Football Manager is undoubtedly unique as an essentially menu-based gaming franchise that is adored. Every year the title is almost guaranteed to do well, and because of that some may think that nothing really changes. Yes the welcome boost in revenue may make the annual release obvious, but to think of it as static is to deprive Sports Interactive their deserved credit. Improvements and additions are virtually inevitable, and Football 2014 has plenty. A reported ‘1,000 improvements’ help the latest incarnation to deliver as engrossing an experience as you would expect. As for additions? The obvious and subtle both get a billing.
While 2013 may have added the Challenge and Classic Modes to the feature list, 2014 has ‘widening the game’s fanbase’ firmly in mind. So now, triumphantly, Linux systems can hold host to the game code. Honestly that’s something few might have considered would happen, but it’s testament to the passion of all involved to engage new audiences. But while that will make specific gamers leap for joy, better for all fans is the new cloud-save feature. Simply, this allows would-be managers to keep playing their games regardless of where they are. It’s as straightforward as it is smart.
In terms of game-changing alterations, fans of Classic Mode have reason to cheer. 2013 saw the mode’s unveiling, but 2014 has collected the ball and shot off down the wing with it. Gone is the cast iron restriction of ‘three playable leagues’. It does exist by default, but a simple tick of a box disables the setting. Once removed, Classic Mode games can consist of a number of leagues potentially creating a database of up to (a maximum) 50,000 players. That’s quite a plus, just as long as your your system can handle the workload! Further additions to Classic Mode are a smart Match Plan wizard, and the inclusion of Transfer Deadline Day in ‘fast play’ – yes, hardened fans of late transfer drama, you can can now get an in-game fix.
The most changes have been made to the deeper and more intricate Career mode – though none that damage the game’s accessibility or hinder the player’s enjoyment. I speak as someone who was attached to the franchise even a decade ago, and with 2014 I feel right at home. So frankly you can take that comment to the bank! SI has tweaked all manner of things since 2003 of course, and one of the most impressive additions has been the 3D match engine.
This too finds its gears cranked a little further in this release – more accurate kit models and player reactions are part of the reason. Honestly, but for the very rare occurrence when a player faces away from an opposition keeper taking a goal kick – or moves somewhat awkwardly around a challenging opponent – I can find very little to frown at. The match engine is a joyous and, at times (when you’re getting hammered) frustrating thing to behold. Yet even when your team is down and out, the pouring of hope into three-dimensional player representations suggests there’s little breaking the crafted illusion.
Further changes still fail to prevent the quality of the development and delivery pouring through. An ‘overhaul’ to the tactics section may be unfamiliar for the shortest time, but newcomers will be rewarded by investigating. Meanwhile loyal fans can be sure the change to board and staff interaction is to their benefit – it is by all accounts. An improved user interface makes everything look ever so smooth, while a newly designed news system does more than simply deliver the mail; it now actually improves the flow of the game, reducing the need to navigate away. There’s improved player transfers too, although it doesn’t seem to have bettered my chances of landing the hunted.
What all this all boils down to is a game as much of a joy to behold as it is to experience. Frankly Football Manager‘s a welcome yearly fixture in the gaming calendar as long as it continues to deliver. With 2014 it does, and at this time of year a renewed and genuinely updated franchise should be welcomed by its fans. Like the best kind of homemade soup, Football Manager is a slightly different recipe to be enjoyed throughout the autumn, winter and weeks and months beyond. It’s tasty, full of chunks of goodness. And, as those recipes which have come before, it still goes down rather smoothly indeed.
Review format: PC.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.