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I remember first reading that SEGA and Sports Interactive were going to release another instalment of the Football Manager series for the 2012-13 football season. I wasn't overly excited but I just knew deep down I wouldn't be able to resist buying it. It was announced on Steam that if you pre-ordered football manager before the 18th October you would be able to play a BETA (incomplete) version of the game for two weeks before its official release date. Excellent marketing. Football Manager has a fanatical following and the fact they could get the game early had quite a few grown men drooling at the thought (sad I know).
Before you consider buying the game these are the specifications needed:
OS: Windows XP/Vista/W7/W8
Processor: XP: 1.6GHz or Faster. Vista/W7/W8: 2.2GHz or Faster
Memory: XP/Vista/W7/W8: 1.0GB RAM
Graphics: 128MB *Supported Chipsets : (see below)
Hard Drive: 2GB
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible
LAN: TCP/IP compliant *Supported Chipsets - Nvidia FX 5900 Ultra or greater; ATI Radeon 9800 or greater; Intel 82915G/82910GL or greater.
A fully DirectX 9 compliant graphics card is required.
I pretty much pre-order any game I know I will be interested in. The time came and I received an e-mail with an activation key. All I had to do was log into steam and redeem my code and I could download the game two weeks early. This is where SEGA's marketing masterplan could of gone spectacularly wrong. In my opinion the BETA of the game was a disaster. The game just wasn't enjoyable, far too many bugs. Goalkeepers would walk into their own goal with ball, your players would miss sitters whilst opposition players could score from anywhere. The worst example I had was playing as Manchester City (the club I support). Now City don't have a bad team but I was halfway through the season and was around mid-table and was playing Sunderland at home. Sunderland had a free kick on the halfway line, no danger. At this point City were two nil up and heading into half time. Titus Bramble stepped up to launch a free kick forward. For those that don't know, Titus Bramble is what the football community refer to as a donkey so I didn't exactly think he was going to whistle a free kick into the top corner from the halfway line but that is exactly what he did. Sunderland went on to win the game. Final straw for me and at that point was considering not bothering with the game after that. A lot of other comments on forums and facebook were expressing the same anger, vowing to boycott the 2013 version.
Leaving the game was never a realistic option for me. Just to give you an idea of how addictive this game is since its official release on the 2nd November 2012 I have played for 527 hours. Not bad going in four months when you consider I work for nine hours a day and have a one year old son to look after. This game is as addictive as it gets and I can't even begin to explain why. I read an interview with a psychologist once who claimed it is because even though it is a game you still experience the same up and downs in emotions as you do watching real life football. I think he makes a good point.
When the game was officially released it was patched. The BETA was used to iron out problems and most were sorted out. Some problems still existed but the game producers always do a fine job of updating the game regularly. The complete version was a lot better. I had better start describing the game or this review will be that long you will lose the will to live, just like I do when I lose in the Champions League semi finals.
The game offers four different game modes. Full game, classic mode, challenges and a versus mode.
The full game is very in depth. With around 50 leagues around the world to choose from and 13000 players in the database. This database is what football manager is most famous for. Sports Interactive have volunteer researchers all over the world scouting clubs and players the depth of research that goes into this game is mind boggling. The more leagues you choose the slower your game will run and unless you have a top end of the market super powered machine the game runs slow enough if you just choose the one league. My computer is quite slow so I always choose one league. Usually a league in England. The game does offer you help in starting up your game if you are new to Football Manager.
Once you pick your leagues and the team you want to play as the database will load and before you begin it will offer you the chance to save your game. Your first task as manager is to meet the board of directors. Your meeting will be about the history of the club and their expectations. Second task is to meet your staff, assistant managers, coaches, scouts and physios. You can decide whether to keep your current staff or offer them mutual termination which means paying them to cancel their contracts.
New to football manager is staff responsibilities and you can now employ a director of football. It means you can delegate specific tasks to members of staff. For example if you transfer list a player you can set your director of football the task of finding that player a new club.
