Ah, Football Manager. Talk about an addictive game series. One that can easily toy with your feelings and emotions by only showing a ton of text onscreen, without any sound or voice acting in it, and little gameplay other than clicking on buttons. For those into sport simulations, FM can easily become a life thief. The 2015 iteration of the game is, by far, my most played game on Steam to date, clocking at a freaking three thousand and twenty seven hours as of January 2018. You can guess I was actually looking forward to Football Manager 2018, one of the best versions of the game to date. And for our American readers who are unfamiliar with the franchise, we’re talking about “soccer” football.
For those not into the FM series, the game looks just like a bunch of screens full of graphs, numbers, spreadsheets, sales figures and, sometimes, polygonal footballers that look like they came straight from a 3DO version of a FIFA game. For those into FM, those people will tell you that each new save isn’t just a new game, it’s the beginning of a story. Heroes will be created. Bonds with clubs you never thought you’d ever care about will be created. Cup finals will be as tense as the real thing. Nights upon nights of playtime will be spent without even realizing. The sense of achievement, taking a small team from miserable beginnings in humble leagues to continental glory, is unique. That’s the core concept of what Football Manager is about, and thankfully, Football Manager 2018 maintains the tradition, adding a few new bits and pieces here and there to improve its gameplay.
First of all, let me get rid of the typical issues that plague FM ever since the dawn of mankind. Yes, the visuals are extremely simplistic and not very “gamey,” being a borderline office program in aesthetics, with the 3D match engine looking like the most archaic sports game you’ve ever seen. Yes, the new polygonal manager, who’s supposed to represent you (you can even upload your face to your Slender Man-esque abomination), is one of the worst 3D models I’ve seen ever since the Nintendo 64 stopped getting new games back in 2002. And yes, despite the fact Sports Interactive has finally added a song to the game’s soundtrack, this game is still best played on mute, with your Spotify or Google Play library being played in the background instead. Those are the hindrances that have plagued FM ever since the first iteration. Thankfully, they don’t make the game less entertaining at all.
Let’s talk about the new features present in this game. As previously mentioned, you can now model a polygonal version of your manager, complete with your own distorted face in his/her head, but the less we talk about that abomination, the better. Let’s talk about the actually interesting additions.
The game received a revamping in its UI and 3D match engine. After previous UI revampings that made the game less fluid, like in the 2016 iteration, I’m glad to announce this version is much more pleasing to the eyes and practical to play, sometimes even surpassing Football Manager 2015, the pinnacle of the series in my humble opinion.
Gameplay-wise, the main addition to the formula is the inclusion of social circles. For as weird as it sounds, it actually makes sense when managing a football team that you have a group of people. Social circles are created inside the team, usually by means of common nationalities and languages. You can easily see who’s the player with the biggest influence inside said circles, who’s going to be the biggest dressing room poison of your squad, who’s going to be the primadonna, who’s going to be the “good guy” who goes along with everyone and can solve internal disputes.
The scouting system and injury system have also been improved. With the inclusion of sports scientists, not only will you have a more detailed information about player injuries, but also why players are getting injured. Those scientists can even tell you the players who are on the brink of suffering an injury by analyzing both their injury history and how often they have been playing over the past weeks.
Those new additions make up for a better experience than in previous years, but something must be said about this game that has been said about every other Football Manager iteration to date: if you really want to have fun with this title, you’ll need to add some league and graphical mods. Football Manager suffers from a severe lack of initial playable leagues and licensed squads, something you’ll notice if you’re a regular FIFA player, for instance. Thankfully, the FM player community is comprised of absolute saints who freely distribute hundreds of playable leagues and graphical packs containing tens of thousands of team logos and player pictures online. You also need to delete some internal system files in order to access teams like the Germany national squad, for instance, due to licensing issues. Football Manager 2018 requires a few hours of setup before becoming suitable for playing, but trust me, it’s all worth it.
There’s little else I can say about Football Manager 18. It’s a game that requires an actual lot of initial tinkering on the editors and mod forums before becoming fully enjoyable, but once all initial setups are done, it’s still the good old extremely addictive sports simulation juggernaut that the series has been for more than a decade. Just don’t pick Paris Saint-Germain or any other team backed by an oil tycoon. C’mon, make your experience a bit challenging at the very least!