football Manager. More specifically, this is Football Manager 2012. This is your chance to walk in the footsteps of your heros. This is your opportunity to write your name in the annals of history. This is a game that brings the reality of the football world into your front room, hands you the controls and lets you experience the highs and lows, the glories and disappointments of being in charge of a football team.
When Football Manager 2012 was first announced, I have to admit I was more than a little excited. Whilst I felt extremely let down by some aspects of the 2011 version – such as SI Games’ obsession with the 3D match engine overshadowing actual development of aspects of the game that felt more pertinent, like scouting, training and player interaction – the articles I had read and the podcasts I had listened to about the 2012 edition made me feel like this version would cater more towards the aspects of the game I found most enjoyable.
Managing Down to the Nitty Gritty
Features such as a more in-depth team report, including team depth, team comparisons and tactic analysis immediately caught my eye. In previous versions of the game, a team report contained a short opinion from your assistant on your strongest line-up in your chosen formation; if he felt the replacements available for those players in your strongest team were of adequate standards and how this reflected overall on the strength of your squad. The updated team report feature in Football Manager 2012 does more than that. Now your assistant can analyse your squad, deliver you his opinion on how best to set up your team to gain the best from your most talented players by using them in their most effective positions. This allows those of us who enjoy taking over teams in foreign lands, who might not be totally familiar with every single player, an opportunity to receive advice from our backroom staff like any real life manager moving to a new country would. This adds a flavour of realism to the game which I feel has been one of the key elements of Football Manager‘s success over the years.
The team comparison aspect allows you to view the strengths (and weaknesses) of your team in comparison with the other teams in your league. This is a really good feature as it affords you an opportunity to see what your team is better at than your rivals and where you still need to improve. I found this also allowed me to plan my approach to a match with those teams. For instance, if I were managing Arsenal (a highly technical team) and found myself facing a Manchester City team, which the game has informed me is composed of players with high “stamina, work rate and tackling”, I immediately know my players would need to maximise their possession of the ball as I am facing a very hardworking team who will prove quite difficult to break down.
SI Games has definitely offered those of us who love being engrossed in the realism of the game new features that will keep us glued to our computer screens. Aside from the new, in-depth team report, they have also given players the ability to add a new league after they have already began their career (an essential aspect for playing those long-term career games). There’s the new team meeting feature, which enables you to address your players outside of an actual game – something you could previously only do via individual player interactions or fining a player – and the new team goal analysis feature allows you to see where most of the goals your team scores come from. If you’re an obsessive compulsive like myself, you will love being able to know just who is pulling their weight and who has been hiding behind those often deceptive “7” ratings.
So, what’s there not to like? SI Games’ increasing obsession with changing the user interface has been a massive bug bear of mine since the ’08 edition. The 2012 interface is no different as there have been so many new buttons and pods added that you feel like you’re in control of an aircraft. The interface is far too busy and unnecessarily so. Whilst I understand the need to enable players to find as much information about their team as quickly as possible, I feel it’s overwhelming and confusing. In the earlier editions, SI Games handled this by giving the player the option to select which pods they would like to have on their home screen. This made it easier for you to choose how you wanted to play the game and added to the enjoyment and ease of the game overall.
Kaka signs for Blackpool. No, really. The transfer system is something I know SI Games has constantly worked on and it has improved. However, there are still far too many transfers that take place that border on the ridiculous. Whilst we all know that in the world of football you should always expect the unexpected, there are certain things we know are just not feasible. This is by far the most annoying aspect of the game for me personally, as I find it can prove a turn off. However, as the game is a simulation, it is not something we can totally harangue the developer for, and I’m sure once it becomes possible, they will find a solution to this problem.
Player development is a popular element amongst those of us who play long-term career games. I still think player development is far too “elemental” in its construction and could be refined to better reflect the constant fluidity of circumstances players encounter in real life. I do understand the complexities of trying to accomplish this in a football simulation game, however why not try? The Football Manager series is already a brilliant one and I feel SI Games must constantly strive to improve and incorporate as many elements as they can to constantly keep it evolving. Player development is one of them and whilst the current system isn’t totally flawed, it lacks a dose of realism, which slightly detracts from the overall enjoyment of guiding a young player from your academy into your first team and onto superstardom.
The Final Score
Robinho jinks past his marker. He crosses it for Ibrahimovic…….GOAL!!! And there you have it. That sense of pride and accomplishment: the unadulterated joy and passionate release of excitement. Football Manager 2012 is undoubtedly the best football simulation game on the market. Even with its flaws, it is the closest thing we, as gamers, will ever get to experiencing the real thing. And for just £17 on Amazon, it’s the best £17 you will ever spend.