Football Manager 2017 is gaming heroin. I take a look at this year’s annual update to get my fix.
Me and Football Manager go way back
My love affair with Football Manager goes back to the Championship Manager era. I was a fresh-faced 14-year-old boy. Fabio Paim and Freddy Adu were tipped to be future heroes, waiting to grace the main stage. There was no talk of these Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi chaps. This was the first time I was able to bring my beloved Fulham to the pinnacle of world football. A team that today, I can still name the starting 11 off. That’s how big an impact the game had on me. The addiction began. Last year, I “wasted” almost a month winning no less than 10 Champions League over a 30-year career. Remember too, that’s a month’s worth of actual playing time. That binge ended with an assistant manager by the name of Harry Kane. At the same time, Ireland were managed by an elderly Robbie Keane.
The class of 2017
Football Manager 2016 was as close to perfection as I thought we could get. I was wrong. The latest rendition, creatively titled Football Manager 2017, steps up on last year. Particularly pleasing are the changes aimed at hardcore fans who upgrade every year.
Football Manager 2017 has plenty of clever improvements. First and foremost, the look of the game is improved. Considering the amount of time you spend pouring over the numbers, this is important. Better still, many of the numbers are accompanied by lovely diagrams and graphs. This provides you with delicious insights into your player’s stats – like possession.
Your personal assistant brings you all the information needed to run a football club. This information sits in your inbox screen, where you’ll be spending plenty of time. The inbox provides areas to scout, reports, match day analysis, press conferences, player disputes and more. Even inter-squad handbags are brought your attention. The obvious goal here is to make you feel like a real football manager, dealing with the likes of Joey Barton.
Player roles are far stricter than ever before. Don’t even think about playing your second choice winger as a full back. Without training him first it will end in tears – I promise you this. Playing Peter Crouch as a center back because of his height will never end well. Football Managers will note this is like playing Ronaldo as deep lying playmaker. In a few years, you’ll end up with the man having the footballing brain of a toddler.
Devil in the detail
Sports Interactive have outdone themselves with their attention to detail this year. They’ve been so good at this in the past, Sky Sports use them during Transfer Deadline Day. A few years back, “This is Football” introduced diving and, to be fair, new aspects of football make the headlines. Social media is another great example. You’ll see your inbox taken over with Twitter style updates. Fans will get on your back about games and signings, as journalists ask about big name signings. It does become a little repetitive, but we expect big things in next year’s title.
Speaking of details, there’s even a Brexit simulation. A hard Brexit will see the number of imported foreign players limited. Your entire career, hinging on non-football decisions outside of your control, is a first for the series. We’re certainly interested to see the outcome.
Ironing out long standing kinks
Traditionally the hardest part of the whole game is the initial set up. Dear god is it tedious. You pick your club, meet your the staff, board and players. Next up, one must go about handing out menial tasks to your eager backroom staff. If the press conferences get a little boring, hand them off to your assistant. Keep forgetting about pre-match training? Your assistant will do that. It’s the one touch here aimed at bringing new players into the game and making my life plenty easier. A win-win feature. The Football Manager franchise has long moved away from the 2D match simulations. The game hasn’t reached FIFA or PES levels of 3D simulation just yet, with the text commentary making up for it. The beauty being you paint an image in your head of your goals. The problem is the game’s creators are quite pushy with 3D. It’s harder to ignore now, especially when all you want is 2D dots. BRING BACK THE MAGIC DOTS.
The transfer system is magical
Enough about the negatives, let’s talk about the transfer system. The transfer system is perhaps the most complete aspect of any football game, ever. The wealth of options available to you to help to secure a big name deal is insane. You can interact with prospective players, making promises and the likes. You have to deal with the slimey agents who are out for their own interests. Attracting your targets is far from the days of lob a bid in. Painful, but realistic and fun. Exactly how I imagine David Moyes felt during his tenure as boss at Manchester United.
My verdict of Football Manager 2017
In the early days, I’d hide in my room and swear to my Ma that I’d sleep after “just one more game”. Since those days, Football manager as grown a huge amount. Many aspects of the game follow the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” logic. Still, the creators cram enough into the game to add value every year.
Some of the new features may be rough and repetitive. The updated 3D graphics will need work if a realistic game engine is their end goal, matching up to the likes of FIFA. Some new users won’t be overly enamoured. For the lifers, willing to give up their time and probably their significant other. Get ready to don your finest top half of a suit for the cup final.
Best time waster ever.
PS: Search hard enough and you can find your own Sunday League team. Special shoutout to Mungret F.C. See if you can do the same and share it with us. I will share my tactic and training files and my top 5 wonder kids in this year’s title if you are successful.