Football Manager 14 Review: King of the pitch
The next generation of consoles has nearly arrived. With them comes the next generation of sports games, featuring improved graphics and advanced features. Then there’s Football Manager 14, the other kind of sports game. Instead of duking it out on the field, FM14 is all about the behind the scenes action; roster moves, tactics, strategies, pep talks. These are all features that we’ve seen appear in the Madden franchise throughout the years, but it is completely outclassed by Football Manager.
Make no mistake; this game is pure simulation. You’ll spend only 10-15% of your time in an actual game and even then you’re watching the action on the screen, unless you’re messing around with substitutions or tactical formations. Don’t fret, though. You can still sit back and enjoy the action. Though by enjoy, I mean yell at your monitor when things aren’t going your way. It’s like the best of both worlds: you get to yell at the screen during a match and actually mean it when you say “I’d do a better job coaching this team than that guy.”
This isn’t the only simulation sports game we’ve talked about recently. I reviewed Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 recently and was incredibly put off by its presentation. The complete opposite is in effect with Football Manager 14. Its menus are stylish, its in-game presentation is slick, though at times the animations are unsettling, and the entire environment is warm and welcoming. Ironically, the game’s not the most accessible thing in the world. Intimidating is a fantastic way to put it, but that’s more due to the nature of international football and less to do with the game itself. It’s not all about managing free agent signings and trades; there are a lot of clubs around the world that will have interest in your players and a lot of decisions to make in order to help the younger members of your franchise get playing experience.
Despite this intimidation factor, the game never gets overwhelming. The large amount of moving parts featured in the game become easier to handle as time goes on. Consider this sequence of events I experienced:
Dozens of clubs show interest in a star player of mine. Initially, I refuse. Funds become tight in the future, however, so I say I've become interested. The player comes to me for a talk, is disappointed, and his morale drops. The drop in morale results in sloppy performance on the field display. Oops.
Another sequence of events:
I try to motivate a star (and foreign) free agent. At times I pressure him too hard. His performance on the field isn’t what I’d like it to be. Double oops.
Finally, this sequence of events:
A player is performing decently enough, but he’s out of position. I change him to his preferred position in the second half and he scores the game winning goal. Yay!
After all of my frustrations, hard work finally paid off. Most importantly, I know why it paid off. I know how to duplicate my success and I know how to move going forward. All of this stems from the game’s crystal clear presentation.
It’s not always fun to look at spreadsheets for hours upon hours in a video game, even it if is your kind of thing. Yet Football Manager 14 finds a way to make it fun. Granted, you'll need to be a type of person that enjoys comparing numbers, stats, and strategic gameplay. However, if this is your thing, FM14 will reward you. It’s deep, it’s engaging, and it’s simple enough despite the sheer amount of decisions, players, tactics, and consequences. That simplicity stems from the presentation. The presentation keeps you coming back for more.