Football Manager 2012 PC DVD
Published by SEGA
Developed by Sports Interactive
It happens every year. You're busy enjoying a long term game in the current version of Football Manager when the news of the latest version appears via the official website and the Sports Interactive forums. Suddenly you have no interest in the game you're playing and can't wait for the demo of the new game to emerge. Every year it's the same story as new features are included and existing ones are improved to make the experience just that little bit more realistic. Football Manager 2012 includes a lot of adjustments and tweaks and some new features too but surprisingly, it's the reworking of the user interface that really helps to elevate Football Manager 2012 above previous games in the series.
For the last few games in the series the emphasis has been on you interacting with your squad through the use of team talks and private conversations. The problem with such communications is that there was no emotion involved so there was no way of saying something in either a passionate or calm manner as in real life. This year, thanks to the tone system, it's not so much what you say but how you say it. There are six tones in all: aggressive, assertive, passionate, cautious and reluctant. You'll simply select your tone and for each tone there will be a selection of responses. Sometimes the wording of a response is the same across multiple tones but obviously you'll be putting it across in a calmer or more aggressive manner which can change how the player reacts. The tone system appears to work really well, although you do have to bear in mind that players are individuals who react in different ways so a way of talking to one player might not necessarily be the best way of talking to another. You are always informed of the player's attitude however so you are fully aware of how they are taking your conversation, which is a nice touch.
As we mentioned at the top of this review, the user interface has been reworked this year and the game really benefits. Many of the screens have been improved so that you'll have all of the essential information on one screen doing away with the need to constantly switch from one screen to the next. This makes everything more accessible and allows you to see much more information at a glance. You'll even find the 'i' symbol next to a player’s name and placing your cursor over this symbol reveals the player's attributes which is really useful and prevents you from going to yet another screen if you simply want a quick overview of the player. On player selection screens you can add your own columns to display extra data. If you want to display the passing rating (or any other rating) of every player when you're on the tactics screen, you can. This really helps to give you more information at a glance. The match preparation details have been blended into the tactics screen and you're also made aware of how comfortable your team is with each specific tactic. Previous games in the series were often criticised for failing to take advantage of higher screen resolutions leaving plenty of blank space on screen. FM 2012 rectifies this problem and if you are running the game at higher resolutions you'll find much more information on the screen and a lot less redundant space.
The last few versions of Football Manager have included a tutorial system that allowed you to look up various aspects that you were unsure about. This year Sports Interactive have added a collection of tutorials that help to guide you through some of the gameplay basics. There are five self-contained tutorials on the interface, making a transfer offer, contract negotiations, creating and developing tactics and playing a match. These tutorials are primarily aimed at those who haven't experienced the series before. You essentially have your hand held through each of these tutorials with dialogue boxes explaining what you're doing (or need to do) and relevant elements on the navigation bar being highlighted to make it clear where you need to click. These tutorials are impressive but you do wish there were more of them. I'd love more in-depth tutorials on training and things to look out for when managing a financially strapped lower league club side. How about tutorials for international management? Football Manager 2012 has so much depth that in all honesty you could probably do around fifty or so of these tutorials and there would still be elements that are unexplained. No one expects that many tutorials but there are certainly some key areas of the game that could do with tutorials such as this.
Have you ever begun a new game in a previous Football Manager and realised that you've enabled too many leagues with the result being the game is running too slow or maybe (like me) you've created a new game and a few seasons in you wish you had enabled more leagues and nations because you'd like to further your virtual management career abroad? In previous games in the series the only solution was to start a new game. In Football Manager 2012 you don't have to do that any longer as you can now add and remove leagues and nations to a game that's already in progress. It's a simple addition but it's one that means you can trim down or increase the amount of leagues in your game at any time. A newly added league can't become active until a new season begins in that league however but this is a minor restriction.
In total Football Manager 2012 contains a staggering 800 improvements. We've already mentioned some of the big improvements but there are plenty of 'minor' ones that help improve the experience. 'Newgens' (new players who emerge to replace the players who retire during the course of a game) now obtain region specific traits allowing future Dutch and Brazilian players to play the game in a style you would expect them to. The transfer system has been reworked to allow you to 'lock' various aspects of the transfer negotiation to make it crystal clear to those you're dealing with that you can't budge on points but can on others. Team meetings can be organised and you can address matters of concern with either your captain or those who feel the need to speak out. International management has been reworked to make it a little more involving. There has also been a variety of tweaks to some of the leagues such as the MLS and A League in Australia to make them more realistic. Many more improvements and tweaks are present in the game and for sake of brevity it will have to suffice to say that the end result is that they all help to make the game the most addictive and polished game in the series to date.
There are some disappointments with Football Manager 2012 of course. There are no new leagues and it's been a while since any new ones have been added to the series. That said the Dutch national side is now officially licensed, although the German one isn't. Whilst it's great that the team talks have been improved and you can now engage in private conversations with your players, there are some problems. I had one player who decided to air his views on my team talks in the local press. Naturally I decided that I'd have a word with him but on doing so I found there was no mention of his behaviour and that he had no issues. Having him moaning about me in the press and not being able to pull him up on it was a little annoying. It's disappointing that you can't set 'without the ball' tactics for your players as you could in some of the earlier Sports Interactive titles. This has been a much requested feature over the years and it's strange that it is yet to be implemented into the Football Manager series. Having one team facing the wrong direction at kick-off is a silly bug. There appear to be too many goals from long range and occasionally you'll see the players make some silly mistakes. Some of the environments around the grounds might look appropriate when you're playing in the English league but they look silly when you're managing some of the other nations. All of these are simply minor niggles however and don't prevent the game from being the best in the series to date.
The presentation of the game as a whole is the best so far in the Football Manager series. We've already mentioned the improved use of the extra screen space that modern PC displays afford and the displaying of a greater amount of data on screen at any one time to do away with the need for switching between so many screens but there are other visual aspects that have been improved too. The match engine has never looked so good with improved player animations, additional camera angles and referee gestures. The crowds look a little more realistic and are much more animated. The various stadia in the game look good but as we mentioned earlier the various environments into which the stadia are placed do look out of place in certain countries. The game also boasts improved weather effects which certainly help to make things look a little more realistic. In regards to its deaf gamer friendliness Football Manager 2012 is just the same as the previous games in the series. All of the information is displayed using text, icons and numbers so there are no accessibility problems at all. It's also pleasing to see that an option to finally disable the flashing text that occurs when a goal is scored to benefit those who suffer from epilepsy.
With practically no real competition in the football management genre you'd be forgiven for thinking that Sports Interactive would find it difficult not to become complacent. In truth Football Manager 2012 shows little sign of this and the end result is a game that's the most impressive in the series to date. The 800 or so improvements really help to make the game more accessible and more addictive than any of the previous games in the series which is an impressive achievement when the depth of the series increases with every new release. Yes there are some minor disappointments here and there is still some room for improvement but there's also a level of excellence in the game that is simply miles ahead of any other sports management game I've ever played and it is without a doubt a benchmark for the genre that all football fans must simply experience.