This is when the game really begins. You check your squad. Who are your stars, who can you sell to generate funds. Which youth players can be the next star of the future? The players are rated on various things on a scale of 1-20. Or to make things more simple the players are rated by 5 gold stars. Youth players are rated by their potential. If you scout them it will give star ratings based on their ability now and star rating based on how good they can become. Some of these young players are labelled as wonderkids, which means with the right coaching they could become world class footballers, sometimes it's a good idea to loan these players out to get them some first team football.
Your pre-season will consist of playing friendly games up until the season starts. Use pre-season to refine your tactics. There are plenty of formations to choose from. You can set if you want to play a passing game or go direct, whether you want players to defend, support or attack. I could go on for a long time about the tactics section I really can't do it justice in a few lines. Once you find tactics that work for you make sure you save them because it is extremely difficult to find tactics that work, it is a lot of trial and error.
Next you can set up training regimes. Your coaches have attributes from 1-20 like players but most specialise in certain things. You can assign tasks to the coaches yourself of ask your assistant to do it. Coaches will also advice you on certain aspects of a players game that need improving. You also have to pick a weekly regime and choose what is called match preparation. Match preparation is a specific action that you want the team to concentrate on to counter the upcoming opposition.
Depending on the expectations placed on you, you will be entrusted with a transfer budget and wage budget. If your squad needs strengthening have a look at the transfer market. Some players will be massively overpriced but there are some bargains to be had. The more you play the game you will find these players. Any potential signings can be saved to a shortlist. This shortlist can also be saved and loaded when you start a new game meaning that you never have to forget a player you want to sign but miss out on them to a rival club. For managers on a limited budget there are also free agents and players listed for loan. You can also keep tabs on whose contracts are due for expiry so you can sign players on a pre contract agreement up to 6 months before their contract with their current club expires, ready for the new season.
As the game goes on you can keep in touch with the board and check the confidence that the board and the clubs supporters have in you. Mainly the confidence will depend on results but things like letting wages spiral out of control and certain players performances can shape your destiny.
After settling into your role and getting everybody whistling to your tune you will come to your first game. You should at this point already have a tactic you want to use so all you have to do is pick your team but make sure your pick the right players to play the role you want them to. I usually let my assistant take control of friendlies but to start with maybe play them yourself to get used to the match engine. Pick your team and submit it. Now there is no going back. The next screen allows you to set opposition instruction. Who you want marked tightly, who you want tackled hard. Again I let my assistant take charge of this aspect but you can do it yourself. Next is your team talk. Wish the boys good luck or tell them you expect them to win. Tell them cautiously or aggressively. The way you talk to the team can affect the way they play, so do choose wisely because some players don't react well to certain situations.
Once you kick off you will be greeted by a 3D match engine. You can choose the speed the game moves at, what highlights you want to see and check stats for players and the team as a whole. Even during a game there is more work to be done. Your assistant gives you advice during the game. Sometimes it can be apparent where you are going wrong but sometimes it can be a good idea to listen to him. Players can get injured, so have you picked the right substitutes. Tactical changes can be made during the game. You can go defensive, attack, tell your players to hold onto possession as long as possible or just get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible. There are so many tactics, far too many to remember. From here you will either win or lose. Now the hard choices begin. Stick with a winning team or change your tactics to counter the opposition.
The full game does take a long time to play, pre season alone can take up to 3 hours but even though I might sound a bit sad I find it very rewarding. Trust me you will become enthralled. You might find yourself punching the air in delight at a last minute winner or shout abuse at your monitor when an underdog kicks you off the park and beats you one nil. It drags you in. It isn't for everybody obviously but I think a lot of people that doubt it could go to love it. I have seen stories of Football Manager being cited in court as a reason for divorce so bear that in mind before embarking on becoming a managerial legend.
The classic mode is a throw back to Football Manager of yesteryear. A stripped down version. You are basically in charge of picking the team and buying and selling players. It is basically watered down to consume less time for people that don't have the time to play the full game. I cannot see the appeal of playing this version, not now i am a megolamaniac with the whole club at my disposal on the full game so I have never bothered with it and don't see the point in paying £29.99 for half a game, I would rather just not play at all.
The challenges are as follows. Join a team that are embroiled in a relegation battle and you have to keep them up. I haven't tried tried any of the challenges and I'm assuming that the computer picks which team you will be. You can take charge of a team in the middle of an injury crisis. With this challenge you have to keep to the boards expectations and avoid the sack. You can take on a team on a winning streak and your task is to go unbeaten until the end of the season or the final challenge is to keep the boards expectations having to use youth players. Again I don't see the appeal of the challenges when there is a full game that can be played.
