Football Manager 2012 Review
By Simon Graves |
The problem with approaching any game with the scope of the Football Manager series is that you're never 100 percent certain that the snazzy new feature you're making 'ooh' noises at is one that's unique to this iteration, such is the scale of Sports Interactive's baby. And with a game that has no figurehead to reclothe and no hi-res textures to polish up, how do you make the most detailed, no-statistics-left-behind management game even more complex? And is complexity even the end game?
I have a theory whereby the clothing and demeanour of the male model on the front of a Football Manager game dictates how revolutionary the title is. For example, in 2005 our man was wearing a functional padded jacket a la Harry Redknapp – a man who clearly dressed in a hurry. And sure enough, that year was one in which FM was in a brutal race to the shelves with rival Championship Manager, after mummy Eidos and daddy Sports Interactive had gone their separate ways. Jump forward to 2007's box art and the game was rocking a Mourinho long woollen coat and tie combo. The message: we're looking great and we know it. FM 2008, and our manager is now a little chubbier in the face, and the game similarly is fit to burst – this year sees the return of the Dutch national team, and a newly licensed Ligue 1.
On the box for last year's effort our man was decked out in high-waisted Simon Cowell slacks and in desperate need of a shave. Also, for some reason he's standing in the middle of a packed out stadium with a football under his arm, which looks a bit mental. Having a bit of a breakdown perhaps? Has success got the better of the gaffer?
Cleverly Football Manager 2012 is more in-depth than ever before, but is easier to get into.
We needn't have worried. The Football Manager 2012 dress is a masterpiece in the art of the Joachim 'Jogi' Löw-style school jumper and overcoat, a whole new approach to managerial fashion seen at the World Cup a year earlier, and with it comes a fresh take on the game itself.
The major advances this time round aren't necessarily ones that are apparent in day-to-day team management; the biggest addition is probably scalability of the whole experience – you're now able to add or remove vast swathes of club football at the click of a button. No longer are you tied to the teams and leagues you selected when you started a new game, which for anyone who regards themselves as a bit of an FM aficionado is frankly mind blowing. Similarly the new interface expands and contracts when gifted a extra few pixels to play with – if you're lucky enough to be able to play games in something as high as 1680 x 1050, Football Manager has the wherewithal to slide in another couple of stat boxes for your perusal.
Last year's iteration made custom tactics a breeze; in 2012 you're offered the chance to quickly switch between three setups, with the game giving you instant feedback as to precisely how au fait your charges are with any given formation. Perfect if you want to play a certain style of football when you're at home, but need a bit more steel in midfield come away days, or when you find yourself a goal down.
You're now also able to make adjustments to your team's workload directly from the tactics screen itself – invaluable if you're the sort of person who lives for the 90 minutes on the field but isn't necessarily big on match preparation. This integration also enables you to make adjustments to your 'manager philosophy' on the same page. Such integration is indicative of Sport Interactive's overarching vision of giving the bedroom David Moyes' (manager philosophy: scream at ref until red in face, complain about lack of funds) everything they need in one place.
You're not alone in your quest for football-y success and every step of the way you can palm off some of the managerial head-scratching to any one of your coaches, allowing any member of your staff to pick strategies and starting line ups, be they specialised in defence, attack or even goalkeeping. This leaves you free to become that Claudio Ranieri-style tinkerman you've always dreamed of.
Elsewhere, Football Manager has always had zonal marking in Football Manager but this year we've been gifted something you might call 'tonal barking'. The way you address your players has fundamentally changed. You can criticise, flatter and scream at your ungrateful charges in several different ways now – some players will need a feather touch and some will require the more robust hairdryer treatment, but every step of the way you're given real-time feedback as to how your comments have been received. You're also able to call meetings with your entire staff, players included, giving you a great opportunity to clear the air if you've just experienced back to back defeats, for example.
The new adaptive layout is smart and changes depending on the resolution and ratio of your monitor.
As is always common with Football Manager, the devil can be found kicking back and enjoying a lemonade in the detail. You'll now find that the days of the South American full back are numbered – any wide defensive players from that continent are now more than likely going to be wing backs. Transfers are now slightly less headache-inducing too: if you know you're unable to stretch any further than a particular figure in wages you have the option of 'locking' that part of the contract down, meaning that agents have to find some other way of getting money out of you through loyalty bonuses and appearance fees.
Another gigantic leap has been taken with the tutorial system. With a game that revels in depth, statistics and bar charts, even the most institutionalised fan might need a spot of hand-holding at times, and 2012's tutorials really are well put together.
The slightly frustrating side of Football Manager has always been the feeling of helplessness once the rot sets in – you're never exactly sure whether your work on the training ground has any effect when it comes to five past four on a Saturday, when you're about to return to the field two-nil down, languishing at the bottom of the league. But such suspension of disbelief is necessary in any role-playing game (in the purest sense of the word) where chaos and circumstance are all part of the charm. This slightly uneasy feeling is still there in buckets, but is lessened slightly when you're able to instantly improve a player's morale by interacting with him, or asking another player to take him under their wing.