Video Game Review: Football Manager

Football Manager (FM) is the best sports simulator on the market and I’m not ashamed to admit I’m addicted to it.

FM is a venerable game franchise which started in 1992 making it almost as old as the more popular Madden Football franchise. It originally started as a series called Championship Manager but when the software developer split off in 2005, it retained the rights to the source code but not the name.  It redubbed the game Football Manager and it has been cranking out a new version every year since.

What is FM? It is a comprehensive simulation of the world of domestic and international soccer – or football as the rest of the known universe which isn’t American calls it.  I’m not joking when I say comprehensive.  It models the professional and amateur leagues of 51 nations, the national teams of every nation which has one, dozens of national and international competitions including the World Cup and the Olympics, and tens of thousands of players.

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Not convinced?  You also get to control all aspects of coaching a team ranging from interviews to firings of the Staff.  You can manage the youth and feeder teams.  You’re also responsible for the training, morale of the players, establishment of tactics and formations, scouting for new additions, and the domestic and international transfer markets.  You got to deal with the media and answer questions in victory and defeat.  To top it off there is full financial modeling with loans, advertising, sponsorship and new stadiums and facilities.

I earlier compared this game to Madden Football but honestly, there is very little comparison.  Madden Football has essentially been making the same game for decades, optimized for console arcade-like play with very little innovation and thus its popularity has suffered.  Football Manager on the other hand has continued to innovate.  The latest iteration (FM17) fixing to come out in a few weeks includes social media interaction, new Staff additions including Data Analysts and Sports Scientists for you to get your ‘Moneyball’ on, and usual raft of match and AI improvements.  FM has a large American audience based off Steam sales but it is tremendously popular overseas – I have been in Germany and France for FM launches and the advertisements were all over the place.  I hear it is even crazier in the United Kingdom where flagship papers cover the game on their front page.

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Me?  I have been playing the game for years and I find it works best as a role-playing game.  In my latest dynasty, I started with an obscure Scottish minor league – Berwick – and after a couple of inconclusive years, my manager was fired.  He didn’t have a great resume so he got hired on with Limerick FC – a formerly powerful Irish team which had fallen on hard times.  Over the next six years, I took the team back to the top of the charts in Irish Football – a small less reputable league in comparison to the European powerhouses – but my manager’s reputation was enhanced by a better than average performance in the EURO Championship where he defeated a powerful Hungarian club.  Eventually, he earned an interview and a job with Dag and Red, a well-funded English club poised to make waves in English football and so far, has managed to gain promotion to the first tier of the Sky League – two steps below the Premiere League of Manchester United and Arsenal fame.

FM is one of those touchstone games where if you’re about sports simulations – not arcade games mind you – hardcore sports, then you owe it to yourself to give it a go.  It is expensive, but few games let you buy a world to play in.  FM lives up to the claim as best sports game.

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