Football Manager 2012 Review (PC)
Insomniacs of the world rejoice, Football Manager 2012 is here. The ever popular, “just one more turn, I swear," gold standard of sports management sims has made its annual return.
Every year, the game gets deeper and more realistic in simulating the day to day lives of football managers. This year is no different. That said, not every facet of a manager’s job is playing in the finals and lifting the trophy. Some, in fact, are quite mundane, and FM — consciously or not — brings that to you as well. All that is to say that FM 2012 is a long term investment.
If you’re looking for short term thrills, look away, as this is not a pick up and play game by any stretch of the imagination. But if you’re looking for a game that will last you for months and months on end, as you slog through the dog days of winter trying to build your team, in hope for glory come spring time, this is it.
Usually, I don’t notice much when it comes to menus and such, but a game encompassing as much information as FM, which some from the peanut gallery like to call a “glorified spreadsheet” game, it’s crucial to have a functional user interface. As the developers over at Sports Interactive pack more and more into every screen, it becomes harder to navigate through all the information without getting lost, or at least make your fingers a little achy. This year in FM 12, the interface received a new coat of paint. They are mostly rearrangements and streamlining of certain screens and tabs, but the results, save for a few missteps such as separating the individual player instruction screen from the main tactics page, are positive. It will definitely take some getting used to at first, but once you’ve settled in the result is a more user friendly and intuitive interface that will save you from a lot of unnecessary clicking.
As for the other element of presentation — graphics and sounds — it’s more of a mixed bag. Nobody buys this game looking for dazzling animations and the addition of 2D and 3D action already surpasses the expectation of a “text sim”, but it still merits a note. On pitch graphics have improved, with players’ animation looking more human than just a bunch of moving limbs, but the quality is still subpar. Audio is nothing more than just oohs and ahhs.
The time it took me to play through one season of Championship Manager 3: A day and a half.
The time it takes me to play through one season of Football Manager 2012: One week.
So without question, the series has gotten deeper and more complicated (and also takes a lot longer to simulate). But is deeper necessarily better? InFootball Manager’s case, I’d argue yes.
For a series like FM, the fine line between fun and simulation is probably a lot further towards the sim spectrum than your average game. What this means is that there will be mundane tasks (arranging your scouts’ traveling schedule, and then sifting for a star prospect through the heaps and piles of reports, for example) that almost become chores. But what it does add is the sense of immersion; you have full control of every aspect of team management.
As well, SI has done a good job in adding depth to some of these tasks. Take team talks, for example. It used to be pick one out of five possible responses, then say a little prayer and hope that your team reacts positively. Not only was it a bit of a lottery, but it was so simplistic that after a season, the game lost its luster.
This year SI not only added a few new response choices and instant player reactions, but also the concept of tone. Tone lets you choose from a range of emotions you’d like to deliver your message. What this does, in practice, is add another layer to the module, forcing you to assess the personality of the team and whether they would react better to some gentle coddling or the famous Fergie hairdryer. And of course, your ideal emotion will change as your squad personnel changes, which keeps the team talks interaction fresh even five or ten seasons into the game
There are other welcome additions, as well. Managers can now lock a certain aspect of a contract they can’t or won’t budge on during negotiations, forcing the agent to up the ante elsewhere. Last year agents felt too black and white in the sense that if the salary or bonus wasn’t at a certain figure, he would walk away no matter how much you concede elsewhere. This year that’s not the case anymore.
Also new is the ability to add and remove leagues at any point during the game (whereas before you’re stuck with the ones you chose at the start), boosting the game’s already incredible long term appeal even more.
Despite these improvements, FM 12 is not yet perfect. Some team talks remain awkwardly phrased and out of context, and the scope of possible responses -- though improved this year -- can still use some expanding. Media and board interaction are still overly simplistic (the overhaul with team talks were not extended to press conferences and board requests) making them less than desirable exercises to go through, especially when you get rejected for extra transfer funds. And don’t go crazy with the amount of leagues if you have a medium-tier machine, because FM 12 needs a pretty heavy duty processor and a good deal of RAM.
All in all, the aforementioned minor quibbles aside, you are as close to being a real manager as ever when playing FM 12. This year’s improvements, combined with the massive player and team database we expect and love, culminate to make the game a brilliantly immersive and addictive one. One of my favorite and understated improvements is the fact that other managers act and react as frequently as you do -- they play mind games with other AI managers and comment on another team’s players. Which goes to show that Football Manager 2012 is a world on its own, and you’re just another habitant within it.
Football Manager is still, at its heart, a single player game, but it comes with the standard online fare too as multiplayer games and social media have been integrated. What’s more impressive though is the dedicated online community for this game — something that even offline-only users can appreciate. There are many logo, face and kit packs, as well as roster updates available for download.
On a side note, this year Football Manager requires Steam to activate the game whether you buy it online through Steam or the boxed version. Not necessarily a plus or minus either way, but there are some out there who are vehemently against using Steam, so beware.
It’s always a hard task grading Football Manager. Since the game is built on such a steady foundation, even with literally no new features except a roster update, it is still way better than its competitors in the field. So while the changes this year don’t seem at all earth shattering, they do a very good job in either cleaning up some old annoyances, making the game more user friendly or fleshing out an existing feature. The cliché associated with Football Manager is that it strives for “evolution rather than revolution,” but it’s true. Basically, the best just got better.
Learning Curve: Newcomers, prepare to take a fair share of shellacking. It’s a deep game and requires a lot of time to get familiar with.
Control Scheme: For the sheer amount of information available, the interface does a great job, for the most part, to keep everything neat and tidy.
Visuals: Still looks outdated and somewhat quirky, though it’s not a significant deal.
Audio: Oohs and ahhs only, but again, you’re not playing FM for the sights and sounds, are you?
Lasting Appeal: Through the roof. Though your marriage, job and school performance might suffer.
Score: 9.0 (All Time Classic)