I’ve written in the past about my love of Football Manager, so unsurprisingly it didn’t take long for me to pick up the newest version when it was released last Friday. Now there is no denying FM is a hard game to review. Something the size of Football Manager can’t be fully explored, without putting many an hour into it, so to reference Total Biscuit, lets say this is more of a first impressions piece, than an actual review. In saying all that, according to Steam I have already put 27 hours into the game. Now I am always very skeptical of Steam’s internal clock, but I spent most of the weekend playing it and I’m into my second season on my ‘testing out the game’ Chelsea save.
The most obvious difference is the change in interface. They’ve gone back to having a sidebar and in many ways it has simplified getting around the game. It takes a bit of getting used too if you have been playing the last version, as you keep looking in the wrong place for various screens. However, once you get used to it, I think it’s actually a lot more intuitive and it is quite possibly an upgrade on the previous interface. Alongside this, the game has added a lot of things that just make sense. For example, if a player is unhappy you can now ask your captain to have a word with them. In fact, player interaction as a whole has been vastly improved. Player’s come to you a lot more often, with a much wider range of issues. For example, I had Kurt Zouma come to me specifically asking to be allowed to leave if PSG made a bid and when I questioned Branislav Ivanovic’s defending in a previous game, he calmly informed me his stats had actually been quite impressive and suggested I go to an opticians. Cheeky cunt.
All of this is positive and much like every year there has been plenty of bits and pieces streamlined in ways that just make more sense. One of the biggest examples of that, is scouting. The Chief Scout, a postition introduced a few versions back, is now much more important, as you can rely on him to choose which scouts to send on various expeditions and it’s now much easier to instruct them to look for very specific types of players. It’s an upgrade the game has long needed and it’s led to scouting feeling a lot more important in this version.
On the downside, the match engine still feels like it needs a bit of tweaking. Defending is all over the place and keeping a clean sheet feels a bit like a miracle. Keepers also make some baffling mistakes, with one particular match seeing Tim Howard drop the ball at the feet of Diego Costa twice. Now these kinds of mistakes do happen, but it seems very unlikely the same player would do it twice in the same game. The tactics engine has seen a bit of tweaking, but there is still occasionally a feeling that you can’t actually change anything. Half way through my season, my table topping Chelsea side lost 5-2 to Burnley, going 4-0 down in the first half. My problem wasn’t with the result itself, I can take losing a game, but the nature of it. I got the impression the game had just decided I was going to lose this match and nothing I could do would make any difference. The fact it came against a team who hadn’t won in a long time and were near bottom of the league, just added to the sense that something wasn’t quite right here. A 1-0 defeat would have seemed real. A 5-2 humping felt ridiculous.
All in all Football Manager 2015 has already stolen my time and I’d be very surprised if I didn’t put just as many hours into it as I have it’s previous models. It’s a game to get lost in and SI Games have continued the theme of realising that fans don’t want major changes to the title, but rather subtle tweaks that allow the game to become even more realistic and the player to get more lost in it’s world.