Football Manager 2014


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Complete Review & Description

In Football Manager 2014, you are tasked with the highly complex job of managing a football club, avoiding relegation to a lesser league, or attempting to take out the league tables and perhaps move on to managing bigger and better things.

Football – or the “Beautiful Game”, as it has famously been called – is an immensely popular sport. Sports Interactive, the developer behind Football Manager 2014, has captured the passion and glory of the sport with the latest title in the series – which utterly oozes football from every tiny ‘byte’.

Management simulations require a certain breed of gamer. They just aren’t for everyone, with their often slower paced gameplay and stats-heavy interfaces. Football Manager 2014 isn’t any different, and will require you to attempt to make a career in football management, without ever actually setting foot on the pitch yourself.

Being a fully licensed title, it has an unbelievably vast array of stats and content from all over the world. Even smaller provincial teams throughout New Zealand, and other parts of the world, are present (though I cannot confirm if their players are also accurately implemented.) But certainly the entire Hyundai A-League – and a total of 51 nations, and 117 playable leagues – are in the game.

The great thing about the vast array of player and team information on hand is that you have a seemingly endless number of teams which you can join at the beginning of your management career. The sheer amount makes Football Manager 2014 feel somewhat overwhelming, and this wasn’t the only time it made me feel this way.

I started off in the game’s new and improved career mode. First, I needed to select a vast range of game setup options with which you can customise much of the career in terms of the content available, until finally selecting the team I was opting to manage.

Once in the game, I quickly felt that my feet weren’t big enough for the shoes I was expected to fill – particularly managing Borussia Dortmund from the Bundesliga. Fortunately, the developers have really enhanced the role your management team play. You can relegate a number of tasks to your other staff, who will provide you with regular updates – particularly around youth development squads, recommended transfers, and even making decisions about match tactics or managing those niggly press conferences. I initially wanted my assistant manager and other staff to manage as much of this as possible, while I struggled to make sense of the copious amounts of data I was expected to absorb. I ultimately wanted to have a more hands on approach, but it’s great to see that it is possible to strike a balance – although this by no means makes the game newcomer friendly.

I really enjoyed the enhanced relationships and interactions which you can manage, between players, staff, and particularly the board. You can now discuss with the board (who appoint you to your role) what vision they have for the club and how you can support this, and you can also hit them up about your budgets if you simply aren’t getting the required talent. Similarly, the communications with media and your squad are fun to manage – the press conferences pose interesting questions and the impact that the media can have on morale (and ticket sales) shouldn’t be underestimated.

It wasn’t until I started a classic career though, with the Wellington Phoenix, that I really started to forget the time of day. In classic mode the game strips away some of the lesser, more tedious tasks and leaves you with more of a core experience. You are still required to navigate complex trade markets and scout new territories for up and coming talent, but you won’t have to get as involved in youth development and in discussions with individuals in your team around their attitudes. I really began to enjoy myself and as I attempted to attempt to mould the Phoenix into an A-League winning team I found myself saying “just one more game” a little too often.

During the matches, in all modes, you have full control over the tactics your team will apply. Thanks to an overhauled 3D match engine, the games are recreated reasonably well. It’s most definitely not good looking or particularly detailed, but it’s very effective in conveying what it needs to. You can then yell instructions at the team or players, and try to bring about a game winning play. It’s also fantastic that you get in-game advice from your assistant manager, who suggests particular strategies you can choose to implement against the opposition. The match engine works really well, and the improvements from the previous versions are noticeable.

The user interface itself, though overhauled, still feels very dry – largely the nature of the game – and a lot of the time is spent staring at what feels like a spreadsheet. The number of different performance stats for each player, as well as their current performance and expected potential (based on the observations of your scouting team) provides for a substantial chunk of data.

That said, the news engine generates great articles and images for the player to read, and makes for a bit of colour and excitement in this world. It’s amazing reading the match reports and articles as to how accurately the game generates these beautifully written, flavour text articles, which capture a lot of the passion and essence of football. It’s also great to see that the Steam Workshop has been integrated into Football Manager 2014, which means that new skins can be downloaded easily, transforming the user interface.

Included as well is a multiplayer mode, where you can throw other team managers into the mix and compete directly with them. The nature of the title requires that these players are reasonably active, but it is great to have the option, if you are that way inclined.

For newcomers, it’s good to see a comprehensive in-game help system and manual, though it’s fair to say that the best asset you can bring is a sound understanding of football tactics. That said, I have managed to thoroughly enjoy my time with Football Manager 2014 without having an immensely in-depth level of knowledge.

If you aren’t quite sure if managing a football team is your cup of tea, check out the free demo and it will give you a good sense of what’s in store. Sports Interactive have clearly learned from previous versions and continue to make improvements, and with Football Manager 2014 they have done well to make it both fun and reasonably accessible. It would be great to see a more graphically adept game engine, but most of your time is spent managing – and there’s no denying that Football Manager 2014 provides a rich and complex experience. If you are a fan of the series, picking this up is a no-brainer.



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