For many years now Sports Interactive has been considered the leader in the field of football management simulations. Competitors have come and gone – including the development team’s original franchise Championship Manager – and while some titles offered a greater amount of instant gratification none could compete with Football Manager in terms of depth. This is one playing field that has never been level, and Sports Interactive intend to tip the scales even further this year by offering those gamers with less time to invest their own opportunity to get involved in the franchise.
Before even beginning to play Football Manager 2013 most gamers will make their purchase that this latest addition to the franchise is a refresh of that which has gone before. Updated team rosters, statistics and visual quality are par for the course in the realm of football management simulations, and of course Football Manager 2013 obliges. However, there’s more to Sports Interactive’s latest effort than a simple brush-up of the database and tweaking of the engine. Players can still customise their experience to the nth degree – country in which they reside, the leagues of that country that will be present within their database, the overall size of the player purchase opportunities et al – but however they check those boxes and whatever options they choose from the drop lists, Football Manager 2013 will provide the most comprehensive football management experience made available this year.
The basic Football Manager mode is where most players will invest the majority of their time, though truth be told it’s anything but basic. There’s no opportunity to simply choose which statistics you will measure your team by and improve on those as capital becomes available; Football Manager 2013’s Football Manager mode is a demanding, absorbing experience. You will need to be on top of your game just as much as the players in your employ, and when they’re not you’ll need to find out why. Football Manager 2013 provides all of the necessary tools to make this possible of course, but in order to get the most out of them the majority of players will undoubtedly see themselves investing countless hours before realising the nuances involved in transfers and staff management, budgeting and fair wage/bonus structuring, and then restarting from the very beginning with this new knowledge at their disposal. So far, so Football Manager then, but there’s far more to Football Manager 2013 than simply losing all of your free time to spreadsheets and press conferences.
In addition to the core mode comes the Challenges gameplay, a series of preset scenarios for players to tackle in any way they see fit. The available events vary wildly in difficulty despite the suggestion that they fit into a three tier division – Easy, Normal or Hard – and only four were available in the review build provided to Electronic Theatre. However, given the socially connected nature of Football Manager 2013 – which includes direct connection options for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube from its very first menu – it’s highly likely that Sports Interactive already have plans in place to offer additional chapters based on player feedback.
The core Football Manager mode features the option for an online connection from the very start, but for those players who like to dip in-and-out of the interactive side of Football Manager there’s also the option to keep their core experience offline and connect to the new Versus mode with their established team. While it may sound like a fairly simple addition to the formula, it’s actually remarkably insightful of Sports Interactive to have created such a division; very few developers offer such a keen understanding of every facet of their audience and even fewer make their attempts to satiate the many demands of such a wide spectrum in each new outing of a well established franchise. Whatever else the core Football Manager audience may think of the new additions to the franchise in Football Manager 2013, there’s no denying that there’s evidence that Sports Interactive detest the idea of resting on their laurels as much as the gaming public do.
Of course there’s more to the story of Football Manager 2013, namely those more casual football management fans mentioned in the introduction to this review: what’s in it for them? Well, that instant gratification that so many other franchises have offered over the years has finally made its way into Football Manager with the all new Football Manager Classic mode. A streamlined approach as opposed to a dumbed down one, Football Manager Classic is certain to be welcomed by fans of the franchise who have stepped away from recent editions simply due to the demanding nature of the videogame. That’s not to say Football Manager 2013 isn’t still addictive, but here in the Football Manager Classic mode players can achieve as much in an hour as they might do in four with the core gameplay mode.
The technical quality of Football Manager 2013 is without question, with most gamers surely to cite the upgraded 3D match engine as the videogame’s biggest feat. However, it’s the subtle tweaks to the interface that Electronic Theatre would highlight as the most significant achievement, with every possible action available just two or three clicks away; every piece of vital information, every possibility and every potential threat available via a drop menu and page system. It’s entirely possible to dip in-and-out of Football Manager 2013 simply by setting it to a windowed display and picking up where you left off after an hour spent with something else entirely different: every home office’s dream.
Football Manager has long been the peak of the football management simulation genre, and in Football Manager 2013 Sports Interactive have once again upped that benchmark. While the incidental changes one has come to expect are all present and correct, it’s the realisation that – for some, at least – the experience has become a bit too big for its own boots that makes Football Manager 2013 such a superior product to its predecessors. There’s room here for every fan of the franchise, established and those which have shied away, to find something worth latching on to, and in that Sports Interactive has achieved something which so very few developers ever manage to do: built a videogame perfect for both the fans and newcomers. If you have any hours to spend when booting up Football Manager 2013, expect them all to be lost in the blink of an eye.