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The Football Manager gaming series has been around for over 20 years now. Starting out as Championship Manager in the early 1990's, Football Manager is widely accepted as the only football management game you need to own. Over the years, many other software houses have tried to dethrone Football Manager but nobody is yet to come remotely close. There is often criticism of developers who release annual updates to their titles that they are simply trying to charge the consumer twice the privilege of what is in most case, the same game as they bought 12 months ago. This has never been the case with Football Manager as, although to the untrained eye, the interface and matchday experience look similar to previous versions, the bundles of extra functionality and subtleties have been coded into the AI engine to make what was already an unbelievably realistic game, even more realistic. Installing Football Manager 2014 To install Football Manager 2014 you need to have an Internet connection. This is because you need to connect to a third party website called Steam in order to download the game files. Even if you have bought the game on disk, you will need to connect to Steam to finalise the installation and download any game updates and patches that have been released since the disk version was created. Steam are a reputable company and anyone who is a serious PC gamer will already have an account with them. If you need to create a Steam account, it is free to do so and only takes a matter of minutes. Once the actually installation begins, you can leave the PC to look after things for you. The entire process takes about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the processing power of your PC. During the installation, you may find that your DirectX video drivers are being updates. This is normal so don't be alarmed if the screen goes blank or flickers from time to time. Launching the game and setting up for the first time Seasoned Football Manager players will be familiar with the setup screen as it hasn't changed greatly for many years now. For the benefit of new players who are reading this review, getting started is a simple process thanks to the wizard interface that is used. Firstly you will need to supply personal details so the game knows about you and how to interact with you throughout the game. This information includes name, date of birth, gender and your favourite team. This is required so you can receive news updates from your favourite team, even if you are not managing them. The information screen also allows you to set your footballing experience so you can play the game as an up and coming manager with no experience or if you wish, you can elect to play the game as if you are one of the World's greatest managers. Whichever style you choose will greatly affect how you are thought of within the game. If you are a "name", players will be more likely to join you while if you are just starting out, you will have to work extra hard to earn your reputation. The next stage is to choose the team you want to manage. Most people here will automatically elect to join the team that they support, this is what I always do. Some though who like a bigger challenge will join a team right at the bottom of the league structure and attempt to get them promoted through the ranks. Before joining a team, it is always worth checking out the board's expectations as if the board want the team to win the league and you are only sixth because you haven't got the reputation to attract the big players, you won't last very long, thus denting your reputation even further. Team selection at the start of the game will go a long way to determining how successful you will be within the game. The final stage of setup requires you to select the number of leagues with which you wish to play. This is very flexible and allows you to switch off leagues below a certain level within a country. This helps if your PC isn't powerful enough to run a lot of leagues. With most leagues around the world now covered, you should find that you are able to manage in a country where your favourite teams play. Moving around the game Football Manager is a date driven game which means you simply don't just go from one game to the next. On the days where there is no match, you must decide on training plans for your squad in general and also for each individual player. You can also decide on the intensity of this training but be careful, if you are working your players too hard or, in some instances, not hard enough, they will be quick to tell you. If training isn't your thing, you can allocate this responsibility to your assistant manager. This is something I usually do and only tinker with it in specific circumstances. Non matchdays can also be used to get scout reports on other players and teams as well as to interact with the media. Scout reports in Football Manager 2014 are now more detailed than ever before and certainly do make it easier to make a decision as to whether a player you were interested in, will actually improve your squad or not. The media plays an integral part in Football Manager. You can use it to praise another teams player or declare an interest in them in the hope that it unsettles them and makes it easier for you to sign them. You can also use the media to comment on opposing teams and managers in an attempt to play mind games before an up and coming fixture. With all these media interactions, you get a series of standard response which can be said aggressively, passionately, calmly or cautiously. You can also add free text to the responses to make them more personal. The game is quite clever hear as it knows if you start swearing in the free text box and will make you aware of this in the news feed. Matchday To most people, the key area of Football Manager 2014 will be the matchday itself. This is where all of your hard work and planning comes together and will hopefully result in a win. The build up to matchday has had a minor revamp in Football Manager 2014 as you now have more stats available to study