FIFA Manager 12 Review (PC)
Jack of all trades, master of none -- that’s the feeling you get when playing FIFA Manager 12.
The game boasts pretty much every feature a football management game should have, and a few more it shouldn't, yet most of them are too one dimensional and shallow.
On one hand, the game is very attractive and accessible -- something that isn’t usually said about this genre -- but on the other hand, it's clear that there isn’t much depth underneath the shiny layouts and features.
As per the norm for any EA Sports game, FIFA Manager 12 does a bang up job with its presentation elements. A sleek looking menu makes the game look anything but your typical spreadsheet game. EA’s large stable of licenses certainly help, as every screen is adorned with either club badges or player photos (plus a Sony product placement to boot). The developers smartly used widgets to lay out screens, and they do a very good job in keeping all the requisite information streamlined and easy to access.
The presentation on the pitch is more of a mixed bag, but the good still outweighs the bad. You can either watch the game through the traditional text commentary, or use the 3D engine. The graphics and animations are no FIFA 12, but they’re still easy on the eyes. Many players’ faces are easily recognizable, especially on close up action shots. Teams sport authentic kits, complete with sponsors and logos. Animation -- while somewhat herky jerky -- represent the on-pitch action well enough.
And if you’re willing to excuse the occasional head scratching line, the three men commentary team injects a surprising amount of drama to the proceedings, especially in crunch time.
The good part is that, if you so choose, you will have a variety of things to do to keep you busy in FIFA Manager 12.
For example, as manager, not only do you have a say in transfer and personnel matters, you are also somehow the team’s CEO too. It’s your call deciding if your stadium needs a hotel, a rail station or a boarding school. How much should the team charge for a hot dog? Go ahead, set the price.
And to further stray from footballing matters, you can also create a virtual family, complete with wife and kids, with you deciding what to spend your spare time and money on -- not that they affect your management performance in any way, of course. So for the three people who have always dreamed of what it would be like to merge FIFA Manager and The Sims together, this is your big chance.
The bad part is that none of the aforementioned features -- especially your virtual life -- are fleshed out anywhere near enough to hold your attention for a prolonged period of time. For the most part they just seem like tacked on, trivial details. Thankfully, playing these modes are entirely optional, and you can choose to focus solely on actual football matters.
But even that, unfortunately, is a below par experience.
As manager, you have the ability to communicate with players. It’s the fairly standard “pick a line and see how he reacts” variety. While it works mostly as intended, sometimes the game doesn’t give you enough feedback as to why the player responded the way he did, so it can become a tedious game of guessing.
The same applies to team talks -- pre match and half time, with the post game part curiously absent -- you make a speech and later get a vague email explaining your success or failure. Again, it's the same problem that permeates throughout the whole game: nice features, but they lack the all too crucial sense of immersion.
On the brighter side, the transfer market is robust, and the deadline day countdown, where you enter into a window with a ticking clock to bid on transfer listed players, is a nice dramatic touch.
Any promise the game shows off the pitch, however, is undone by the terrible match simulation engine. It’s fair to say that if I can count the number of back passes in a whole game with one hand, something is very wrong. Simply put, trying to cram a match's worth of events into approximately ten minutes of highlights has totally wrecked any semblance of realism in the match engine.
There is no nuance to the action, only an up and down game of football where the defense is artificially manufactured to be beaten easily in order to simulate a believable scoreline.
Consequently it makes tinkering with tactics an almost completely futile exercise, as there is very little difference, apart from setting up your formation, in playing styles -- teams are just going attack no matter what. The irony in this is, of course, that while the 3D engine looks nice, your best bet to get anywhere close to a realistic experience is to play the game in commentary mode.
In this case, ignorance is, indeed, bliss.
While it’s great that FIFA Manager 12 boasts a boatload of official licenses, it’s disappointing that their database is on the small side. This means that after seven to eight years into the game, the footballing world begins to fill up with fictitious players -- that is if you decide to go that far into the game, as FIFA Manager feels like it’s trying to be more of pick up and play type of game.
If you’re looking for hardcore elements like deep tactical battles and managerial mind games, you’re not going to find them here. So while usually management games tend to have a longer shelf life than most other sports games, that is disappointingly not the case with FIFA Manager 12. Simply put, the football related aspects of this game are too shallow to merit any prolonged playing time.
If you find the Football Manager series too complicated or tedious, then by all means, give FIFA Manager 12 a try. The game certainly has a few things going for it such as its presentation and transfer activities, but there just isn't that much going on under the hood.
I played about five seasons or so before I gave up, and near the end, I was basically buying and selling players only, realizing that nothing else I did really mattered within the context of the game. In fact, it became more like a fantasy league for me, trying to assemble the best team and just watch them go. If that sort of hands-off style appeals to you, go for it. But for the more hardcore management fans, this is just a shinier, shallower alternative to Football Manager.
Learning Curve: Average. Perhaps easier than your usual management sim in the sense that tactics don't matter much, but you still need to know the footballing world.
Control Scheme: It takes a while to find where everything is, especially during a match, but for the most part all the information requires only a click or two to reach.
Visuals: Attractive menus and graphics.
Audio: In addition to the crowd sounds, the commentary team is a very pleasant surprise.
Lasting Appeal: For a football management game, disappointingly below par.
Score: 5.0 (Average)