Football Manager 2018 Is A Game Not to be Missed
When I think back on all my years of gaming I can recall a small amount of titles that I can say that I’ve become addicted to. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Diablo II, & Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain come to mind immediately. I’ve found that the majority of games that keep me coming back for more either have engrossing stories with interesting characters, or a deep upgrade system that steadily increases my character’s power. The type of progression system that has me saying “maybe just one more hour” as I contemplate cancelling plans to spend time with friends and family. You might be asking yourself why I’m bringing this up in a review for a football management game? Let me explain.
Football Manager 2018 has surprisingly taken over my life. I’ve lost communication with all of my friends, my daughter is now failing 1st grade since I haven’t’ been helping her with her homework, and the jack ‘o lanterns that I put on my front porch for Halloween are now piles of moldy mush. And the sad part is that I don’t even consider myself a fan of soccer…uh, football.
The Football Manager series has been letting players take on the managerial role of a football club of their choosing since way back in 2005. As with most sports game franchises, it has received yearly updates that have made several improvements in core gameplay mechanics. The core updates in this year’s iteration have to do with individual player dynamics, a revamped scouting system, and a redesigned/easier to use game tactics screen. Of course there are several other improvements spread throughout the package, but those that I previously mentioned are what fans of the last year’s game will notice most.
I’m a newcomer to the franchise, so I’d like to walk you through what got me hooked on this game, and how well these new features worked in my playthrough. I can’t say how much this game has changed from the previous year’s installment, but I can say that as a newcomer, I got a whole lot of enjoyment from this year’s iteration .
Football Manager 2018 wastes no time in getting you hired and behind the desk. After creating the look of your character you’ll be asked which one of the clubs you’d like to manage. There is a lot to think about here! There are 50 countries to choose from that host over 2,500 clubs! That’s over 600,000 real life players and staff to consider before you stroke your pen (or click the OK button) across the dotted line! Considering that I’m not a huge football fan, sifting through all of the (unknown to me) teams was intimidating. After several confusing minutes I found the MLS, which at least has a few teams that I was familiar with.
Remember Your Roots
Being a Philly native, I went ahead and found my local football team, The Philadelphia Union. Before I even had a chance to look over my squad I was being asked questions by the media about how I plan to handle the team’s star player. I also had to fend off a handful of technical questions that revolves around what direction I was going to take the team in. These questions all seemed to have repercussions immediately! I was smart with my answers and I could see my new squad was excited with how I handled myself in the interview by way of the team dynamic screen. Each and every player’s mood was clearly listed for me to view. I started a second game and answered as poorly as I could, and as expected, every player’s mood was poor. A happy locker room is a winning locker room!
A Little Help From Your Friends
An important thing to mention, especially for people who don’t consider themselves uber football fans, is the ability to delegate almost every task in the game. You can have your assistant coach deal with individual player training regimens, have your team doctor recommend how hard the team should practice to avoid injury, and have other staff members attend press conferences in your place. At first I took full advantage of this . It’s totally up to the player how much they want to be involved with the team. Of course, being completely hands off will eventually lead to an unhappy locker room. So it’s smart to at least get your hands a little dirty.
After several weeks of interviews, setting up individual player training schedules, and filling a few holes in the coaching staff, I was finally able to enjoy the fruits of my labor by watching a friendly (exhibition) game. During the game I was able to shout several different types of dialogue at any individual player. If a player got off a good shot I would praise them, or if an individual turned the ball over I would shout at them to tighten their game up. Each individual player’s attitude is listed, so it’ll be up to you to keep them in the game. If you see a player is looking frustrated, you can try to change that with a little encouragement. Of course, if you’re playing the role of a hard ass, you can use a different approach. There are lots of dialogue options for all situations.
Watching a match play out is exciting, but the visuals may take you out of the experience. The graphics aren’t spectacular, but they get the job done. I noticed several graphical issues, with the most noticeable being the animation of players who are controlling the ball while making a turn. Their feet bend at 90° angles, giving them the appearance that they running on broken ankles. The goalies also have some really awkward save animations, even though I’ve read that these are improved over last years game. Watching a couple of guys collide while going up for a header is another goofy animation, with the players getting stuck in the air for several seconds. You won’t notice all of these right away since only the highlights will be shown during matches, but you will pick up on these after a few hours of play.
During the halftime you can visit the locker room and talk to the players or leave these duties to your assistant coach. Praising a winning team will boost morale, but praising a losing team will confuse almost everyone. You might even have a few instances where you’ll say something that the team will react poorly to, but you can then turn it over to your assistant coach who might turn things around and have the team ready to return to the field on a positive note. It’s especially a good feeling when you turn a frustrated team at half-time into a positive team with a pep talk. They could end up coming back to win a game that seemed out of reach.
Another aspect that you can control during games is how your team is playing. You can change things up on the fly with a easy to understand layout that expertly walks you through how the players will react to each change. Considering that I don’t totally understand the sport of football, I was still able to confidently change up my team’s playstyle and get satisfactory results. But like most aspects of Football Manager 2018, you can always delegate changing tactics mid game to your assistant coach.
Who’s on Second?
One part of the game that I didn’t fully understand was player positions. This wasn’t an issue most of the time, and it really is only an issue because I’m not familiar with football positions. I would run into this problem when I had to replace an injured player with a substitution. Usually I would get a highlight to what position a player played, but on occasion I wouldn’t get this highlight and as far as I knew, I had a player playing a position that he was unfamiliar with. I’m unsure if this was a glitch, or it could be that I simply didn’t have a substitute that could fill the injured player’s position. But as I stated, if you know the sport you probably won’t be running into this problem.
It’s Not Over Until It’s Over
After the game is over is when the real fun begins. The social media page usually fills up with fictitious news about how players on the team are unhappy with other players. To make matters worse, some of these “rumors” could turn out to be true. While dealing with the tabloids you’ll also be in the midst of contract negotiations, the team doctor analysis, and recommendations by your scouting staff on what players you should be keeping your eye on. Next thing you know, a few days go by and you’re sitting at the pregame press conference prior to your next game dealing with rumors that you thought would never come up again. Oh, and the questions aren’t your run of the mill “Do you think you can win the next game?”. They are always thought provoking, and if you aren’t careful, your answers could deeply affect your locker room.
Just One More Game
Game by game I delved deeper into Football Manager 2018’s managerial mechanics, and by midway point of my Philadelphia Union season, I started delegating less tasks to my staff and handling almost everything myself. “Just one more week” I kept saying as the hours ticked up on my playtime. Even after a hundred hours of play, I still don’t feel that I fully understand what I’m doing though. I’m almost finished my first season and I think the salary cap, which I don’t understand at all, will come back to bite me in my ass. But, until then, I’m just going to keep making my team as good as I can and try to win the MLS championship.
I recommend giving Football Manager 2018 a try, even if you’re not a fan of the sport. I got over a hundred fun-filled hours out of the game and I’ve only just scratched the surface with the basic game mode. I’m sure I’ll be sinking several more hours into the online multiplayer mode (after launch) to grow my addiction even further! Ever wonder what it’s like to manage a professional sports team? This is your chance!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC; Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Sports Interactive; Players: 1-16 ; Released: November 10, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Football Manager 2018 given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.