PC & Mac
Published by SEGA
Developed by Sports Interactive
It's that time of the year again when the latest version of one of the most addictive PC games of all time arrives causing frustration, sheer delight and a severe lack of sleep for football fans everywhere. The challenge of taking the managerial reigns of a team of your choice, from over fifty nations, from despair to silverware is just too irresistible for many and, as you would probably expect given the track record of Sports Interactive, this year's version is just as addictive as ever. The game comes with hundreds of adjustments and improvements and in addition this year there are three extra game modes being thrown in for good measure.
Let's begin by taking a look at those three new game modes: Football Manager Classic, Challenge and Versus. Anyone who has played Sports Interactive's football management games over the last decade or so will readily admit that the level of complexity has soared. A decade ago you could get through a season in a day or two without going on holiday in the game and leaving it running overnight. Getting through a season in a recent Football Manager game can take weeks (again assuming you're actually watching the matches and not simply going on holiday in the game) and for some that can be just too time consuming. Football Manager Classic is a mode that offers a 'lite' Football Manager experience allowing you to quickly move from match to match without too much to do in between. You'll still buy players, pick the sides and have full tactical control during matches but there are no team talks or media conferences to engage in (although you are asked the odd question from the local press). Training has been trimmed down to practically nothing, in fact there's no individual player training in this mode, which in some respects is a little disappointing. You'll also notice that you don't have to watch the match if you don't want to. You have the option to jump to an instant result. I'm not sure how I feel about that as I've always detested that feature in other football management games and to see Sports Interactive include it seems all wrong but then again the essence of the Football Manager Classic mode is speed and being able to plough your way through season after season in a high-speed fashion. Being able to get instant results is a feature that does more than any other to get you through the season in a timely fashion so I suppose its inclusion shouldn't be criticised.
One limitation of the mode however is that you can only have three active nations which may be a little disappointing for some. The mode also uses a different interface, an interface shared by all three of these new modes, which is significantly different from the interface in the main game. Some may not find the different interfaces a problem but having spent a lot of time over the last week or so switching between the main mode and these new additions I've found the differences a little jarring. Surely it would have been simpler to have kept the same interface and simply remove the elements that were no longer applicable in these new modes. Another thing I've noticed is that whilst I certainly wouldn't mind an occasional return to the simplicity of the days of the Championship Manger 2 and Championship Manager 3 series I've found myself wishing for a little more depth when playing the Football Manager Classic mode. That said, you do get through the seasons much more quickly and as a result it's a mode that will definitely satisfy some players. Essentially it's a mode I'll certainly dip into from time to time but for the most part I'd rather focus on the main game.
Controversially Sports Interactive have taken the decision to include a collection of what could be termed as 'unlockable assists' in the Football Manager Classic mode. Altogether there are twelve of these which amongst other things can remove all of the transfer windows, give your club a new stadium, remove loan restrictions, make you immune from being sacked, do away with the need for work permits and make all of the players in the game interested in joining your team. All of these can be purchased and over half of them can be earned through playing the Football Manager Classic mode. You can even purchase extra money for your club if you're feeling desperate enough. None of these features I'm pleased to say can be used in the main game which has thankfully been kept 'assist' free.
Challenge mode gives you the opportunity to tackle one of four scenarios each with their own length and difficulty ratings. In The Savior Cometh you're half way through a season and fighting a relegation battle. Essentially you have half of the season to get your team to safety. Injury Crisis sees you having to deal with a long injury list and yet you still have to meet your board's expectations despite this serious problem. The Invincibles puts you in charge of team that is unbeaten in the league and it's your goal to finish the season undefeated. Finally in You can't win anything with kids you are blessed with a clutch of talented youthful players and it's your target to use them as the core of your team and bring in some silverware. What I really like about these challenges is that you're free to pick which side you want to control to participate in the challenge. Obviously picking the better sides means you are lessening the challenge somewhat but the option to manage who you want practically means these challenges have limitless replay value. The game also offers online leaderboards (which take all of the variables into account to ensure fairness in the overall rating system) to make the challenges just that little bit more competitive.
More challenges are to be made available although they will have to be purchased. If there's a complaint I have to make about the Challenge mode, which generally I find very enjoyable, it's that it uses the Football Manager Classic game engine so you're not getting the full depth that you would have in the main game. It's not much of a problem but it would have been more satisfying to have had full control over your team in these challenges. Of course using the Football Manager Classic game engine does allow you to complete the challenges much more quickly however, which I daresay many will appreciate.
Versus mode allows you to create your own competitions and invite your friends to take part in them with you. You can create a Knockout Cup for 2-32 players, a League for 2-6 teams where you'll play each other twice and a Head-to-Head League where two players will play each other five times. You can either use a team you've exported from your single-player game or simply pick from any of the club sides present in the game.
