Ladies and Gentlemen; the time has come again to dust off your best suits, polish your shoes and to put the champagne on ice as you prepare to take the hot seat in the number one football management simulation game. That’s right Football Manager Fans; sports interactive are back with the latest edition of the hit game, Football Manager 2014 and it’s just as addictive as ever before. It’s time to spend endless nights of your life being frustrated, rage building up inside and tears pouring down your face as you try to prove that you can do what the likes of Sir Alex and Kenny Dalglish have done, to take your teams to the heights of success through ruthless tactical preparation, bringing in quality players to bolster your squad and making sure your team keeps fighting until that final whistle blows.
As fans will know with this game, it’s not very often there are big changes as it would be silly to massively change something that is so successful. Instead new additions to the series usually tend to have a few tweaks here and there to fine tune areas of the game where there is room for improvement, and Football Manager 2014 is no different. Whereas last year saw the introduction to classic mode and the new challenges features, this year focuses a lot more on making some improvements to better the speed and functionality of the fully featured game.
The first thing people will notice is the new user layout that sees a few of the screens modified with some new overviews to be able to monitor a lot more stuff on fewer screens to save time, a theme that seems to run throughout FM2014. For example a lot of people will notice how a lot more of the game can be controlled from your inbox, from negotiating contracts with players to keeping in contact with backroom staff about tactics and scouting. With less need to move away from this news feed it saves huge amounts of time that would normally be spent navigating the numerous menu’s that are contained in this game. The look of the matches however hasn’t changed too much; you can still watch matches in the usual styles just a bit more detailed in terms of kits, the pitch, lighting and player animation.
What else is rather noticeable is how interaction has improved between players, opposition managers, the media and the board. Meetings seem to run a lot smoother and conversations flow better and seem to run a more realistic course. With players you can ask your key players to speak with others who may be unhappy; with opposition managers you can now respond to their comments in press conferences, for example when they criticise your player you can comment on their unprofessionalism and say they should be concentrating on their own team. With the media, they’ll ask questions that seem a lot more personal to you and your situation rather than getting the same generic questions popping up in every press conference.
In terms of how board interaction has improved, the language used seems more professional and sets the picture for what it must be like in real situations for managers working at football clubs. What stuck out for me was how in initial interviews you hold with a clubs board before being awarded a job; you get the opportunity to put your philosophies across of how you want the team to play. You also have chances to negotiate budgets, and put in requests with the board which you believe will help the club grow and push forward with things like improved youth facilities, finding feeder clubs and bringing on more staff. If they like what you say they’ll agree to your ideology and plans, if they disagree they’ll tell you straight, and that for me happened quite a lot when I started my career unemployed, to the point I spent 5 months applying for vacancies until Weston-Super-Mare stepped in and snapped me up. What made it worse is I rage quit my game after losing my first match in injury time after taking the lead twice, and I forgot to save any progress so it’ll no doubt be another 5 months on the dole for me.
One of the better features that have been introduced, which people either will find really useful or have no use for it at all, is the new cloud-save technology. With this it offers gamers the chance to now play their careers from any computer around the world by storing their save data online. This will be really useful for those who enjoy playing with friends but don’t enjoy playing network games across multiple devices, because instead of people dragging their laptops around from place to place, you can now just wirelessly load up your game from the web on one computer.
The next thing to mention is something that frustrates me intensely and makes me want to punch the screen, but at the same time annoys me because it’s much more realistic and you can’t fault someone for doing a good job. What I’m talking about is the way transfers work on FM 2014. On previous versions, I could start in a division as low as the Skrill North (previously the Blue Square North) with Vauxhall Motors and loan youngsters from teams like Liverpool and Everton usually on a 3 month period. However now these youngsters have grown too big for their boots for my liking as they want to play with higher quality players, meaning I can’t just waltz through the division like a knife through butter. Instead you have to make full use of you scouts to find players who will be willing to move to your club from divisions that closely match your own. I even struggled getting championship players to join League 1 Tranmere. But again it’s the way football works today, people want to get to the top, not play Sunday League football.
One more feature which is also worth a note is how much the AI has progressed. It’s impossible now to have one set tactic to use for every game which would usually conquer any enemy, because opposition managers are much more likely to change tactics during the game. So what has helped you to a 2-0 lead in the first half may be your downfall in the second as the opposition try to exploit any weaknesses you may have. To help with this your assistant will give out advice during the game which will allow you to make tactical changes in split seconds, it could be anything from him suggesting a player isn’t playing well to maybe exploiting the opposition flanks and crossing balls in early.
As you can tell there are so many improvements to discuss and these are just a few amongst them I’m able to go into detail with otherwise I wouldn’t be able to finish this review until FM2015 made an appearance. So before I conclude I’ll just give a bit more of an overview to the classic and challenge modes available. Challenge mode as its name suggest provides you with many challenges. Each as difficult as the last, you’ll be taking on such tasks as taking over a team on the bottom of the table 15 points behind the next place with 20+ games remaining, your goal being to avoid the drop. Not as easy as it sounds as well, because it’s pretty hard if you choose a team with no transfer budget to bring in some impact players to boost morale.
As for classic mode, Sports Interactive have expanded on the previous year’s game to allow you to now be able to choose from more than three playable nations and to include a transfer deadline day, a match plan wizard which helps you set up your preparation for upcoming matches and new unlockables. This allows for the game to still remain a streamlined version of the fully featured game that allows for faster play while adding bit more depth that allows for the gamer to feel more immersed in the football manager experience.
So overall Sports Interactive has done it again, they’ve managed to tweak the game to improve it in terms of saving time during gameplay and making a lot of the displays and features more functional and easier to use without really having any negative impact. However just because Sports Interactive have changed the game to save you time, it doesn’t mean you’ll be spending less time on the game as it’s just as addictive as it has ever been and you’ll be spending days, weeks even months playing this game with its near unlimited replay value. If you’re a football manager fan then there is no doubt you’ll have already bought the game, if not then you best get some money together because you’re missing out.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.