Football manager is something of an industry in its own right. Having started out as Championship Manager in 1993 it has grown into perhaps the biggest sports simulation franchise out there, frankly if you are into football and have never heard of it, where have you been hiding?
The series has been blamed for many a divorce and failed university degree, as well as being used by actual Premier League managers as a scouting tool or injury log. There are even stories of players sending videos or queries regarding in game stats which they don’t agree with. The FM database uses information collected by fans and scouts across the world so to claim it’s probably one of the best football data bases out there is fair.
So lets move onto FM18. The game itself is standard Football Manager. If you’re not familiar with this, you pick a team from pretty much any tier in any country and take control at all levels of this club. This will involve, buying and selling players, tactics, training, club finances, club staff, scouting, team meetings. If you think that this seems overwhelming as a new comer to the series, you would be right. The game does however offer a hint overlay which you can access at any time which will help you understand some of the basics and it also allows you to set tasks that your assistant manager can perform for you. Using this tool you can be as hands on or off as you choose.
In your role as the manager of the club you will have to navigate from the start of the season to the end of the season taking part in league and cup competitions. You must also juggle player, fan and board expectations. You can and very probably will get fired from your job. However in this scenario you can apply for jobs at other clubs and continue your career elsewhere.
You not only buy and sell players but also have to knit these professional prima donnas into a tight knit group who not only respect and like each other, but also respect you as the boss. Within the team there are different social groups and influential players. Be warned, selling a player who is past his prime but much loved in the dressing room can cause open revolt! This in turn makes you weigh up shifting him on or just holding onto him for squad coherency.
This latest version sees the addition of the aforementioned dynamics system and an over hauled more realistic scouting system. In previous versions of the game you could send your scouts anywhere in the country and search for a new player. FM18 introduces a scouting package and budget meaning you have to be a lot more careful with your searches. Unlike previous versions scouts will take around a week to bring back any basic data, although frustrating at times this is far more realistic than previous versions where your scout would be giving you info on that potential wonder kid you just found playing in the USA under 24 hours after you set the assignment.
The game has also updated its stars system (where you can rate players usefulness versus your seasons expectations out of 5 stars) with a percentile system. This gives a much more exact idea of what you’re looking at. I have however felt the highs and lows of this system signing a 70% player to find he’s actually not very good. Rather than blame the engine I should in fact blame my rather bad scouting network!
The match engine is slick and you can choose different camera angles to view the pitches from. My only real gripes with the graphics engine here are a couple bad animations, throw ins being my main cause for concern, that said it’s a joy to watch your player ride a tackle, shimmy or take the ball down with one foot to pass with another. The in game engine also gives you every stat you could ever want from individual player positioning, to key passes and tackles. This is really what you want to make of it, the casual player will look at key shots, mistakes or passes with data lovers really delving into a players exact movements down to the exact blade of grass.
When in the game it’s up to you what speed you play the live matches and you can literally make it 90 real time minutes if you so choose. As the 90 minutes progress you have to make key team talks, substitutions and shouts to motivate your team into doing the job on the opposition. It’s greatly satisfying to be in a dead lock situation only to bring on that one substitute who grabs a winning goal, or to change to using a new formation and flipping a game on its head. Of course, it can work the other way and a win turns into a loss because you removed a key midfielder or as I often find my key player is being complacent.
Football Manager 2018 is a fully operating and very immersive football management simulation. The game has a vast community following who can be quite vocal about the series and the standard of the latest edition. With this community you can get around all manor of issues you might find in game. From killer tactics, to wonder kid shortlists, to logo and face packs the list of workshop items is almost endless. Someone has even created a file which allows you to remove Brexit from your game!
I found FM18 a pretty solid game with few real problems or bugs certainly nothing that makes the game unplayable. Some people get frustrated with the match engine and argue games are predetermined but real world football can throw up some ridiculously crazy results these days so it’s best to take the game with a pinch of salt. Just like in the real world Football is fantastic and heart breaking in the same breath! Regardless of if you have played the Football Manager series before I would recommend you take a look at FM18 if you like management simulation games. Be warned though, this game is addictive and can become a real time sink.