Football Manager 2013 is, as the cliché goes, a tale of two halves. The first half is the traditional full-fat version of the game filled with team talks, copious amounts of media interaction and extensive scouting capabilities. The second half is a lightweight ‘Classic’ mode where the teams come out wearing a totally different strip and don’t have to worry about their manager pissing them off with poorly judged team talks and receive support from various challenges. In short, this years edition of Sports Interactive’s long running management sim offers and experience suitable to a much wider audience than ever before.
Clearly the biggest change is the addition of Football Manager Classic, the new mode which strips things back to provide a more streamlined experience. This comes across immediately with a tweaked skin to the fully featured mode, it cuts away a lot of the menus that you would expect to see, necessary as many features from the full version are either not present at all, or are presented in a different fashion.
Media and player interaction are perhaps the most glaring changes. Rather than attending press conferences with dozens of questions from the various media outlets for almost every match, occasionally you will receive a news message with a media source seeking a comment. Similarly you no longer get embroiled in conversations with your players over their worries with different tones of voice causing horrendous results. In Classic, a news item will appear where you just select your response allowing you to get on with your game so much faster. Team talks are entirely missing in Classic mode and scouting is limited to a sole Chief Scout with a limited range of possible assignments. If you so wish, you can also skip matches by letting the computer control your team, perhaps just with an idea of how to approach the match.
They all sound like drastic changes, but you have to remember that the full game is still there for the more dedicated players. The Classic mode is a perfect way to dip in and manage your favourite team with seasons passing by much faster while you focus on signing players and going to matches. In all honesty, it is not a mode I would use for a long-term career game, but it ties in perfectly with the Challenge mode. At present there are four challenges to chose from, ranging from surviving the last third of the season unbeaten to winning silverware while playing with a handful of youngsters in your first XI. Combining the streamlined Classic mode with these set targets works wonders, and I think they have the potential to be stars of the game, especially with the leaderboards which appear at the end of the challenge, whether you win or lose.
The Classic mode interface is adapted slightly for Versus mode, an online mode with a Knockout Cup tournament for 2-32 players, a League for 2-6 players with teams playing each other twice or a Head to Head League where two teams play each other five times. The best part of this is that you can take a team you have made in a single player game and pit them against others using their own career teams or teams without any player influence. There are no transfers or any nonsense, you just pick your team and have matches to see who has the best team. My humble TNS managed to secure a draw against a powerful Rangers team managed by David Brown from Plughead.net. It was smooth and simple to set the league up, but I did experience issues when watching matches of the other two players which seemed to cause the match to pause, and was only resolved when I left the Versus game and reconnected. It might have been solely an issue my end, but it is worth bearing in mind.
Of course, if the Challenges and Classic modes don’t capture your imagination, you can return to the full game once again. One of the biggest changes is the ability to set a greater range of staff responsibilities, made possible thanks to new job roles such as Director of Football and Head of Youth Development. You can determine to a much greater extent who in your club controls what. If you wish to maintain total control of everything from the first team to the youth squad you can, or if you really want to take a back seat, you can pass off tasks like transfer management to other figures in the club.
Training is now much simpler to manage as well, I normally entirely avoid the training screen, but it is much more manageable now. You are presented with a four week plan listing your matches and you can tailor your general training and match specific training for all four weeks on the screen. Getting hands on with individual player training is again presented in a much more user friendly manner than previous titles have done, choosing what your players focus their training on takes no time at all, and if you aren’t sure what you want them to do, coach reports are presented on the same screen.
This version of Football Manager offers perhaps the most complete experience of the series yet, the main game has been tweaked and improved as we are used to seeing, while the addition of the Classic mode and Challenges offer a different way of playing, and should serve to give new players to the series a chance to get into the swing of things without being overwhelmed. Finally, Versus mode offers an accessible and fun take on multiplayer action for a game which is so often a solitary experience.
Often there seems to be a temptation to skip a year of Football Manager from some quarters, but the additions and changes found in this years edition make it a must buy.
Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC, Mac
Platform Reviewed – PC
Steam review copy supplied by PR