There is also a versus mode. Any friends you have on steam that are playing football manager can challenge you to a game. It could be that his team in 2015 could play your team from 2021. I've never been challenged so can't go into to much detail about this.
Football Manager 2013 is currently selling for £29.99 on steam. I have played the game for 20 years and have had every release since Football Manager was first produced so of course I would say it is worth every penny but it does seem to have something of a cult following. Maybe though there is somebody out there that has always wondered what the fuss is about but has never bought the game. I hope anybody that buys it gets as much value for money as I do. No other game has ever had me hooked as much as Football Manager and I know for a fact that no other game ever will.
Most football fans are aware of the game known as Football Manager. Since 2005 every year around Christmas a new edition is brought out with the latest updates and brand new football transfers all done as well.
~~ Installation ~~
When you get the game you can either update your older version or you can simply install the game as new. You have inside the game a pass phrase or key which is only used for your particular game. Once entered the game will then be installed either via steam or as an update to your previous game.
The game has got no problems with the code you enter or updating the game it is just how long it takes for this process to work. I had to wait around 10 minutes for the installation to be complete and for the game to load up for me.
I have a very quick computer so this took a lot of time and effort so if you are downloading this game to your computer my advice would be make sure you have something else to do whilst it does this download.
~~ Starting ~~
The game begins with you putting in details about yourself which can be used throughout the game so you need to get this information correct. An example is one question asks who your favourite football side is and if you choose Man City and then on the game as a manager you pick Man Utd to manage the game tends to bring up the fact you're a Man City supporter so be careful.
You then get to pick what leagues and countries you wish to have as a way to find new players, coaches and seek out information. The more leagues you choose the slower your game becomes because it will require more memory and time to search through those countries.
You can choose from so many countries such as Portugal, Germany, France, Brazil and more. You pick the league in those countries you wish to use as a source of information. Once you have done this it is time to begin the game which will then take about 5 minutes to prepare for you.
~~ The Game ~~
Imagine you are a manager of a football club but you have the final say as to when they play friendlies and who against and what tactics they use and even how the wages are sorted out you are in control in all aspects of this.
The game begins with you as a novice new manager with little say in terms of respect and you have to try and guide your football team you have chosen to manage to the targets given to you by the board of directors. You are then given targets to reach which might be to win the title in that division or just to secure a mid-table position and if you achieve these targets you usually remain in charge of the club.
As you prepare to begin your journey you are then ready to face not only your staff and the media but your players as well. Your staff are going to help you throughout the game and without them to be fair you will fail at the job you have.
You then need to prepare everything in the team you have acquired and taken over and this might be new tactics or recruiting new players within a budget given to you by your board and you need to work out also what you wish your scouts to do whilst you are playing the game as well.
~~ Transfers, Wages and Recruiting ~~
This new version of the game has actually done really well in regards to changing the whole budget you are given. In previous games I think it was so easy to get your football team into debt but this game has allowed you to actually invest wisely.
You can either search for a player you wish to purchase and this is done by entering their name into the search box or searching for a particular football club. You select the player and you can do a report on how good they are or you can put in a bid for them.
Your told there value and also how much it might take to purchase a player. You put in the bid and when it is accepted you then offer contracts. Contracts are confusing because so many extras are added all the time but it is hard now it seems to actually go into debt because the game lets you know the full extent of your money so you can work out how much you think a player is worth in wages.
You then have to wait for a player to decide if he wishes to join you or not and if he does then you have a new player which could boost sales in your replica football kits and keep those board of directors very happy.
~~ Tactics, Scouts and Media ~~
During the game you will encounter the media all the time and it is a problem for me because I wish you could turn it off somehow because the media can cause you so much harm in terms of how your players perform and how you strike friendships.
Before each game and after a game you're asked to attend a press conference or you can send your assistant manager to do them. The problem is if you send the assistant manager he could criticise your performances as manager which will make the board unhappy.
