Football Manager is the most action packed, feature rich, true to life football management simulation on the planet. This year adds all of this plus a few extra bells and whistles that you didn’t know you even wanted or needed until you play and start using them. Thus ends the paragraph that could be pasted onto any of the Football Manager franchise reviews of the last five years.
Let’s be honest, if you are a fan of Football Manager, you kind of know what to expect, a realism unmatched in anything that has come before it, a social life killer where you just need to have one more match just to see if your tweaks that you have spent three and a half hours painstakingly tweaking really gets the best out of that £20 million midfielder that your fans are starting to believe is a flop of the highest order.
Football Manager 2016 is more of the same but with the extra bells and whistles you didn’t know you needed – I’m sure I’ve said this before – but at its core it is still the Football Manager we all know and love.
This season SI Games are looking to personalize the game a lot more, with the first noticeably change the “manager on the touchline” aspect. For the very first time you get to build a full body avatar and dictate what your appearance looks like within the game. Now let’s make this clear, the 80 odd hours I have thus far lost to FM2016 have all been in the pre release beta; where SI games update the game and features on an almost daily basis, so the fact that the best looking avatar I could come up with looked like the lovechild of Peter Beardsley and Julian Dicks (look ‘em up kids) who is chewing a wasp may well have been improved.
Let’s be honest, making a pretty avatar is not why we buy Football Manager, we have games such as Fallout and Dragon Age for things like that, no we buy Football Manager for tactics and number crunching. The new set piece creation tool ticks these boxes. Based upon a simple drag and drop interface, it’s tactically superb if you want to try something a little different to the off the shelve tactics.
This year’s shake up is the addition of Fantasy Draft. You get a Chelsea sized bank balance, an empty squad list and the brief to create the greatest team possible. The problem is so do your friends and once you have all created your teams you battle it out in a series of league matches to see who truly is the king of Football Manager 2016.
Create-a-Club is another new, and welcome, addition to the franchise. If you haven’t got your hands on a pre-game editor and tried to add your local team only to realise that you forgot to take a team out of a competition resulting in bringing down the entire league structure of a country far more spectacularly than Sepp Blatter could ever hope to do then you truly have never played this game.
Create a team with a pre defined budget, be added into the right competitions, add yourself as a player, add your friends, edit the club as much as you like (why wouldn’t Hazard, Messi and Ronaldo want to play for John o’Groats in the Scottish second division?), pad out the team and anything else your heart desires. There is just one problem with this mode, and to an extent Fantasy Draft, it loses the realism of the game. Getting Wick Academy from the Highland League to Champions League glory feels a bit hollow when you can get any player you want.
Back to the harsh reality of the original game format. Another year passes and SI Games once again sprays layer upon layer of polish onto its already glistening game. The menus are simplier but feel much slicker. This will certainly help newcomers get to grips with the franchise.
Subtle tweaks to injuries and media interaction just being a little more realism to the fold and make you feel that you have actually got an enhanced edition of last years game rather than the same game with a different number on it.
Graphically, the 3D match engine will not even challenge a low end PC to break into a sweat which allows more people to be able to break into the franchise. The match engine serves its purpose in given a visual representation of the commentary and little more. Personally I tend to go for the old school method of just utilizing the text commentary (that’s all we had 23 years ago) and maybe going for some highlights if I reach a cup final.
Football Manager 2016 once again surpasses all expectations and delivers a fresh take on the franchise whilst keeping the core of the game familiar to its worldwide fan base. How many developers can say that they have done that as consistently as Sports Interactive.
Now if you will excuse me I have to go and fine that lazy-assed midfield flop
Midlife Gamer Rating: 9/10 Format: PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a beta copy of Football Manager 2016 by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 10 days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.