The Road To Glory
Each year in life comes with some guarantees, and one of those is another instalment of Sports Interactive’s Football Manager series. The game has been around in one form or another since the early nineties, but has been under the Football manager name since 2005 and has come a long way since then. This year's instrument of Football Manager 2023 once again puts you in the hotseat of the club of your choice to attempt to lead them to riches and glory.
As its name might suggest, Football manager is a management sim. You are tasked with managing the team of your choice from around the world, and are able to get hands on with pretty much every aspect of the day to day running of the club. Choosing match day tactics, assigning training schedules, signing new players, dealing with the press, these are the tasks you will find yourself doing in this game, with the main aim boiling down to winning football matches, and making a name for yourself in this imaginary football world. How easy or hard this is, somewhat comes down to who you manage. Want to take Aldershot Town from non league all the way to the premiership? That's not a simple process, want to have almost infinite money at your disposal for signing the worlds best players for your team? Then maybe managing Man City might be more up your alley.
Another Day At The Office
To the untrained eye, Football Managers interface may look like a fake email inbox and a bunch of glorified spreadsheets, but within these is an entire world of simulated football leagues, players and backroom staff. The game isn't just simulating your club and the league they play in, it will simulate as many leagues as you tell it to, as well as international football. All this simulation includes transfers, injuries, fallings out between managers and players and pretty much everything else that makes football football. All these menus can seem overwhelming at first, but the game does a good job of holding new players' hands and guiding them through each menu slowly to give you a good sense of what's achieved by interacting with each one.
The game also offers some automation if you don't feel like getting your hands dirty with certain aspects of your club. Don't feel like setting up weeks of training schedules? Get your assistant manager to do it, don't feel like negotiating dozens of contracts for your under eighteen squad? Your director of football can handle that. Having the option to divvy out certain jobs like this helps free you up for whats really important, and ask any long standing Football Manager fan and they will tell you that's signing new players.
The jewel in the Football Manager 2023 crown has always been its player database. Sports interactive employs thousands of real life scouts to give accurate player ratings for players across thousands of clubs. So accurate in fact, that it's been used by real life football teams for real life scouting. The game allows you to search through this database to find new players to bolster your squad. Again your backroom staff can help with this. Scouts can be given a breakdown of what you’re looking for and jet off around the world for you, presenting what they find in recruitment meetings. But if you wanna spend some time trawling through Brazils under eighteen squad looking for a bargain wonder kid, this is also an option. Once you’ve found your target its also down to you to make transfer bids to clubs, liaise with agents, and negotiate contracts. Building the squad of your dreams and watching it all come together on the pitch is where the real satisfaction comes from in this game.
A Game Of Two Halves
In between all of these emails and spreadsheets, you will also need to do the most important part of your job, match days. How your line ups and the style of football you want to play is decided by you in the tactics menu, but once the whistle blows for kick off, it's down to the eleven players you picked to do their job as you watch from the dugout. The match day engine allows you to watch your team's games choosing to either watch the full game, or just the highlights. From here you can also see the stats, make subs, take on board tactical advice from coaches, and yell at your players from the sidelines. What you yell is going to depend on how well your team is doing.
While the match engine's graphics aren't going to win any awards, it does get a little more polished each year and animations seem a bit tidier than previous instalments. It's certainly come a long way from watching a bunch of numbered circles bobble around on a green rectangle which is what we used to get way back when in earlier instalments of the game. It's worth noting that I have encountered a few visual glitches in the match engine, such as half of my team's kits suddenly changing to all black, but nothing game breaking.
Another feature which has seen some small tweeks is your team talks. Managing your players' mood is just as important as your formation. What you say before, during, and after a game can have a big impact on your players. The game allows you to pick a gesture as you make these talks too. Are you a calm hand in pockets kind of manger, or are you the type who likes to angrily throw a water bottle to get their message across? Plates coming from a game like FIFA might feel a bit frustrated at the lack of control you have over the actual game of football being played, but watch any real life manager on the sidelines, and you'll appreciate that this is what managerial life is all about. Sat at your PC holding your head in your hands as your center back gets himself sent off for a reckless challenge, or jumping for joy as the substitute you sent on grabs a stoppage time winner, these moments are what Football manager is all about.
All To Play For
While Sports Interactive doesn't set out to reinvent the wheel each year with Football Manager, what they do do is make small incremental changes each year and drip feed in new features. I think the new features this year are welcome ones. The squad planner allows me to get a clear look at the depth of my squad in each position, and see where i need to make new signings and where i maybe need to free up some space. Supporters now play a more pivotal role, and you can get a sense of how they think you are doing at your job, and their expectations for results. Lose against your rivals, and your hardcore fans are not going to be happy with you.
Probably the biggest new feature for this years Football Manager 2023 is the inclusion of the Champions League, Europa League, and Europa Confance league licenses. While this does not change much gameplay wise (previous instalments have had European cups in them, just not the real names) it does help add to the level of immersion in the game. The new Dynamic Manager Timeline again doesn’t drastically change anything about the game, but is a nice visualisation of the major talking points of your managerial career. These changes, along with ones to match A.I, recruitment, and agents help to push the game that little bit forward from its previous instalment, and give returning players something new to interact with. The new features don’t necessarily stand front and centre, but rather blend seamlessly into the rest of the game to help you though your career, and to add to the level at which you can push and pull at Football managers various levers.
Back Of The Net
Like I mentioned before, large sweeping changes aren't going to happen year in year out in Football Manager, and it's not really what long standing fans of the series like myself are looking for. What keeps me coming back to Football Manager is at its core, it is an incredibly solid game, and really unrivalled in this space. If you break it down, Football manager is a story simulator. Yes that story is going to be focused solely on football, but if that's what you are looking for, then not much else is going to let you write your own footballing history in the way that Football Manager does.
Years of experience means Sports Interactive are able to deliver an enjoyable package with some subtle changes that don't pull too far away from what is already a solid foundation. A small word of warning I will say though. Football Manager is a deep game, and this means it can become a huge time sink. At times it can feel like a slog getting through emails, and hitting the spacebar just wanting to get to your next game. This is especially true in the summer months when there's very few games to play before the season starts again. There is an option to go holiday in game to speed up the simulation, but whenever I've done this the board of directors have got a bit upset.
The game also doesn’t have licensed team names and kits for some of the biggest leagues such as The Premiership which i personally don't mind but i know this is annoying for some players. Another thing that's worth noting is that as amazing as the database is, lower end machines will struggle with a larger database and this can make load times quite long. However, with these words of warning, I still believe this is another solid entry in a fantastic series.
That concludes our thoughts on Football Manager 2023. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Football Manager 2023 today click here!