Football Manager 2013 Review (PC)

It’s better than last year. There – review done. We can all move on now. OK, the more pressing is why? What could Sports Interactive possibly do to make Football Manager 2013 feel fresh?

If the developers really wanted to simulate the world’s most beautiful game, they’d have included a racist abuse shout alongside the standard tactical options. It could have included a ‘make your 50 million striker score goals’ challenge for the new mission-based Challenge mode. How about a sleep with your best friend’s girlfriend player interaction choice?

No? Never mind, because those looking for something new have come to the right place anyway. Football Manager 2013 has made itself better by removing what had made itself better the previous few years, but at the same time, included overhauls of what made itself better in the first place.

Still with me? The first part of the statement is the new Classic mode – a Football Manager ‘lite’ that removes team talks, heavy simulative elements and other distracting features to let you manage your team – i.e. be a football manager.

For those lamenting that Football Manager 2013 has become as complicated and time consuming as the job it’s styled itself after, rejoice. Sing from the rafters. Throw bottle caps at the players. Go crazy with jubilation. Classic mode harks back to the days when it wouldn’t take three months to complete a season. You’ll fly through the years now the distractions have gone.

If this sounds sickening to you, don’t fret. Career mode (i.e. Football Manager 2013: Crazy Detailed Normal Version Edition) offers the purists version. Bolstered by an improved match engine (which is as fluid and realistic as it’s ever been), meddling Director of Football, scouting changes, training updates and all the minor tweaks you’d expect, this is the best Football Manager yet.

Perhaps the best thing is the overhauled interface. Sports Interactive’s really thought about how players navigate its game. At first you’re confused, next pleasantly surprised and then depressed the improvements weren’t implemented sooner.

It’s easy on the eye; an important deliberation considering the time you spend looking at its data sheets. The best way to describe it is it’s fast and fluid. It sounds cliché, but it’s a compliment of the highest regard.

You’d think the developers would have stopped there. Never a group to rest on its laurels, Sports Interactive has also addressed one of the most regularly moaned about aspects of the series – multiplayer.

For all the joy that comes from enclosing yourself in a pseudo living footballing world, sometimes you want to share the experience. After all, football is a team sport and one that thrives on rivalry. There are two options available – set up a network game using Steam (hurrah) and impose automatic advancement options (so your irritating friend who takes 18 hours scouting a lower league player has no choice but to continue) or a custom multiplayer league/cup.

This lets you import any team you own and go to town on your friends. It’s a very welcome feature, giving life to the time you’ve invested alone. It also gives you the chance to settle old scores – is the 2039 Barnet I’ll make really the best there’s ever been or is it your brother’s Arsenal who finally broke the silverware drought in 2019.

All that’s left to discuss is Challenge Mode, a time limited scenario option (currently offering four) which plops you in the middle of a season with set objectives. Curb an injury crisis or win with the kids (ala Manchester United 1999). For those who prefer structure with their management experience, it’s just what the physiotherapist ordered.

So, no flaws? It’s funny, but by including Classic mode, Sports Interactive have highlighted the weakest areas of the franchise, but left them untouched in the standard mode anyway. If fans aren’t satisfied with the time it takes to do team talks, player interaction and media conferences, shouldn’t they be overhauled rather than removed from an alternate mode?

At the moment, they’re still a tiresome ‘click through stock answers’ endeavour. Most of time you’ll put your Assistant Manager in the questioning seat as the choices you make seem pointless in their effect and there’s only so many times you can say you prefer to play attractive, attacking football.

We shouldn’t bestow too much blame on Sports Interactive. Creating a truly dynamic experience is still years away and it’s impressive that media simulation and player interaction is even possible. However, it’s these areas which have the biggest impact on Football Manager’s final score. There’s nothing wrong with them, it’s just they’re in need of a glaring makeover.

Anyway, there’s next year for that. For 2013, there’s more than enough to keep fans happy, and while it sometimes seems worth it to skip the latest version of Football Manager, the overhauled multiplayer and game mode variation makes this an essential purchase as ever.

Top Game Moment: As ever, discovering the next Messi in the lower leagues.

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