on both your team and your opponents. You can now see sequences to how many games they have won, lost, scored in, etc in a row. You can also see how many times they have won after conceding the first goal, etc. All of these stats may sound trivial but they really do matter, for example, if a team doesn't go on to win many matches after scoring first, you know they may have a mentality problem so you can build this into your tactics. Before each game, you get presented with the odds for each team to win the game. Although you can't bet within the game, it gives an indication as to whom the game sees as favourites. You also get pundits giving their "expert" opinion on how they see the game panning out. With all this information to hand, you should be able to put out a team which in your eyes is capable of winning the game. Allocating team instructions is now far simpler than ever before. Previously, you had to use sliders for each option which I never liked, and usually stuck to the default tactics to avoid changing these. Now the tactics are a selections of words which you choose such as pass it long or play out wide. Whichever you choose, the game will disable the contradictory term. For example, you wouldn't be able to choose play it long and keep it short. If you wanted to mix up the passing, you wouldn't select any of these instructions. I really like this change and it adds great value to the game. The graphics in the matchday engine have never been the games selling point. If you want a football game with graphics and not much realism, you buy FIFA. If you want a realistic game with OK graphics, you buy Football Manager. The collision detection in the Football Manager game engine has seriously improved over the past 12 months. Now you actually see deflections rather than just being told about them in commentary. In my opinion the game engine is almost perfection. Once tackling seems a little bit more believable I really can't see how it could be improved. The dreaded vote of confidence The saying goes, "You are only as good as your results" and this is true in football manager. At the beginning of each month, you will get a summary from the board as to how well they think you are doing. This will be in-line with the goals they set you at the start of the season. If you are doing well, the board will be full of praise however, if you fall short, you could be looking for another job. You can interact with the board over funding and facilities for your team. You can also offer them ultimatums if they turn down your request although you have to be prepared for the sack if they refuse to back down over your demands. My opinion I've been playing Football Manager in its various guises since 1993. The game has always been fun to play although it did lose its way in the latter part of the last decade. Slowly the game has been rediscovering its past glories and the values which made it impossible to put down. In my opinion, Football Manager 2014 is the best Football Manager game ever made. The realism is staggering and you actually do begin to forget that it is not actually real. Even the transfer market is realistic in terms of the types of players you can buy. For example, I bought a player on my Football Manager game only to find out that he had actually signed in real life for the club I support a month later. Football Manager is not a game you can pick up and play for five minutes. You need to dedicate an evening to it if you want to get the most out of it. The game is so addictive, you'll wonder where the time went. In this day and age where super graphics and blockbuster soundtracks are all that people seem to want, it is worth remembering Football Manager. Here we have a game with minimal sound (actually just the crowd cheering) and average graphics and in my opinion, it is better than all of the current blockbuster console games on the market. If you are a football fan or maybe even just a sports fan in general, Football Manager 2014 has to be on your list of games to play. This review also appears on Ciao UK
As with every budding FM fan, I had bought my copy of Football Manager on the day of its release. I eagerly installed it and got to the game. Eventually that is. Because for some awful reason Football Manager sticks with the steam engine to play it. I find that steam is an awful engine to play the game on, not least because of the that it tells you how many hours you have actually played on the game. When you are an addict as everyone is who plays FM, this is not something you want to see! Onto the actual game itself, the in play match screen has become even more realistic. You have greater control over transfers and general management of the club. This is everything you expect: More detailed game play and crisper graphics. It's a shame that its still powered by Steam as once you're in the game its absolutely awesome
As the end of October arrives, all around the country excitement mounts. Halloween, I hear you say? Don't be silly, I reply, it is the annual release of Football Manager that causes more excitement in many households. So, what is Football Manager 2014? I realise many people will already be familiar with this but there may, just possibly, be a small number of people who had been living in isolation from the World that have not, at least, heard of this. In essence, this game allows you to take the reins of your favourite football team (or any other team!) and guide it to glory in the football world. As manager, you get to take all the decisions that a real life manager would do. You have to find players to buy and offer them contracts; sort out the training regimen; pick the best match day squad possible and deal with the owners of the club when things go wrong! So, how does it work? The Football Manager franchise has been going for many years and has gradually changed since the first incarnations. This latest offering is, like the rest, heavily text based, with an awful amount of reading involved. Weirdly, though, this is part of the magic of this game. Where most successful games require magnificent graphics and cars