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Football Manager 18 Review

July 9th, 2018 by

fm18 001I know very little about football.  I am sure this has something to do with my dad, who didn’t care much for the game either, more interested in films than some blokes kicking a ball around on a Saturday morning.  My son doesn’t like football either, he plays Fortnite and probably shouts at the screen about as much as someone tuning in to watch their favourite team at a weekend.

In fact I haven’t played since I was at school.  During lunch times, due to the lack of anything else better to do we would play in the playground with a tennis ball.  None of us had the funds nor the inclination to bring in a full size ball, only to have to carry it the two mile walk home at the end of the day.

When it came to PE, in the winter I might add, I had the reputation of being so bad that I was always picked by my peers to be in defense.  Not in goal mind, that was reserved for the only bloke who owned and always brought in his own gloves.  He was a bit keen.  You also always had that one chap who would not pass to anyone, thinking he was gods gift.  Dribbling and never passing, claiming that he has a try out for a team that I never heard of and went on in later life to become a “pitch technician”. You know, mowing lawns.

So, a typical football game saw me, at the fittest point of my life,  left at the back with two of my mates along with one guy that I can only describe  as a bit chubby.  In all fairness, he wasn’t really a mate, he was just in the group because we had known him since the first year.  He was one of those guys who was the first to get a car, his mums old metro, that he would always be the designated driver because drinking “wasn’t for him”.  Fair enough, good lad, very nice of him;  he would always charge us for petrol though.  You get the picture.

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Anyway, we were always stuck in defence, slowly losing the sensation in our arms because there was a strict PE uniform  meaning that in the cold winter months our appendages were open to the elements in the freezing cold.  Mild hypothermia not withstanding (It didn’t help that we just stood around chatting), not running about, being constantly told off by the teacher to stop standing around like “a bunch of poofs”.  Neither health and safety nor political correctness were prevalent in the late eighties.

There was this one time, gifted with the ball, no one  left to defend a high pass over to me, which I managed by a miracle not to lose possession of.  I took the ball to 6 feet from the goal and shot.  I completely bottled it under pressure and missed, by a country mile, launching the ball into low orbit so it could be seen from space.  Thus continuing my track record of consistently being picked last for every conceivable sporting event until I retired from the limelight when I finished school.  No medals, no hall of fame, no commemorative game to see me off into sporting punditry on ITV.

I didn’t watch any football either, not ever.  Then came Euro 96, forced to go down the pub by my friend from work and watch the “legendary” game between England and Scotland that I actually ended up quite enjoying.  I didn’t really have a clue what was going on but I wanted to make the effort.  I then found out that all men, including myself have a genetic disposition to be able to talk bullshit about football.  I still to this day can engage most blokes on the subject of the beautiful game, even though I have no idea what they, or me are talking about.  The team I (casually) support is the one that I have always lived closest to growing up. No other reason than that.  Unfortunately said team have done rather well in the past few years which has resulted in more questions being fired at me on a Monday morning.  When I often reply with a shrug, I have constantly been met with disdain by the gentlemen of the post room, clearly taking the opportunity to feel superior against someone who is isn’t in the post room.  Carry on lads, with your sorting of the constant stream letter and parcels that come through the door.

This obviously makes me completely qualified to review a game about the intricacies of team management.  Last year, we said that Football Manager 2017 was, and I quote, “….Ruiner of relationships, scourge of sleep, the crack of computer games (if you’re into football…)”.  We gave it an 8.5.  The words IF YOU ARE INTO FOOTBALL is important. If you haven’t guessed by now,  I am very clearly not.

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Let’s start right at the beginning with the generation of my character, which allows you to upload a photo and generate a realistic virtual version of yourself ready to manage your team to the lofty heights of the league.  I’ll make the effort I thought and input a photo.  The result looked just like me.  That is, if I had childhood polio, rickets and a series of mini strokes.  Then I moved onto what type of manager are I want to be, tracksuit  or tactical?  The first of my “fuck knows”  hit me.  I am not the biggest fan of a polyester tracksuit and I don’t exercise.  I wasn’t even sure I have seen anyone in a tracksuit in recent years that was actually exercising.  They are more likely to be exiting a Poundshop with a carrier bag full of Jaffa Cakes, cleaning charcoal toothpaste, a watering can and a DVD of Roy Chubby Brown.

Then the actual game started.  At this point I was presented with what I can only describe at the most daunting spreadsheet I have even seen.  Complete with pie charts, graphs and stats on absolutely everything.  Brilliant, I spend all week at work doing Excel and now I have do it in a game about a subject I know nothing about, nor have any interest in.  Don’t get me wrong, if England won the world cup, which I understand is very unlikely, I would be very pleased for them for a minute before going back to shooting people in the face in the latest alliteration of a yearly franchise.

The best way to describe this game at this juncture  is that someone points a gun in your face and throws you 15 balls shouting “JUGGLE!”.  No I can not juggle nor do I respond well to pressure.  At the same time they then ask you a series of trivia questions about Eurovision winners over the past 30 years whilst you try to write out the periodic table in Japanese using a quill and Ink.  Again, I am a bit rusty in all of the above.  So not being a avid fan of the sport I do not understand what players do or what is the best starting formation is.

