First look at Football Manager 2016

football-manager-2016

Every year, soccer fans get excited for the new titles of Konami’s PES and EA’s FIFA video game franchises. As much fun as they can be, those who want a more immersive experience are excited for the latest release of Football Manager.

Football Manager 2016, scheduled for release on November 13, definitely follows the adage of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And to be honest, just when I was ready to write this off as a yearly roster update, Sega and Sports Interactive (SI) have found a way to pull me in with some of the added features.

Presentation

The opening hasn’t changed over the years. The game starts up with little flair or panache, and off you go. However, the biggest difference is deciding how you want to play. You can still play the full managerial experience, or you can play the classic mode, and now you can even create a club from the ground up.

An excellent addition to the game is the cross save feature, which will allow you to not only play your career between computers but once the tablet version releases, you can also play your Football Manager with your data saved across devices.

Longtime Football Manager veterans will appreciate that the menus have changed very little. But there are a few new useful surprises.

Changes and additions

While I didn’t get a chance to see all of the new features and additions (the version I reviewed was a beta version, and thus the final version of the game may be slightly different), I saw enough that I felt like SI was really attempting to update the game to keep this series fresh. Some of the new features went over well and some didn’t. One of the ones that didn’t is the “Create a Manager” mode that puts your avatar on the touchline. It’s a very basic tool and really doesn’t add much to the game outside of the aesthetics.

One of the features that I did like however is the match analysis provided by Prozone. This new feature really breaks down the game showing you what you need to know about accuracy of crosses, passing, shots, etc.  This feature works so much better than last year’s version, giving you an even deeper insight to how your team is doing. The end result is that it gives managers a better idea of how to adjust their teams during the game.

Another improvement that I like is the more visual in-game team instruction page. This page really allows managers to plan out how they want their team to play and gives new managers a better representation of what is happening.  This system easily beats out just clicking buttons and hoping it works as in years past. Also, if you highlight certain areas, the user will get a concise idea of what that instruction does.

fm-2016-formation

For those who want to release their inner Jose Mourinho, the press conference chats have become a lot more nuanced so that users aren’t still answering the same questions with the same answers. It’s possible to really turn a press conference around from what should be a feel-good experience to an all-out debate between managers and the media.

Another touch about Football Manager that I liked is that your assistant manager now seems to do a better job informing you what is going on with players. When using the beta of Football Manager 2016, I was preparing my line-up when I was warned about the match fitness of my players.

Also, scouts are getting better at evaluating the value of player signings. For one player I was keen on signing, the transfer was stopped because my scout and head physio were both adamant how injury prone he was. When checking on that player two weeks later, he had broken his ankle and was out for the rest of the season.

In Football Manager 2016, transfers and contract negotiations have been tweaked. With Sports Interactive committed to bringing as much realism to this game as possible, don’t be surprised if transfers that usually go through in previous versions of the game get held up due to last-minute work permit issues.

In the new version of the game, the scout report summaries allow users to get a better idea at a glance with designated icons that tell you if someone is worth the headache of signing.  A potential transfer may be brilliant on the pitch but he could be disruptive to the locker room.

Remember that injured player I was referring to? Now there are injury clauses in contracts that you can include. If you have players that don’t speak the language, you can get them into courses that will help, too.

There are so many more features that I didn’t have time to try the fantasy drafts, youth training, or even the set-piece creator.

fm-2016-gameplay

On the pitch

The gameday experience of Football Manager has never graphically been a thing of beauty. If you want detailed graphics, then you’re better off with PES or FIFA.  In Football Manager, on the pitch action is to visualize how your team preparation, tactics and training have paid off. But  even though it’s not a graphics powerhouse, it can still be fun to watch. You can speed up and slow down the game. Plus, there is the dynamic weather that can change the nature of the game.

The only small gripe I have is the camera angle on crosses. For some reason, the camera pans too far out on set pieces and often I can’t really see what’s going on. Another gripe, which I hope will get fixed, is that I notice players holding on to the ball for far too long in the box. A few times I even saw a wide open goal that my star player just refused to shoot at while opting to pass into traffic. Outside of that, the pitch action hasn’t changed that much.

Conclusion

For most video and computer games, there are many times when it’s hard to justify buying yearly iterations. It’s even harder when you see no noticeable changes in key areas. When looking at Football Manager 2016, it’s not the seismic changes that players should look for. Instead, it’s the changes behind the scenes that are the most exciting as it’s these small changes that show each year how Football Manager tries to stay up with the real life soccer world.

While I enjoyed being able to play this on my desktop, I am really looking forward to the mobile release so I can really dig into the cross save feature. Being able to take this game on the go and pick up at home will be a big bonus especially since I may do some travelling this holiday season.

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

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