It’s a funny old game!
Yes, it’s that time of year again. The new Football Manager is here! The oldest running yearly franchise in gaming (Sport Interactive’s first version came out in 1992!) is back again to take over our computers and drain away all our free time. I have been playing this series since the very beginning, so I am more than familiar with how far this series has come over the years. And it’s no less of a time vampire than it ever was. The Football Manager series remains the gaming equivalent of crack – once you get hooked, your life is over (although playing this is much more healthy!). I think that most people out there know how this works by now. This game is exactly what it says on the tin: a totally interactive and all-inclusive football management simulator. Oh, and I should probably add that when I say football I mean the proper kind, not that weird game you Americans play with an egg-shaped ball and your hands!
Because I know that most people who are interested in this year’s Football Manager have most likely played the game before, I am going to concentrate this review on detailing the differences from last year’s release. Now, anyone who has been playing this series even half as long as I have will know that developer Sports Interactive tend to make radical changes to the overall design every few years, then spend the next few years tweaking it. So you should also know that 2016 was that year, meaning that Football Manager 2017 is merely an improved version of the last game. When you initially get started it pretty much seems to be more of the same and the differences aren’t immediately noticeable. But once you get into a new season they start to become apparent and there are actually far more of them than you expect. While none of the new features are real game changers, with this only being an updated version of last year’s game, pretty much all of them add genuine value to the overall product.
One of the first changes you’ll come across is in the staffing department. Sports Interactive have brought things right up to date by adding two new positions into your set-up. Firstly, you now have the option to employ data analysts within your scouting team to help with player recruitment and sussing out the opposition. Secondly, they have also added the position of sports scientist to the medical team to aid with things like fitness levels and individual training. There is also a change in the way you interact with your coaching team and scouts. Now all recommendations appear right in your news feed with you able to simply click on ticks to activate them. As well as this, new icons appear within the team selection and stats screens too that also reveal advice from your coaches, this has replaced the old backroom advice screens. These are either tailored to the team, specific players or sometimes the coaches themselves (such as sending them on courses). These changes, although fairly small, make Football Manager 2017 seem much more fluid.
When Sega started promoting Football Manager 2017, one of the first things they promised was a greatly improved match engine. While it’s not anywhere near the level of improvement they claimed the changes are clear to see. Slight improvements in the player models and animation aside, the most notable upgrade is actually in the area outside of your ground. The buildings and scenery that surround each stadium are now far more varied, far more detailed and far more realistic. Another nice addition is in the match preparation. You now see the players walk onto the pitch and warm up, managers will shake hands, and the teams line up before kickoff. My only slight complaint is that the new 3D engine seems a little juddery, I am hoping this is something they improve with an update, because it’s definitely nothing to do with my 3 month old PC! Apart from all this, the graphical changes are minimal. Colour schemes for the standard interface have changed, as they do every year, and they have improved the face modelling a little for newly generated people and players within the game. I was also pleased to see that the number of real player photos seemed to have increased too.
Now I mentioned a little bit about the interface already, and this is actually where one of the best new features makes its appearance – the social feed. This is basically Football Manager 2017’s very own version of Twitter, complete with hashtags, opinionated supporters, and trashy tabloids. While it doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, it’s a nice bit of fun and great to have a glance at after a big win. An area that many fans of the series asked to be improved was the way you interact with the press. You will be pleased to hear that more responses have been added, making it much easier to express your thoughts. In addition, the way you talk with players has also been tweaked a little with a few new pre-defined responses. Sadly, the team talk screen hasn’t been improved at all. It would have been nice if a few more options for rousing locker room speeches had been added. Still, this may be something that will be addressed when the first update comes.
The last thing I should probably mention is the editor, an essential tool for any hardcore Football Manager aficionado. While there aren’t many changes here. there are a couple of biggies, both good and bad. So let’s look at the good one first – the old filter boxes have been removed and put into a panel at the top of the screen, making it all a bit less faffy and easier to manage. But the negative aspect of the new editor is in all honesty a really silly one. For some bizarre reason the colour filters have been totally changed on the kit design screen. Now, the colours that appear for selection are a weird muted pastel version of the actual colour and don’t match how it really looks. I can’t understand for the life of me why they did this, as it’s utterly stupid and completely unnecessary. Hopefully Sports Interactive will get this one sorted out sharpish.
In all honestly though, none of minor negatives I have mentioned detract from the game at all. And one of the biggest negatives of last year’s version has been completely fixed, and it’s nothing to do with the way the game plays. Football Manger 2017 seems to be totally stable. I have been playing it almost constantly now for several days while doing other things. I have been switching in and out of it, running other programs and leaving it idle for long periods of time and it hasn’t crashed once! This is a huge improvement on last year’s edition that seemed to just crash at will. Football Manager 2017 is undoubtedly the best one yet. I will even go as far as saying that with a few minor tweaks it would pretty much be the perfect game (of its type anyway as Football Manager certainly doesn’t appeal to everyone). If you love Football Manager as much as me then you have probably already added this one to your Steam library. But if you you haven’t, then you really should be looking to correct that oversight very soon!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Apple Mac ; Publisher: SEGA ; Developer: Sports Interactive ; Players: 1-16 ; Released: 11/03/2016 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $49.99 / £34.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Football Manager 2017 given to HeyPoorPlayer by SEGA.