being stolen or aliens being exploded in the most creative ways possible, FM is different. When you begin a game you sign in your manager name and take control of your chosen club. You are then presented with a screen which will be familiar to those who have played in the past. (Particularly those people owning FM 2013) On the left top, you have the main menu tabs that control your game. The first of these is the inbox, where all the messages are sent to you. From here you can attend press conferences, bid for players and choose whether to accept bids on your own players. It also gives you links to vital information that can be found in other areas, such as Board Confidence, Contract status, player availability etc. Secondly, we have the manager tab. This gives you an overview of yourself and the club. The dropdown next to it (or right hand side of this screen menu tabs) offers several useful options. You can look for new jobs, go on holiday or resign from here. The most useful one here is the search for new players or staff, as this gives you a chance to try to buy your favourite (or most affordable) players. Thirdly is the club screen. This is where you do all of the main work to get your team ready. You can see the squad layout of your team here, decide upon the training schedules, work out new "super" tactics, as well as gain information about upcoming fixtures. From this screen you can access your player information and you can check on their condition and happiness and ideal roles etc. There is a tab for an overview of the transfers but the last main tab is the league that you are in. It allows you to look at the league tables, as well as looking at all the stats for every conceivable thing be it player or team related. Then comes the part of the game that it all hinges on. Match day. Originally, this franchise had a top down 2D match engine, with dots sliding over the screen to represent players. Then they brought out the 3D match engine. At first, this was truly awful. It took a lot of processing power and slowed my game right down and there were any number of horrible errors the engine allowed. Over the last few years this has got better and better. Now, you have a game engine that allows you to see your players on the pitch, following your team instructions. In fact, if time allows, you can have it set so that you can see pretty much every kick of the game and see if your plans are working. Personally, I have it set to only show me the key highlights, as I want to get through the season! The real strength of this match engine is that you can tweak your plans and see it happening on the pitch, as the players follow your tactics of playing the ball to the flanks or passing through the middle. Substitutions can win( or lose!) games and you an watch your players scoring spectacular goals over and over again with the replay function. The biggest change to this is that the sliders to control match tactics are gone and are replaced with team instructions, which allow for player ability to take precedence over the enforced actions caused by the sliders. So, what is it that makes this game so good? Part of the strength of the game is the national obsession with the sport. Personally I prefer rugby but I am still drawn into those conversations regarding the setup of the England football team that happen with regularity even at the rugby club. So, we all have strong views on the picking of teams and formations etc and we all believe that we can do it better. The incredible detail of the game and research that goes into it have increased over the years. The game is played by many real-life players and managers. Indeed, there has been at least one case of someone applying for a job as a real-life manager citing his success in getting a non-league club promoted in the game! (He didn't get the job!) The scouting system of the games designers is pretty spectacular. Over the years they have predicted most of the successful players that have been up and coming due to the incredible amount of research that goes in. Fans of FM will often not be surprised to hear of a relative unknown being bought into the Premier League, as those names come up in the game. The lure of getting one's own hometown team promoted and into the realm of football giants leads to the endless hours of enjoyment that this game offers. It is reported that an average player spends one hundred hours on the game, which makes it a pretty good piece of entertainment for the price, which is around £30 from many providers. This edition has a number of improvements from previous years. The whole player-recruitment section has been over-hauled to allow more realistic offers for players and clauses to contracts. The press interaction also has more options available to try to play mind-games with the AI managers. The training system has a few more tweaks to it but seems essentially the same as FM13. Tactics have been tweaked quite a bit but are pretty easy to use, with the aforementioned Instructions being easy to use. What is also good for the longevity of the game is the continued use of the "Classic" option, which allows you to get though and play the matches without all the faffing with the minutiae of management. That is a great option for people with less time that still enjoy the game. Would I recommend it? Well, I have every edition of the game, which I buy as close to release day as possible, and usually have on pre-order. That is the appeal of the game to me. I know I am going to spend way more than the average amount of hours on this game and enjoy the triumphs and frustrations of managing a virtual team. Anyone who enjoys the franchise will enjoy this game, as it does pretty much everything at least a little bit better than before. If you are the patient sort and want to see if you can make your team do better than real-life, this game is for you. If you have the attention span of a gnat and can only get your virtual jollies by stealing cars and killing things, then this is not for you. But then you probably will not have read all the way through this review in that case...