Another in the back of the net for the kings of footie management
“Football – it’s a funny old game”, the cliché goes, but is often found to be never truer than when used towards a football management sim. After all, what kind of game really uses screen after screen of numbers, stats, monetary values, diagrams and correspondence as its foundation? Yet being the funny beast it is, footie management games seem to pull a certain sizeable slice of PC owners in every year, offering tweaked and improved gameplay of a subtle persuasion year-on-year. And the interesting thing is, every year it seems there is just enough change to warrant the full price releases we receive. Football Manager 2012 is one such beast – on paper, it’s a budding Statto’s dream, offering the player the choice to start in one of 51 countries from around the world, often at most major levels. Pick your team, pick the countries you want to include, check it balances against your PC and off you go. But hold your horses there, son, because the management game isn’t as simple as picking a team and watching them destroy the opposition, and FM12’s first possible stumbling block becomes apparent with the depth and breadth of the tutorial. Basically, FM12 has got an obscene amount of stuff to tinker with, and if you are new to the game you’ll quickly get lost in the nuances of scouting reports and set piece planning. Thankfully, the tutorial covers all the relevant areas you need to deal with by walking you through the options, although it doesn’t do a lot to assist in team formations and what to look for in a player. That’s down to you, and is a steep curve if you don’t know what you are doing. Thankfully, though, every different change, tactic, player positioning swap and more is clearly marked on the teamsheet screen, so when you drop that left back into an attacking role he isn’t happy with, you’ll see a little traffic light to show you his displeasure. The same philosophy comes into every other aspect of the game, so as an example, when negotiating the contract for a possible purchase, you’ll clearly see where the agents is holding out for better terms. However, even this has a workaround, with it possible to lock down certain areas (wages, signing fee, bonuses, etc.) to allow the agent to work on the other areas. It’s actually quite creepy the level of humanlike interaction in these areas, with a feeling of real bargaining between you and the Ai – it’s also massively immersive, and truly brilliant. So what’s new for the veterans? Well, the addition of hot swapping for nations and leagues is brilliant – no more running out of leagues to dominate, you can just import some new ones and get cracking again. The transfer system has had some good tweaking too, with better options for bonuses, signing on fees and the like, and the improved transfer AI lets you really grind it out with the agent in question. The new scouting system is brilliant too, offering at-a-glance reporting with real value in decision making. There’s even a better selection of team talk options thrown in for no extra charge. Visually, I’m not sure what to say – FM12 isn’t anything more than functional, although the various screens do a great job of laying out what you need in a clear and presentable fashion. Matchday is a bit of a let down, however, with the live feed engine looking not unlike Sensible Soccer, with wooden animations and poor quality graphics. The truth is, however, you’ll probably be too busy tweaking your tactics to even really notice. Sound is also minimal to the point of the nonexistent, so I’d advise plopping on a nice long mix in iTunes before you start to keep you going. I can happily recommend a bit of Orbital as a great place to start.
FM12 is definitely the best out there, and will bring hours of joy to all who take the time to learn it
The real joy here is in the nuances though, and this is where FM12 really glows. Getting to the first match in any management sim is often a laborious affair, and Sports Interactive have done an incredible job at every level. Scout reports give you the high level findings with a link to full stats on a player, and recommend the signing tactics. You can set up three different formations, with all the set pieces to match, as well as team and individual playing styles, all of which can be tinkered with on the fly, letting Notts Forest play more attacking football at home yet a closed down style for away games, with a further option for late on in the game if you are chasing a win. It’s just got so many layers you’ll often find you’ve blown two hours looking for the best youth player to promote, or working out how your best players will fit into the new attacking style. FM12 isn’t going to convert the non believer, but in reality it would be tough for any management sim to do so. Instead it further polishes a refined system, adding further layers of depth, new tweaks (adding and removing leagues and countries mid game is a masterstroke – no more new game depression!) and just a general shine to everything in game. Once again, it is worth the price of the upgrade, thanks to intelligent new ideas and a full suite of support staff who feel like real people to interact with daily. In fact, when I left Bournemouth after 2 years to join my new club, I actually took a few minutes to get used to the new staff and their mannerisms – that’s just how good a game this is. So, yet another must buy for wannabe Dalgishs, Fergusons and Villas Boas everywhere – you’ll find that yet again the entry price pales in comparison to the sheer number of hours to be lost in the transfer market and tactics screens. FM12 is definitely the best out there, and will bring hours of joy to all who take the time to learn it – just be prepared for a bit of an intial slog if you are new to the genre.
The Bad: No sound; live game engine is poor; overwhelming for the newcomer, although the tutorial helps quite a lot