Earlier this year SEGA announced it was streamlining its publishing range to focus on a handful of what it considers its “core franchises”. This led to multiple office closures across Europe with only the London branch of SEGA EU surviving.
One of those franchises is the hugely popular Football Manager series, which has been one of the top selling games of each year since it launched 20 years ago. So it’s no real surprise that Football manager 2013 is upon us.
The mega selling PC franchise is back again, and as is always the case it’s more feature packed then ever before. Whilst most yearly titles are little more than shiny upgrades mixed with a spattering of minor, new features, London based Sports Interactive seem to revel in the challenge of completely overhauling every yearly iteration in its short development cycle.
Never before has so much changed, yet stayed the same. Virtual Mourinhos returning from previous versions will feel like they’ve stepped into a new office at their club of choice, everything looks strangely familiar but at the same time completely different, such is the makeover the game’s UI has undertaken. Info panels elegantly slide in and out of view as you click continue and the behind the scenes number crunching happens. Drop down menus adorn everywhere allowing access to screens offering seemingly endless information on clubs, players, competitions and anything else football related you could desire.
Football Manager 2013 is easily the most detailed and complex of the series to date, yet strangely it’s probably the most accessible ever. Last years superb Football Manager 2012 brought in an in-depth tutorial to draw in newcomers, but this year Sports Interactive have gone all out in an effort to bring as many people on board as possible, including former players whos needs and lifestyle have changed in years gone by.
With the usual 50+ worldwide leagues fully playable (with the ability to add/remove them from your game at any point) and probably every player to ever pull on a pair of boots this year featured, it’s still easily possible to spend hours upon hours scouring the virtual planet reading scout reports and performance analysis like ‘Arry Rednapp on deadline day as you look to unearth the new Messi - or now you can hire someone to do it all for you. And it’s this that really starts to show just how hard SI have listened to the fans and brought in one of the game’s biggest changes since the 3D match engine: customisation.
On the surface, the depth of Football Manager 2013 can appear complicated and daunting, with new additions like staff qualifications and even tax brackets to account for when negotiating with players, but all of this is completely optional. The ability to hire a Director of Football to undertake all the jobs you don’t like really does allow you to focus on just the parts you are comfortable with when going about building your football dynasty. You can pretty much tailor everything to your own personal managerial style and skill level. From getting your chairman to hiring and firing players and staff or heads of youth development to whip those pesky teenagers into world class prima donnas for you to being able to filter the news stories that the game throws at you on an individual basis. It’s this level of customisation that will keep even the most novice of players hooked for hours on end.
That’s not all when it comes to Football Manager 2013′s efforts to make the game more accessible to newcomers. Football Manager Classic mode allows you to play a scaled back version designed to be played in quick bursts, allowing for less of a time commitment from the player. In classic mode, many of the full games options simply get handled by your backroom staff, leaving you with pretty much just the basics of picking your team each matchday. Players who have played older versions but have been put off as the series added more and more complex levels of detail will find this new mode right up their street, with seasons playable in a fraction of the time (around 8-10 hours max). There’s also the ability to tackle your friends clubs online in the new Versus mode, which allows you to pit your career team against your friends in a series of custom competitions online.
Another new mode is Challenge mode. Previously introduced in Football Manager Handheld, it tasks you with completing a series of time-limited scenarios, such as surviving a relegation dogfight or overcoming a horrendous injury crisis - again designed to shatter the image of the game requiring a massive time investment. With scenarios varying in length and difficulty and using the new streamlined setup of classic mode, it allows the more casual player to enjoy playing in bite size installments. Challenge Mode also brings with it the possibility of a new avenue for Sports Interactive: DLC. With only a handful of challenges available at launch its highly likely more will be introduced in the future either by the developer or even the huge community the game has.
One contentious new addition, however, is the inclusion of “unlockable” features (cheats basically) that can be used to make classic mode even easier. You can get yourself a cash injection for that much needed new striker or circumvent Home Office regulations compeltely by removing work permit criteria - perfect for those wanting to build a team of Samba style Brazilians for peanuts. Whilst most players won’t find these too controversial, the fact you can skip unlocking them completely and purchase them for a small microtransaction using real money, coupled with the game’s inclusion of Steam integrated leaderboards via your friends list, could lead to a few questions being asked.
All in all, Football Manager 2013 is Sports Interactive’s finest work to date, really showing how skilled they are at listening to feedback from their community and implementing it in-game. From the small touches like your assistants comments popping up on screen as matches progress, to the larger UI and 3D match engine changes, this will definitely leave you knowing you are playing the latest, greatest and possibly the most realistic version of the UK’s favourite PC football management game. I said in my review of Football Manager 2012 that it was perfect for newcomers to the series, however, I was wrong; it’s Football Manager 2013 that really nails it, offering something new and substantial for players of all levels, and hopefully finally shedding its tag as a complicated Excel spreadsheet.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Platform: PC/Mac Release Date: 12/10/2012
Disclosure:Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Football Manager 2013 for review purposes by the promoter . The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.
Tags: Football Manager 2013