A player then wants to negotiate their contract.  What is their weekly wage? Do they get a bonus for good behaviour?  How much should I give the agent?  I clearly knew nothing  as my offer for £2,000 a week is promptly rejected and the player buggers off.  Well sod you I thought, bloody prima donna.  Or is that pre-Maradona.  See I made a witty football related quip.   After a couple of hours, not being the most adept at running a premiership division team, I quit

I start  a new game, in the lowest division possible.    This will be easier, I thought. The first newspaper article declares that I enjoy a growing reputation and my appointment is going to take Bognor Regis onto bigger and better things.  Hmmmm, think again sunshine.  According to my contract I’m being paid £575 a week which seems better than working in Poundland I suppose.

The first thing I do is start offloading my responsibilities to other people including the under 18′s and the under 23′s.  I mean, how many bloody teams does a club have?!  Hopefully this will make my life easier.  The best managers delegate everything apparently.  What followed are some meetings where I feign interest, brown-nosing the management.   I then get some more emails to read, which never stop.  Yes, this is very much like a work simulator but with balls.  They continue,  regarding subjects that I do not understand including fitness reports, scouting some talent, here have a training regime to review……..OK stop now.

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Before my first game of the season is due to start, is the team talk.  I manage to improve the morale of three players whilst promptly pissing off the rest.  Then I get interviewed by the press where I say, “No Comment” in an assertive manor.  Then I was asked to select players.  No idea what I was doing.  Had a pre match chat, “go on boys”, I said whilst secretly muttering, ” what am I doing?”  Promptly lost the match with the headline “Bognor is disappointing collapse.  I then immediately delegate absolutely everything possible to other people in the hope I could save myself from drowning in electronic correspondence and poor decision making.  Much button clicking then resulted in a draw for the next match.  However, I started drawing, more consistently.  Which is apparently a good thing as it turned into a 7 MATCH unbeaten record.  Because not winning, but yet not losing, is still a positive.  Strange.

Then came a 2-1 win against the Titans, Wealdstone.  Home of the Harrow Leisure Centre and a town easily accessible by the Bakerloo, Watford DC, Southern and West Midlands Trains.  Cool.  My now 11 match unbeaten run was then unfortunately cut short by Canvey Island, where I have visited the Morrisons store there on a couple of occasions coming back from work. Which was a pleasant experience with its nice salad bar.

In between matches I was continually updated by things I didn’t care about regarding other teams.  Or, what pretend people thought about me on pretend social media.  If my performance was bad, everyone criticized me.  If I did well everyone praised me.  Clearly, at no point, was I discovered to be a complete charlatan and fraud.  I felt so famous.  I could have done without the slow update each day on virtually everything as I was only actually interested in the matches themselves and didn’t really understand what the scouting reports meant.  .  But for those who genuinely like that sort of thing, to really get into character, then fill your (football) boots.  It is all in there.

For the purposes of being thorough, I played an entire season.   We got to third but experienced a few injuries.  In a blind panic I tried different tactics new players (because they were moaning about not being picked) and it all went to pot.  We came fourth and missing out on qualifying.  I was genuinely gutted.

However, I had given  the club board uninspiring expectations at the start of the season  and exceeded them.   Much like I do at work.

So for the people who have played and enjoyed Football Manager before, what’s new? There’s a medical centre so you can review risk assessments, who’s injured, who’s had a light sprain or torn calf. I assume they mean the calf muscle not someone who interfered with a herd of cattle down the local farmers market.  In addition there is a new dynamic system which, and I quote, “connects your management of the dressing room with the team’s performances on the pitch more closely than ever before” In other words, keep them happy, which I didn’t initially.   I basically just said nice things all the time, through gritted teeth.  Data Analytics can now be provided on players when scouting.  this is great if you know what they are talking about, which of course I did not.

From a graphics performance standpoint the engine is OK, it looked nicer than an average spreadsheet but the matches themselves were hardly FIFA in 1998, let alone 2018.  I am exaggerating  to illustrate a point but  clearly the graphics not the point of this game and it did its job.  It was quite amusing watching the matches at triple speed on highlights.  It harked back to the days of the Benny Hill closing credits as he was pursued relentlessly by a combination of inappropriately dressed women and old people. Which was about a serious as my football managing approach got to be fair.

I found my time with Football Manager a mixed one.  It’s aim of being so comprehensive with statistics and options that it sucked all the joy out for me at the start with its incredibly steep learning curve.  This is a game that knows its core audience but at the same time makes little effort to broaden its scope.  However, as I gradually (and very reluctantly) understood how things worked through a combination of trial and error as well as random clicking, I started to enjoy myself.  This is a game I would probably play on a tablet, distracting me from the mental tedium of Candy Crush during lunch.  Not a game I would necessarily sit down on a PC to play.  For a game that I absolutely hated at the start, I now wanted to play another season.

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We are always told in reviews to never say “if you like this sort of game, you will love this”.  So I won’t.  I am not the games target audience and on the strength of this iteration will probably never be.  But I had a decent albeit initially very painful time playing.

So, if this is not your kind of game, this review is for you.

Midlife Gamer Rating: 7/10     Format:  Steam    Release Date: Out Now

Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Football Manager 18 by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 2 months. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.

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