The month of November arrives with force and with it a lot of great year-end games. Football Manager is no exception, having made the fall window its favorite launch time. Just a few weeks after its arrival, Sports Interactive’s beloved management game got closer for a few hours… and a few goals.
Just a few weeks ago, Sega and Sports Interactive started making football fans salivate with the launch of their communication campaign for
Football Manager 2023, first with one trailer, then two, then three and one important fact: the arrival of the official UEFA club competitions, that is, the Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa League Conference. Although the beta version of the game should not take too long, the press was invited to England to see first-hand the potential of a title that, ultimately, only has one challenge -and not the least- year after year: to continue being the best, to renew yourself a bit, while you justify putting your hand in your wallet.
It was in London, in the new studios of the developers of the Football Manager license, Sports Interactive, where we were able to get our hands on this 2023 edition. These first impressions are what the five hours of play that we have had, necessarily, have offered us. very focused on the novelties of this opus. In addition, we have tested the game on PC, as the Playstation 5 version – a first in the history of gaming on the Sony platform – was not available during this session.
As a reminder, Football Manager is a football management game in which, as the name suggests, the player is the manager of a team. Or a national team, a choice that can be made at the start of a match or determined over the course of the adventure, depending on his career and his progress as a manager. The objective is obviously simple: take the reins of a team and take it to the top of world football, trying to win as many titles as possible and, why not, establish a dynasty of success for it.
To do this, he has to supervise and influence the day-to-day sports life of his club, whether in training, in the tactical scheme of the team, in the mood of his dressing room or in the expectations of the management committee. of the club, which will inevitably be affected by the means (or not) made available to them, the reputation of the team and the quality of the players they will have to manage. Many parameters to manage for a game that continues to be the leader in its category and has been unanimously acclaimed for years… with the main concern of getting closer to what real football offers. As you can see, this is the challenge that Football Manager 2023, like its predecessors before it, will have to face.
The Champions League is on the agenda (and it’s not a joke)
Football Manager and real football have been a love affair for many years, with enthusiasts setting playing time records, others rising to royal positions within football clubs through their level of play, and quite simply and most logically, some of the biggest stars in international football now or on the way, hired after their potential in the game was revealed.
To get as close as possible to reality, Football Manager has always relied on a rich and accurate database, fed by scouts (mostly volunteer supervisors) sent to clubs to put the level of a team’s players, for example. But that’s not all: to get closer to reality, the game has included the last important plays in the history of football, namely, Brexit (the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union), Financial Fair Play – a body that regulates the economy of clubs and punishes them if they get too indebted or spend more money on transfers than they generate in income own – and, more recently, VAR, video-assisted arbitration, which supposedly allows the men in black (or yellow or green, for that matter) to be able to reverse an error or an uncalled foul.
During the few hours that we were able to spend in London, in the new Sports Interactive studios -barely a hundred meters beyond the previous ones-, we were able to appreciate the novelties that the title brings for this new season, which seems to confirm once again the FM status as a reference in terms of management and concern for authenticity. Starting with the most visual and the most “marketinian”: the arrival of the European Cups, that is, the famous and inescapable Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa League Conference. This may be a detail for some of you, but for Football Manager fans it means a lot. No more patches (shhhh) to get the official skin of the competition in the game and in the menus. Above all, Sports Interactive has taken the experience to the next level, with a truly dedicated menu and full draw, almost identical to the one you see every year on TV, except that you don’t see players reaching into the various selection jars. But the official UEFA logo and the legendary Champions League anthem are there, which inevitably gives us an even greater sense of immersion.
Fans will have even more voice
The other striking change is the trust that the fans place in us throughout a season. Until now, this was expressed through the feed of the social network that has been present in the game for several years. But this time the developers have chosen to give it a much more important role. If during your evolution in the club you have to ensure that the expectations of the directors are always met, you will also have to monitor the opinion of the fans towards you.
It is difficult to test the novelty of the new in a few hours. But the teams on site and game creator Miles Jacobson have made it clear that public discontent will affect his future as crew chief. In simple terms? Winning won’t be enough if the fans don’t like you. And just like in the real world, his lack of support can also precipitate your fall, while the steering seemed more inclined to hold you.
More precision, more life
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, Football Manager is a management game and, therefore, a game with a succession of data to ingest and integrate, represented in the form of tables. The interface, advanced for a long time, maintains its accessibility with a wizard -which can be deactivated at any time- present at the beginning of each game. And to make it even sexier, some changes have been made. Your progress and success as a coach will now be represented on a dynamic timeline. The transfer system has been revised again and we will even be able to interact with the players’ agents before going on the offensive, to take the pulse of a possible transfer, but also so that they request us in case the negotiations do not go well, to satisfy the wishes of his player. We should also better anticipate future signings and the needs of our team through a new tool, the Squad Planner, which should allow us to anticipate the hiring and face of our squad three years in advance.
But the other key element of Football Manager is the matches and their representation in 3D. Based on an antiquated engine that is light years ahead of what EA Sports can offer with FIFA, the matches are becoming more and more realistic. It’s not necessarily very pretty, but it’s becoming more and more like real football matches, with actions related to the instructions you give your players beforehand.
To do this, new animations have been added, both before the matches (entering the field, warm-up) and during them, with better gestures for all the players, new celebrations related to the situation of the match (winning goal, tie, from the beginning) and less rigid and more fluid movements. In short, it moves better and is also very responsive. The developers have also promised us better AI, with a more responsive response to your style. The mentality of the opponent, already present in the past, should evolve even more with the problems of the season, such as the race to remain in the first division or the fight for European places.
Following the wave of great sports games (FIFA, NBA 2K), it’s up to Football Manager to unveil some of its assets just before its annual release. Quintessential game that requires a lot of time, especially if you are a football fan, it was not going to offer us its full potential in a few hours. But, as in previous seasons, the base is still there, immutable and solid. The game has become even more accessible and realistic, not to mention the progress of the 3D match engine. We will have to spend a few seasons to see how the new features, such as fan support and adapting the AI to our tactics, develop over time. See you on November 8, in your jerseys, shorts, and cleats, in the virtual green rectangle for the final verdict.