I tend to visit all the press conferences myself but it takes a lot of time up for the same questions to appear every single game and it annoys me because the game can take forever to play in the first place without all this hassle.
I think the scouting is clever in this game as you can send your scouts everywhere to look for particular criteria such as age or price range and they return a few weeks later in the game with a list of potential targets for you to buy. They usually give excellent advice when it comes to the information on the player such as their ability and how likely they are to succeed in your team.
The scouting is done by you and you get to say where they go and how they compile reports and you add any particular favourite players to a shortlist you can view at any time to see how those players have progressed over a period of months.
The tactics are somewhat difficult to work out and this is because you can train your side in all sorts of formations and ideas but it is down to them it seems on the day of a game to how they perform. You have plenty of trainers such as goalkeeping coaches who are there to help train them but you sometimes see little improvement in terms of their overall potential every show up. I would have hoped by now after many years they would have made the tactics system much better.
~~ Match Day ~~
On a match day the game can take forever to process information. You are given so many options as to how you want to view information about the match you're playing. You begin by picking the team you wish to put out and giving those tactics and a team talk.
Once you have done that you then have options such as the speed to which the match is played. Usually I put the speed to the top speed so it does not take forever and usually each match takes around 5 minutes to complete.
You can view highlights in the game such as goals or serious incidents and this is done on a 3D pitch format which opens up and shows your team scoring but it is not real at all in any way it is just a simulation of what happened. Your given commentary throughout as to how the game is going.
However, this new version of the game has allowed for new ideas and one of those is you can shout instructions during a game such as Use the Flanks and your commands are sent to the team directly. You are also given information by another coach who will comment on player's fitness levels and how the team are playing so you can instantly make adjustments.
During the game you can control every aspect such as who is taking corners, penalties and even free kicks. The game during match day is full of information now as well such as how well the team is performing and other scores from the various other fixtures taking place at the same time.
I love the way they have improved the match day game play and overall it has made the game much easier and more realistic to play as well.
~~ Problems ~~
This game is not without faults and one was mentioned above and this is tactics and training. You can train a side in a particular formation but that is as far as it goes. You do not get to really experiment with new ideas from new continents. We all see how various countries like to play football and in Italy it is very defensive and in Spain it is expansive and stylish yet you can never choose those options.
You also have to witness the problems with the overall cost of players which again is not realistic enough still after many years. A few years ago one player left his club for £80m pounds which is insane yet on this game the highest valued player seems to be around £39.5m and it is not really realistic in my eyes.
Football expenditure is soaring each year so the game needs to be more realistic in this area urgently.
The final issue is that if you are someone who likes the game play to be faster than thing again. With all the new methods and screens they have introduced into the game it has got tough to work out where you are and by the time you have solved all those issues you will find a few hours have passed.
~~ Final Thoughts and Game Play ~~
The game has been updated to make the whole 'match day' experience better and for transfers to be easier so you can work within a budget. However, the problem is that the game is still one of those which are taking far too long to play.
You have achievements in the game you can reach such as milestones which is a nice idea they introduced a year ago and have kept that going but they haven't allowed you to make the game any quicker.
Each year people request various new features and some are added and the majority of new ideas are just a few minor adjustments to the game they currently have. I think the money you pay for players is not reflected accurately to the real life transfers we see in football.
I think the game needs to also work out what things they can leave out so the game runs quicker. An example to how long the game takes to play is that 10 games took me nearly 2 hours to play because I had to try and negotiate transfers, new contracts and solve my problems with the scouts.
I think if you are someone who is new to this game and wants to invest then do it because the game can be enjoyable but be warned it will take forever to complete an entire season.
One final note is that you can now take on challenges such as taking an injured football side to the title and these are found at the start of the game before you begin a career. This is a new concept and is actually pretty good.
My game rating is around 7 out of 10 it would be higher but they still need to solve some major issues mentioned above.
~~ System Requirements ~~
* OS: Windows XP/Vista/W7/W8
* Processor: XP: 1.6GHz or Faster. Vista/W7/W8: 2.2GHz or Faster
* Memory: XP/Vista/W7/W8: 1.0GB RAM
* Graphics: 128MB *Supported Chipsets : (see below)
* DirectX®: 9.0c
* Hard Drive: 2GB
* Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible