For as long as there have been computer games, there have been football games. This will forever be law. The popularity of the genre has created bitter rivalries over the years between different developers and players alike. Since the 90′s, the most famous annual battle has been fought between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. However, in recent years a secret war had been raging in the shadows. The players of these games aren’t worried about scoring the perfect goal from 35 yards out with their weaker foot. No, these players are the true tacticians. They seek to bring a team together, look after the players, develop them, nurture them, bring them to glory. These are the masters of Championship Manager and Football Manager. Championship Manager, though, found itself beaten a couple of years ago, leaving Football Manager to reap the spoils of war. With this is mind, you may be led to believe that Sports Interactive would sit back and watch the money roll in each year.
You’d be very wrong.
Football Manager 2012 boasts around eight hundred tweaks and additions, proving they have no intention of cheating fans, they want to score as many goals as they can before the whistle. I will be honest right away and say that I’m not going to list every single change. Frankly I’m not even sure I would be able to find that many! Chances are, some of them are negligible such as new bits of code and maybe a slightly different shade of red in the menus. That said, there have also been plenty of bigger, more noticeable additions.
Firstly, for the uninitiated, there’s the new Tutorial Mode. This is a very welcomed standalone aspect that will hold your hand through not just the newer features but the game as a whole. As a management sim there is a lot to get your head around and many new players will likely feel overwhelmed without this option. I know I did when I first started out a few years back. You will be shown every menu, option, how to create and change tactics, manage your staff, everything you can think of to get you going. It takes a while to get through it all but this mode will provide a solid grounding for when you arrive at your first charge in the main game.
I have always disliked the idea of having to choose which leagues are included in my Football Manager games. Due to the complexity of dealing with thousands of players and teams at once, the game would slow down drastically when processing events and in-game daily updates. Unless, of course, you had a godly PC. For the rest of us, this meant whittling down the memory vampires and deciding which leagues to include, be it viewable only or fully playable. Once you had chosen, that was it, you had to live with it until you started a new game. This year, finally, you can now add and take away leagues whenever you like within the same saved game. This provides much better scope and, to a lesser extent, allows you to test how well your machine copes with more leagues, dialling it back if needs be after a few games.
There has been some menu and interface tweaking this year. Firstly, the display itself has become what’s known as an intelligent interface. This adaptive layout places more or less info at your fingertips depending on the resolution. This means the larger your screen and the higher the res, the more will be available to you on the one screen. Less menu hopping and fiddling about to find those vital game changing stats. Some may find this a little baffling if too much is on the screen at once, others will see it as a godsend. Personally, I enjoy having more options to hand at once, even if I didn’t always know what to do with it all!
Match preparation has some nice new touches to it. You are able to setup a few different custom tactics to use in matches. It’s entirely up to you how you use them, but how effective they are depends on your team’s familiarity with the setup and whether or not you have these tactics practiced on the training field. Said setups and other options can be switched on the fly during matches, meaning you will feel more at home if you are the kind of manager who lives in the moment and doesn’t like to spend too much time altering things pre-game.
Players are more reactive to your personality this year, with the ability to add tone to your instructions, speeches and meetings. You can use this to rally the troops, be forgiving to a new young recruit or throw your shoe at the complacent striker who skied it three feet from the goal line. I found this to be a great way of keeping control of morale without having to increase player’s wages or giving them more game time than perhaps they deserved. Of course, like with training and other micro-management areas, you can always leave the talking to members of your staff!
When you come to the negotiating table, you will find a more detailed setup to aid you in your decisions. It starts at the scouting level, using real-life reports to create more realistic in-game reports for your perusal. You will find out everything you need to know about the players that have been brought to your attention. Contract negotiations give you more control too, if there is an item you are adamant about such as wages or bonuses you can lock those options down to put a stop to any bartering.
When the whistle blows for kick-off on match day, not a huge amount has changed. There are a few new animations and crowd noises, but since the only sound effects in the whole game are the crowd, whistle and kicks there has never been anything worth getting excited about. It’s not what the game is about anyway, those who want match atmosphere tend to go for the football sims like FIFA. A couple of new cameras add a little variety, but I always play matches in fast forward (and I know I’m not the only one) so it’s nothing amazing.
Overall, I’d say the improvements and additions help to make Football Manager 2012 a worthwhile purchase for fans. It’s more detailed and yet more accessible with it’s new tutorial, adaptive display and on-the-fly options. This is footballing passion, make no mistake. Old school fans may feel a little uneasy until they get used to some changes, but it you are considering a start in this genre, you can’t go wrong, there’s never been a more thorough and enjoyable football management game.
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