Football Manager 2012 Review

Football, or soccer if you’re not European, is a fluid game that ebbs and flows. It’s about drama, passion and battling spirit. It’s about watching the last two minutes of injury time tick away with gritted teeth as your team is a goal behind and then erupting with euphoria when they draw level and take the game to extra time.

It seems that it would be impossible to replicate that tension, that sense of relief, in a management simulation. Yet year after year, Football Manager always seems to find that perfect balance between the intricate dealings of club, team and player management, and the moments of unpredictable brilliance on the pitch that just capture the game so perfectly. Football Manager has, ever since its first days under a different name and a different publisher, been one of the games I keep going back to.

[drop]Football Manager 2012 (FM12) is a marked improvement on its predecessor. The usual raft of small changes and upgrades have accumulated to make a game which has so much depth that it would be impossible to describe it within the constraints of this review. Sufficed to say that there are enough differences that its worth upgrading from last year’s and enough new features that even veteran players will still need to take a while to adjust and adapt. That’s not to say that it won’t feel familiar. Another of Sports Interactive’s unexplainable magic tricks with this franchise is that it always retains enough of the spirit of its predecessors that familiar players will likely feel right at home.

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Newcomers might be initially daunted but a fairly comprehensive, if a little nagging, help system and the ability to leave many of the intricacies to your AI assistant manager mean that the game can be almost as simple as buying and selling the players you’re advised to and setting a solid formation. You will have to make the transition on your own terms but gradually switching back manual control of features like the stunning degree of tactical control and player talks should eventually yield a much greater sense of satisfaction when you find a blend that works for your team.

There is so much to control here that it would be impossible, not to mention fruitless, to list features and mechanics. Rest assured that almost every angle of managing a football club is covered from dealings with budgets and the board right down to youth team training sessions. You can, if you wish, control everything yourself. This means that, for those committed to a steady and productive pre-season, there can be several hours of gameplay before you send your team out to play their first competitive match.

Transfers and contracts are the glamourous side of pre-season but in truth they are probably less important than balancing your team, preparing formations and finding systems and combinations of players that work well for you.

Formations and tactics are a particular love of mine, although you can now put as much effort into raising and keeping the morale of your squad via the massively improved team talks and individual chat systems.

It’s telling that there now exist many very serious, very technical discussions surrounding the tactical aspect of Football Manager games. If you have a desire for it, Football Manager can help teach you why certain formations work and how to get the best out of certain types of players. The tactical system in FM12 (and its predecessors) is really that robust. Luckily, there’s a tactic creation wizard which will help you get the basics thrown together but, again, you can drill down into very precise instructions on an individual level that have a noticeable impact on how your team performs.

[drop2]The Tactics screen is probably the most apt place to demonstrate the new interface tweaks  too. Key aspects of tactical instruction have been put along the top of the screen so you no longer need to drill down too far for team instructions and set pieces. Things have generally been moved around and put into drop downs and hover-over menus in a way that will take a little getting used to for those who have built their menu-clicking muscle memory on the past few year’s of Football Manager. Once you become used to the changes though, they’re clearly much more intuitive and economical.

Likewise, the newly nuanced method of talking to players and coaches is a welcome change, although I would have liked to have seen it extended to the stilted press conferences. Basically, you now have control over the tone of your commands and comments so you can be calm or you can turn on the Fergie-style hairdryer. It makes the interactions with players – who will now also respond to other manager’s public comments – much more personal.

It would be fruitless to continue to point out the many improvements and alterations that I’ve noticed during my thirty plus hours with the game and, to be honest, Football Manager is the sort of game that will still show you something new after a hundred hours so I won’t pretend that I can offer a comprehensive overview of every new feature.

It’s enough to say that this is still very definitely Football Manager. It has made enough improvements to keep its fans, ever hungry for an even richer experience, happy without changing so much that it could alienate. It’s an involved, compelling game that will yield hundreds of hours of gameplay for fans. Newcomers to the franchise could easily lower themselves in gently and gradually reveal the intricacies as they become comfortable with them but some degree of patience is definitely required to get past the daunting number of options and information screens.

Pros:

  • Deep, involving gameplay.
  • Improved engine that makes 3D matches more believable.
  • Interface tweaks end up being very welcome – after some initial adjustment.
  • As a value proposition, it’s peerless.

Cons:

  • It can be difficult to find that first gratifying pay off for newcomers.
  • The new conversation options don’t extend to all areas.

