Another year, another Football Manager and another time sink that will take up well over a hundred hours of my life. My Football Manager addiction has been covered before, and I can reliably inform you that it hasn’t worn off, yet. Which brings us to the newest addition in the franchise, the unsurprisingly named Football Manager 2017. So the question is, how good is it?
Well, if you played last year’s game then you will know what to expect. FM is at a stage in its life where there are no sweeping changes but instead incremental ones. Tiny tweaks to make the whole thing run better. If you hated last year’s game (or the one before that), then this won’t change your mind. It’s more of the same.
But it’s more of the same in a good way. There is so much to FM that you probably can’t truly review it until around this time next year. However, in the seventy odd hours I’ve put into it so far, I have been impressed. The whole thing is smoother. Things like coach recommendations are no longer something you check once or twice a month but are now more similar to your Inbox. They pop up when you need them, and that makes sense. It feels like more like your assistant has whispered in your ear during training than arranged a formal meeting.
Which brings us neatly to the additions to the coaching staff. Much like the real world Data Analysts and Sports Scientists are now part of the package. Although it has to be said that as of yet I haven’t quite figured out what to do with them. I’ve got some, and I’m sure they are beavering away nicely, but fuck knows what the end product is.
When it gets down to interacting with the players there has been some nice additions too. Contract negotiations have been expanded, and you can now make promises to those you are trying to entice. That can be anything from giving them a significant pay rise to playing them in their preferred position. Transfer deals can now also be arranged so that they only go through if a particular player leaves your club, giving you more time to prepare. These are the small things which bring the game to life.
Of course, where FM truly wins or loses is on the pitch. It doesn’t matter if everything else is perfect, you need the moment eleven men face off against eleven men to work too. So far, that experience has been pretty damn good. I might be being swayed by the fact my first save has been a rip-roaring success as my possession based tactics take Scottish football by storm, but I promise I’m trying not to be biased. The game feels more responsive than ever, and small tactical tweaks do seem to make a difference.
There are still issues. The social media feed is a good idea in theory but needs a lot of work to feel realistic. While someone calling me a cunt on it would feel like real life, Aberdeen fans proclaiming they still dislike me when we’ve just won the league or casting doubts on whether a player really was injured after a six-month layoff doesn’t ring true. Elsewhere, the reputation system for managers doesn’t feel right. You’d think a couple of titles and a trip to the Champions League Group Stages with an unfavoured team would get me some attention, but apparently, no one’s even noticed.
As I mentioned, it’s hard to review a Football Manager game. Even in 70 hours, I’ve only seen a sliver of what it has to offer, and I haven’t even had the much talked about Brexit come about in my game yet. However, as someone who has put more hours into these games than I would care to admit this game feels like a natural successor to what’s come before. The tweaks have turned what was already an enjoyable experience into an even better one, and Sports Interactive continue to be the kings of football management simulation.