Football Manager 2013
Can we score this a “false 9”?
The release of any annual sports game is typically accompanied by the trumpeting of a slew of new features: Complete Dribbling, Player Impact Engine, Connected Career, and so on, each one fetishised through hyperbolic capitalisation as if naming a mode Ultimate Team means something more exciting, more thrillingly climactic, than just the team you chose to play as.
Football Manager 2013 has a bit of this about it. When you’re flogging an annual franchise that essentially simulates the same thing every twelve months, you need to justify that full-price tag with more than a promise that it simply plays better this time around. To this end, FM13 brings global leaderboards integrated through Steam, adding a meta-layer of competitive play; greater detail in the 3D match engine, particularly with respect to the various stadia; tweaks to the way you deal with the media, manage training schedules, and hire and fire members of your coaching staff; and, perhaps most thrillingly of all, the factoring in of how varying tax rates between countries affect a player’s wages.
Much of what Sports Interactive has added to this iteration of Football Manager is fluff, an extraneous layer of things associated with managing a football club – things that are obviously essential to sustaining a financially viable team, but things that in all honestly most players really could not care less about. Again, it’s all about justifying the price tag. When you already have a thoroughly convincing match engine and exhaustive array of tactical options as your base, the only way to mark progress is by shoehorning in greater amounts of trivial nonsense in order to claim that, yes, this year it truly is the most comprehensive football sim around.
It’s true, of course. Football Manager is the most comprehensive football sim around. But it’s greatest achievement in this, the 2013 edition, is in simultaneously being not the most comprehensive football sim around.
FM Classic Mode is what it’s called. And it’s brilliant. A stripped back version of 2013’s core engine, partly inspired by the success of the recent mobile versions, it’s a lean, sinuous beast, quick and direct like a no-nonsense winger single-mindedly focused on beating his man and flinging the ball into the box. Yet Classic is much deeper than the mobile versions, particularly in terms of the tactical instructions you can call upon, there’s little of the fluff that bogs down the now-bloated main game and it’s all presented inside a more intuitive, context-sensitive interface.
As a lapsed player, Classic has rejuvenated my interest in the series. It’s still got the depth I crave but without the massive time-sink the main career mode requires. The marketing people may not agree, but sometimes less really is more. DAVID WILDGOOSE
VERDICT The most comprehensive football sim on the market just got a little less comprehensive – and is all the better for it.
Why should I care?
• You spend hours every week debating transfers for your Fantasy Football team.
• You understand the difference between Control and Overloading when in possession of the ball.
• Your tactical knowledge extends further than 4-4-2 and “hoof it long!”
Developer: Sports Interactive