Football Manager 2012 looks set to be another year-long love affair for me. There is nothing else even remotely as good in this genre and if you have the time to put in and the desire to keep playing, it gives you more hours of play than anything else you’re likely to get for the price. Fans of the franchise won’t need convincing, they’ll already be well into their first season or beyond by now and that is demonstrative of the power this franchise has. While there is still room for some improvement, this is an absolutely massive game with so much to discover. Football Manager is simply brilliant. Again.

Score: 9/10

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32 Comments

  1. Shame they don’t bring this to consoles, I’d love a good one on ps3, premier manager is absolute crap. Lma manager on ps2 was excellent, don’t know why they don’t make it on ps3.

    • I really would love to see a decent manager game on PS3. My pc is far from new but I enjoy losing time on these games.

    • Or even Football Manager Handheld.
      Whilst I can accept why the full Football Manager experience is too much to put on a console, why not take the handheld game and port it to PS3? They could even add some features, like the 3D match engine.

    • I’d play this on PS3 too.

      • after playing FM on the xbox it just doesnt work unless they enable mouse and keyboard support its just terrible with a pad

      • but LMA Manager worked very well on PS2, used to love it!

      • LMA did work well on the PS2 but FM is so much deeper and has so many more options that it would be difficult to map to a control pad. It would be possible but it’d be slow as hell.

      • Well surely this is just the sort of job Move was made for?

      • I wouldn’t fancy pointing out options with Move.
        1) My arm would get way too tired, and 2) The options on the FM screen are tiny.
        Be easier with a pad than that, I reckon.

  2. When you do a review of PC stuff would it be too much to ask for the specs needed/recommended? Other than that cracking review and i’ll now go and find the specs to see if I can run it.

    • Almost anything made in the last ten years will run FM one way or another.

  3. Anyone know when/if this is being released on ios?

    • Before Christmas is what they’ve said so far.
      The PSP version is already out, so I imagine they’re currently stripping it down and porting it over now.

      • can’t wait for the iOS version, played the last 2 to death

  4. I played it last night to 7:30 >_<

    Excellent game :)

  5. Every new FM game has just become even more of a time-sink – sometimes more detail isn’t better. I’ll stick with custom database updates for 01/02.

    • You might be right, but sometimes all I need is a good time sink, Fallout and minecraft do particularly well at filling that void, there’s only so many times I can play through Portal and Portal 2, I know most of the lines, and all the puzzles now… This however, is probably above my level, I know very little about football.

      • Don’t be deterred about lack of knowledge of football.
        When you think about it, how much do you know of what each class in a RPG or RTS does?
        This is just another combination of those two genres, reskinned with football. And ten times as addictive.

      • good point, I usually have no clue. Fallout makes it easier by having stats in areas like “big guns” or “laser weapons”, which is helpful and obvious, but yeah, i might give it a try then.

  6. oh FM i have spent 45 hours on it already :/ i love it though !

    • Finished my First season as Dartford FC, won the Blue Square South, now in the Blue Square Premiership! so very tough tho, and my friend who plays FM with me every year, was Arsenal and got sacked for coming 6th!

  7. just finished my 1st season last night! bit disapointed to be honest with you it’s so much easier thn last years.i finished 1st with Man United winning everything but the champions league losing in the final to Real Madrid 4-5! i literally walked the league though which is good but slightly annoying as i expected more of a challange so i sold Vidic,Rooney and Nani! so hopefully it’l be a nip and tuck season! great review TSA

    • dont be united then :P

      • Haha.
        It does sound like United in the last few years- beat everyone in except one Spanish team. (Except in 2008, when they did beat that Spanish team. :P )

      • i would but i struggle to go anyone apart from United been a fan of there’s for so many years i hate taking charge of anyone else! but started new game last night as England manager it’s abit harder so all is well! and yeah have to agree colmshan as much as i hate to say it lol

    • Your a United fan yet you have no problem being England manager?, hmmmmm :p

      I always do two games, one as United manager, and 2nd unemployed and see who ever gives me a job first (age set to my age, and rep sunday league footballer) The 2nd one you pick up so much more, and you have to work to a budget.

  8. Interesting, I might pick this up after Xmas.

  9. Is there a ‘Steve Kean’ mode where you can be as shit as you like and still get offered a new contract?

  10. I’ve always wanted a decent manager game for console wish they’d bring LMA manager back you could make your own team with a set budget which was aces. What are the requirements for this cause my Laptop’s not very good ?

    • There’s a demo on Steam.
      Download that and see if it’s playable on your laptop.
      Always a better way than checking requirements.

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