Football Manager 2011 PC & Mac DVD
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: Sports Interactive
Sports Interactive have ruled the roost in the football management genre for years now and with every new release it’s often wondered how the new features will change the experience. At first glance you may be forgiven for thinking that not a lot has changed this year. In fact most of the several hundred improvements could be considered minor things but cumulatively these minor things really make a difference. There are several major additions too and in some respect these help to make the game a more immersive experience.
Player interactions have been reworked in Football Manager 2011 to make them feel more like a real conversation rather than a prolonged back and forth text communication. This allows you to receive immediate feedback from your players when conversing with them. You’ll get immediate feedback on things such as their answers to your requests for them to change their training and their views on other things such as the grievances that they have with you. It really helps to make the game more immersive. It’s possible for dialogues to go awry however and when they do you can be left with really upset players who can prove to be a disruptive influence on the squad.
It’s not just players who’ll you’ll be conversing with in this natural dialogue fashion. Conversations with your board and player agents are carried out in the same way. Player agents are present during transfer negotiations, which have also been improved this year, and will give you indications if a deal is acceptable for their client or not. They will also send you messages recommending that you take a look at their various clients. Whilst this is definitely a nice touch and another step toward making the game more realistic, there are times when agents will offer players who are above and beyond what your club could realistically hope to afford and this does become a source of annoyance at times.
There is now a match preparation screen where you can pick three formations to practice in the run up to a match in addition to choosing whether to put an emphasis on defending, attacking, set pieces, enhancing the blend of your team or other things. It’s a fine addition and you’ll also get to see how accustomed your team is to each of the formations you’re intending to practice in the build up to the game. You can also access scout reports on your next opponents and see who your scout thinks are their players to look out for.
On the subject of tactics, you can now not only create your own tactics but also issue basic instructions for set pieces to go along with the tactics. The instructions you can give are actually fairly basic in nature and certainly won’t completely satisfy those who want to go into minute detail for their tactics but it’s a start and more importantly, your orders do seem to be carried out most of the time to the best of your players’ abilities. Of course when your tactics come off and your team are playing well you might want to take advantage of the ability to put your highlights straight on to YouTube and you can thanks to the feature being included in the game. You can set the quality settings for your movies and have the game upload them straight to your YouTube page which is certainly a feature that will please those who are proud of their achievements in the game.
It’s not all good news however. The game ships with a single interface skin and whilst it’s slightly better than then one in last year’s game you’re only getting a bright white skin which some, including myself, will find uncomfortable on the eyes with extended play. Hopefully Sports Interactive will release a dark skin after the game has been released.* Some aspects of the game that have been in need of improvement for quite a while have received little or no any attention. The media interaction is still tedious and repetitive and mostly seems like a way to either lift or crush the spirits of your own players. The only real difference this year is that you’ll often get asked a question again because you fans want ‘a real answer’. You’re also reminded of previous answers you’ve given to the same questions for some reason. Team talks still feel inadequate. Again you still can’t say what you want because there are only a handful of comments that you can make and often there’s no choice for anything you’d like to say. In one of my games the keeper was having a nightmare and insisted on coming off his line needlessly. I’d have loved to have been able to tell him to stop on his line (or else!) but it’s not an option. Let’s hope both the team talks and media interactions receive some serious attention for next year’s game.
The 3D match engine that first appeared a few years ago has once again been improved. The graphical quality of the 3D matches has been improved with better looking lighting effects, pitches, players, stadia and there are even several backgrounds types for the grounds. On the whole the matches are more enjoyable to watch and look slightly more realistic than they did in last year’s game. There’s a new TV style camera angle which gives you a closer view of the action. I didn’t find this a better camera angle from which to view the matches but it works well when selected for action replays. You’ll see lines appear across the pitch when there’s an offside incident that’s worthy of a replay. Player animations have been improved and the player movements look more realistic than ever. However, there are still some strange animations here and the 3D match engine is still in need of refinement but the progress made in a few short years is impressive.
As with all previous Sports Interactive titles Football Manager 2011 is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the information in the game is shown through the use of text, icons or numbers. There is no speech in the game and the only sounds in the game are the crowd effects during a match. Whilst there are no captions for the crowd noises, it’s far from being a problem. I still think the text used to display player names during a match is a little small and some of the icons used could be a little bigger, but it’s certainly not a major problem.
Football Manager 2011 doesn’t represent a major leap forward for the series but the small steps it takes forward are certainly welcome. It’s unfortunate that the team talks and media interactions haven’t been improved upon and it’s a shame that no new leagues have been added and that the game ships with one interface skin that some will find too bright. Still, minor disappointments aside, this is the best version of Football Manager to date with new features that all help to make the experience more immersive and believable. I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to playing Football Manager 2010 and miss out on the improvements that Football Manager 2011 makes to the series.*From what I’ve gathered from the official Football Manager forums, it appears that retail copies have received a day one update which adds a dark interface skin. The review code we used didn’t include one however.