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Football Manager 2015 PC Review

It was two years ago when Football Manager 2013 splashed onto the scene with its Classic Mode, a genius addition that was aimed for newer people or older fans that might have given up on the series, either because of complexity or time constraints. It was no doubt the best Football Manager game for some time, and the developers, Sports Interactive, were rewarded with praise from the press and from sales with Football Manager 2013 remaining the most sold game in the history of the franchise. 2014 saw a solid follow up, adding more to Classic Mode, even including save swapping with the Vita version, but keeping it simple enough without the bloating. A year later, we are back in the cold and wet month of November with the latest addition to the franchise, Football Manager 2015, which adds bloat to the main mode that made it an obvious choice to me that Classic Mode is the way to go in 2015.

Normally you have to go a little deeper to see some of the new features in a freshly released Football Manager game, but from the get go you are introduced to the adjusted user interface, which now attaches itself to the left hand side to offer a more fluid way to access the many menus, such as emails, tactics, training and transfers, which are built on top of the complex calculations that run in the background. It might not seem like an important factor, but having the bar on display at all times on the side is much more effective for the player than having to go to the top and bring down a dropdown menu and selecting segments from there. There is also a nice big search bar at the top that is highlighted with your current team’s colours and name, and simply entering some letters begins a Google-esque search that drops down and shows you matches close to the text. It’s an appealing and intuitive design for the better, and it shows you what is available at all times, so I no longer forget about my squad of under 18s, poor lads.

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Let’s not forget that even though there is a snazzier interface, you are still doing the same thing as in previous games – managing your favourite team and hopefully taking them to the top and becoming the best, no matter how many years it takes, and for some people addictive to the series this can mean playing for hundreds and hundreds of hours. Football Manager 2015 still has that addictive grip over a player. It’s so easy to lose hours of your day to this game, because setting up a squad for one more match and hopefully one more win is so rewarding when successfully accomplishing that task, especially so when starting with a lower league team.

Your career as a manager begins as soon as you have selected your team and decided on what type of manager you will be – Tracksuit or a Tactical manager. Tracksuit is a manager that focuses more on training players, growing the youth team, getting the players fit and working the tactics. It’s a role that’s more hands on and physical compared to a Tactical manager, which is a person who stands back and displays knowledge about the players, combines them together well with man management skills and great tactics to be successful through determination and a powerful aura that a man like Sir Alex Ferguson constantly carried with him. A Style Focus slider can be used, along with shifting individually points, to determine how much of a bias to one side you think you are. It’s a good way to slide buffs into how you play Football Manager, but there is something off about being able to change statistics like this. I would have liked it if the game adapted and changed your ratings in this area based on how much you interacted with each key attribute that the game uses to rate the type of manager you are, rather than freely modifying it at the start.

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More power has been given to the manger on the pitch during match time. The Touchline Team Talk is similar to the team talks that take place during pre, middle and post matches. This new addition is trying to represent the passion of the manager yelling at his team or players to up their concentration or to get them to push forward. The effect you have at manipulating your players is based on the earlier mentioned management style (Tactical or Tracksuit). Being good means you will get a more positive reaction from the players, rather than some of them not giving the care in the world. It’s another layer added to the match game that can alter the cause of the game by a tiniest of margins, but as time went on, I became somewhat lazy in the concept of shouting at my players, so instead I just clicked on the “change” button whenever my assistant recommended me to do one.

I know they are going for the team interaction, just like the real sport, but it was a little too much for me to keep up with. I’m sure some people will take time to enjoy that feature, but thankfully, my little assistant was pretty good at offering advice most of the time to save me the work. It’s a shame that they didn’t take the manager role further on the pitch, because I wasn’t able to go around doing the Wenger Push on other managers that were annoying me.

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It seems Sports Interactive’s theme for 2015 is interaction. Not only have the additional team talks been included, but now you seem to get more requests for interviews from tabloid and broadsheet newspapers trying to get a scoop on your transfer hunt, why you rejected contract talks or asking your opinion on a certain manager’s style of play. There are more topics to discuss and the tone in how you answer them can change their perception of you in later interviews. To top it all off, you now have interviews at the end of important matches, which Sports Interactive call “tunnel interviews” and the press can also come visit your training session to grab a quick question and answers session with you. There’s just a bit too much talking for my liking, but again, Sports Interactive go “Ha! We have you sorted” by implement ways to speed this up, which in the case here is sending your assistant to take all the annoying questions while you concentrate on building a winning team. It’s fair to say that Sports Interactive have you covered in most of the time consuming features, but in the back of my mind I can’t help but think that the game is secretly punishing me somewhere down the line for not paying attention to the less interesting parts of Football Manager.

Some of my comments probably sound like I’m not enjoying a lot of the new additions. I find that they are taking me away from the parts I enjoy playing in Football Manager. It’s not all chatter and hindrance though, as the scouting system has received a boosting improvement over previous iterations. Managers can pick desirable attributes or even aim to find a replacement for a player on the team, making the scout go off and find someone with similar statistics to become the new legend at whatever club you are in charge of.

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Scouts have become a deadly weapon in finding the new hot prospect in the game’s massive footballer database, and there is an emphasis on keeping them used when looking at future signings, as scouts take a few attempts to accurately acquire a player’s attributes, beginning with a range between two numbers, then finally pinpointing the right number. This means scouting is best done when the transfer market is closed, so that you have a good idea how brilliant the player is by keeping an eye on him for a few month before the buying period begins. There is always the option to use the built in Steam Workshop options, thanks to fans who have built together a nice shortlist of some of the great young talents tucked away into the dark depths of the database or great scouts that every team should try hire.

While I used to be a fan of the classic circle representation of the players from the old days of Championship Manager and earlier Football Manager games, I am growing to the idea of watching my matches with the 3D engine, which is once again improved this year with motion captured animations to make the action smoother, along with a new lighting system to distinguish the time of day or when the weather gets bad with an overcast of rain due in. The issue with the graphics looking like something from an early PS2 game, instead of the beautiful showcases that current generation football titles, such as the latest Pro Evolution Soccer, are still a problem for some, but as it stands, this is the best the series has to a presentable 3D match engine.

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Just like every year, there are countless other smaller improvements to the game, but the big ones I feel aren’t as important as the updates that some of the previous entries received. A lot of the new features in Football Manager 2015 made me want to play Classic Mode, which returns here offering a more streamlined and simpler game that moves at a quicker pace. Classic Mode makes dealing with all the baggage disappear, the press keep away, the conferences are short and uncommon, scouting is faster and matches you don’t care for can be instantly finished for a speedy result. It feels very much like year’s Classic Mode with a new user interface, but then it was fantastic last year, and still is now.

In all honesty, it’s hard to truly fault the developers for trying to bring more meaningfulness to the day to day business a manager has to deal with running a club. Even though I personally don’t like a lot of the nonsense that comes with dealing with sections that pull me away from my team management and building, there is always an option to skip it in some way, even if it does feel like you might be handicapped for it. Of course, you can always just play the superb Classic Mode and forget about these chores.

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This year’s Football Manager game feels a bit like the current state of Manchester United. The series has previously brought meaningful and well thought out advancements to improve the game, but this year the impact on the game comes across less aspiring and more awkward, as the company strives to make the most complete management experience a player can have, even if this means bringing along some of the boring parts of the job as well. It’s still a great management game, and no doubt, just like I am sure Manchester United will fine their spark again, the series will return next year, and the year after, with more worthwhile improvements. If not, then we always have the wonderful Classic Mode to fall back on.

8 out of 10