Developer/Publisher: Sports Interactive
Price: $60 AUD (GreenmanGaming)
In the spirit of F.C Barcelona’s motto, it is more than just a game.
Football Manager 2017 is the latest edition of Britain’s most lasting export, and I think finally the company behind finally latched on to the subculture that it has generated, as reflected in the massive ramp-up of their advertising budget- a sponsorship deal with Everton F.C. (who have been known to use the game as a scouting tool in real life), combined with a marketing campaign that captured the whole addictive aspect of the game- the phenomenon otherwise known as ‘one more match’.
The game continues to refine its by now world-class graphic user interface, improving accessibility to a lot of the information, statistics and data (you could call it Excel in game form). The old-school, and by now anachronistic newspaper feed has now been replaced by the more zeitgeist-appropriate social media feed, complete with 140 character goodness- where fans would share their thoughts on your team’s performances, or any players that you brought in over the summer/winter. I like this aspect, though some of the ‘tweets’ are a bit ridiculous. However some of the new staff roles added into the game- data analysts and sports scientists, are very unclear on what they actually do- though it is a nod to the modern game.
Also simulated in the game is Brexit, with three outcomes- you have a hard Brexit which drastically alters the landscape of the English league, a soft Brexit with some conditions, and sometimes Brexit gets shut down by Parliament and doesn’t really go ahead, or at the very least affect the composition of your first eleven.
The match engine looks a bit spicier, but the improvement is marginal, but one of the key points is that the in-game actions are a lot more logical, and auto-piloting your tactics doesn’t really work anymore, so you have a think a little about how your team plays, and your opponent’s team. Some of the idiosyncrasies of the match engine remains- where keepers are just a little too good in relation to their real life counterparts, where your average Joe McGoalie starts playing like Mark Schwarzer (when he was in his heyday) on speed (and yours plays like Zeljko Kalac’s famous butterfingers).
But it is beyond just a game. No, the more appropriate word is addiction. An entire subculture that has many an amazing story to tell- there’s even a book about it: How Football Manager Has Stolen My Life, replete with tales about people flying all over to the other side of the world to visit the lower league team they have been managing, one person causing a medical emergency in a hospital after watching his virtual team win an all-important derby match, and these days, how it led them to their dream jobs, usually as data analysts for many a football club (they make for enthusiastic recruits), as well as players suddenly getting noticed become some enthusiast spotted him in one of their saves. Others relish the challenge of guiding a fourth division team to reigning European and domestic champions, year after year. I've sank years of my life in this round-ball shaped pit.
Other than that, though Football Manager 2017 is a must buy for fans and veterans of the game, and unfortunately it has come at the expense of those trying to come into the game, with a steep learning curve that is less fun in an increasingly technical sporting world. Gone are the days and romance of old-school football, it seems, but as a scouting tool (which is a direction it’s heading towards), it’s become increasingly prescient. One day, some day, there will be a manager managing a top division team, who’s CV consists of nothing but their splendid achievements in this quintessentially British game.
Picture- the feeling of developing a solid, successful tactic.