Since bursting on to the scene in 2005, Football Manager has been widely regarded as the foremost football management series.
The game puts you in the shoes of the gaffer of any professional team in the world, whether it’s a beloved local club such as Huddersfield Town or Grimsby, or one of the titans of European football such as Real Madrid or AC Milan.
As the manager, you can buy and sell players, negotiate their contracts, and select the team and formation. In addition, you can reprimand any players that cause unrest in the dressing room and play mind games with opposition managers via your comments to the press.
The game’s most impressive trait is its meticulous attention to detail. Players are given ratings out of 20 for numerous attributes such as pace, strength, creativity and finishing. You can adjust the amount of creative freedom you give your players, how much they should emphasise on attack or defence, and even whether they should waste time when you’re winning a match. You can also give team talks on match days and dictate how to play set-pieces.
As well as including updated statistics for teams and players, the latest instalment of the game has a few new features. For instance, before important matches, you’re invited to attend a press conference; you can send your assistant, but the hacks won’t take too kindly to your absence. During the conference, they’ll ask a range of probing questions. The next day, you’ll find your comments making the headlines of the back pages and what you say will affect the morale of your players.
Football Manager has always been an addictive game. Fans will confess to more than a few late nights spent fabricating a world-conquering team. If there was one sobering aspect to remind you that it was just a game, it was the 2D match engine. Players were represented onscreen by small round circles, making the experience feel like you were watching a game of snooker rather than a football match. However, thanks to a little help from Sega’s arcade division, a new 3D engine has taken its place, which means you can actually see your players kick the ball.
The new engine does have its disappointments, though. The players don’t move naturally and there are no spectators, so even a Champions League final looks like a training match. Still, it’s a huge improvement over previous versions, and you can switch back to the 2D engine if your PC can’t handle the new one.
Football Manager is a challenging game and even the most die-hard fans of the beautiful game may struggle if this is their first foray into management games. However, there are plenty of online forums to give helpful hints and pointers. It’s the best football management simulation we’ve ever played, but not a game to be entered into lightly.