Another year passing means another dose of football addiction. With each new version of Football Manager that SI Games produce they somehow find new layers of complexity, new features to slot into the game to give a heightened sense of reality, bringing you even closer to feeling like you’re in charge of not only a team but a group of real people, each wanting their own levels of success and happiness. The “one more game” factor has always been high on the list of reasons why people come back year after year too, with players desperate to see if that tweak in formation has helped, if they can set a new record of consecutive wins or check out how your smart new signing will do on his debut. But as new depths are discovered, so too are more screens of statistics to dig through, more conversations to have with players and more hours of tweaking the tiniest details in your tactics to get the most out of your team. It’s heaven for football obsessives, but what about everyone else?
Well, everyone else is accounted for too. The return of Football Manager also means the return of Classic Mode, the trimmed down and much faster version of the full game which gives you more time to think about who to sign, which formation to play and how to approach your matches. With less concern about assigning individual members of staff their own roles, and not having to have conversations with every player on a regular basis to update them on their squad status the ability to pick your team, sort out your tactics and watch the matches is far more prominent. A lot of players, myself included, will prefer this mode. There’s still enough depth to sink your teeth into and things you can get engrossed in, but if you just want to speed through a few seasons then it’s idea – you don’t even need to sit through the matches, with an instant result option letting your assistant take care of matters on the pitch for whichever games you like.
But the biggest changes take place, as you’d expect, in the full scale mode. The interface has had a bit of an overhaul, with options now down the side instead of across the top. It takes some getting used to as you’d expect any UI change to, but once you spend a few hours with it you’ll barely be able to remember how things looked 12 months ago. The developers have possibly noticed how much depth some areas of the game were getting, so a new menu system is both sensible and necessary before things got totally out of hand. But that’s not all when it comes to added features. The press conferences that most people try to avoid at all cost (but have increasingly had forced on them) are in full force, with added interactions in the tunnel and further fussing over players, each with their own possible options and ways of answering. While I see the reason this constant questioning is in the game (it’s an integral part of the manager’s job) it gets quite repetitive very quickly, and it starts to grate after a sequence of inane questions every 4 minutes. Another change is the scouting mode, again a tweak which has been designed for realism but ends up being something you which they’d just kept that little bit less accurate. Your scouts now need to watch players over the course of several games, often taking months to do, just to see more accurate stats. You can take a punt knowing that a player’s speed is somewhere between 10 and 16, but the risks are too high and there’s no way to speed the process up unless you happen to know that a certain player is worth your while.
But these are features which some players will love, and that’s every reason to avoid saying they’re bad ideas, but they’re probably not going to appeal to a large number of players, possibly pushing more into the much friendlier Classic Mode. But despite all the great stuff I mentioned about this option, there’s something bugging me about both ways of playing: the match engine. It’s very clever, there’s no doubt of that, but something odd has happened this year. The intricate, silky passing seen in last year’s version (and many professional matches you see) doesn’t seem to work any more. There’s the occasional through-ball which splits a defence and gives a one-on-one situation, but it’s usually as a result of a defender totally missing the ball or just running the wrong way. It’s the same with long balls, defenders will totally misjudge it far too often and give strikers more chances than you’d ordinarily expect. It’s a strange one, and while there are still some great goals to be seen (and there is still some decent passing) much of my goals were through ropey defending, whether it was in a top league or somewhere lower down the scale. It doesn’t always reflect your tactical changes either, which can be frustrating if you’re expecting your wingers to start pushing on and they’re still hanging around doing very little.
And yet I’ve no doubt that Football Manager 2015 will sell by the virtual bucket load, if for no other reason than it has an enormous fan base who will follow it no matter what the developers do. But this is in no way the pinnacle of the FM series, it’s had a Man Utd style blip with the advantage of nothing else being around to take over the mantle. I’ll still look forward to next year’s game to see what they’ve added, and I’ll still put a huge number of hours into this, but I suspect I’ll do it with a few thoughts of “what if”. Hopefully SI will be on the case sorting out the issues (many of which could be sorted with an update) but even if not you can expect a very addictive experience. Just keep in mind that there may be a few managerial annoyances along the way.
Reviewed on PC