Football Manager 2013 isn't just about new modes of course. The core game has a wealth of additions and refinements that help to make this a better game than Football Manager 2012. In actual fact there are around nine hundred improvements in the game ranging from minor tweaks, that some might not notice at first, to fairly significant additions that really add more realism and depth to the game. Naturally, it's impossible to cover everything in this review.
Youth teams can now have their own facilities and training grounds. New non-player roles have been introduced into the game. You can now have a director of football. Should you choose to employ one, you can delegate some of tasks to them such as scouting, transfer negotiations, staff recruitment and youth development. To truly develop your squad you'll want a head of youth development and other youth team staff who can help you assemble a squad filled with talented youngsters during the course of a long-term game. The role of chief scout has also been added to the game to help you co-ordinate your scouting network and make it operate more efficiently.
Training has been simplified and essentially combined with general match preparation. You get to choose what aspect of training to focus on each week and its intensity. You'll also get to decide on whether to focus more on general or match training. Up to 50% of your training can be dedicated to match preparation. You still have full control over individual player training if you wish however. You can now tell your coaches to go and get their coaching badges in order to improve their technique providing your club finances allow it. If you want to you can now send your team to pre-season and winter break training camps choosing what players to send to the camp.
More situation specific team talks allow you to say more appropriate things to your players before, during and after matches. The tone system that was implemented for the team talks in Football Manager 2012 is now present when you are talking to the media. This essentially allows you to flavour your comments to the media and put across your general mood. Whilst this is a nice touch it still would be appreciated if we could have more variation in the things being said however, as there are times when it can feel as though you're using the same responses again and again.
Those who appreciate realism will be pleased to learn that the financial modelling of clubs is more realistic and that each country's tax rate is now taken into account. You're also told how much a player will receive after tax in contract negotiations. Of course if you're managing in a country with a higher tax rate you'll need to pay the player more to give them the required take-home pay. The economic recession has been taken into consideration and you'll generally find most clubs in Europe are more financially constrained than in previous games. You can now obtain projections of your future finances to alert you to possible financial difficulties in the years ahead which is extremely useful if you're in charge of a team that's just been relegated.
The 3D match engine has undergone some improvements this year. Not only have the graphics been improved but the player animations also look more realistic. There are more camera angles too and essentially the matches look significantly better than in previous versions. That said, you can tell that the 3D match engine still needs work. There are times when both outfield players and goalkeepers seem to move unnaturally sidewards or backwards to receive the ball which is a little disconcerting to watch. Whilst the animations are clearly an improvement they are by no means perfect and still need work. On the whole however it's clear that improvements have been made and when you consider that no football game, management simulation or not, has completely managed to replicate the true look and feel of a football match, even after many years and versions, it's fair to say that Sports Interactive are making progress at quite an impressive rate.
I don't think that there has ever been a problem with any of Sports Interactive's titles in respect to their accessibility for deaf gamers and Football Manager 2013 is no exception. All of the information in the game is shown visually through the use of numbers, text and mostly self-explanatory icons. All of the game's concepts are explained in an impressive collection of tutorials which will ease newcomers into the world of Football Manager. These tutorials are all in text and can be recalled at any time. I would like to see an option to increase the size of the text in the game, particularly on higher resolution displays where some of the screens, particularly those accessible during the course of a match, use quite small text and have a lot of redundant space. In terms of accessibility however, there are no complaints.
Reviewing a behemoth of a game such as Football Manager 2013 with its sheer breadth and depth is never easy and no review of such a game can claim to be comprehensive given the time constraints involved. That said, when returning to a series that you're familiar with, and fond of, you tend to look at the various aspects of the game that you feel could have done with improving to see if real progress has been made. Given how good Football Manager 2012 was I wasn't expecting Football Manager 2013 to be much of an improvement but an improvement it certainly is and that's without taking the new modes into account. There are more than enough refinements and tweaks here to make me never want to play Football Manager 2012 again which is some compliment given how much I like last year's game. Yes the match engine still needs work but progress clearly has been made. The new modes definitely put a new twist on the series and are worthwhile distractions but I suspect many longstanding fans of Football Manager will want to plough most of their time into the main game rather than the Football Manager Classic mode which feels too trimmed down for my tastes. The Challenge mode definitely has more value although I wish they employed the full game engine and not the cut down one from the Football Manager Classic mode. Even without taking the new modes into consideration Football Manager 2013 is the best football management game to date. The many tweaks and refinements help to make this a truly memorable game that will soak up most of your spare time between now and the release of next year's sequel.