In the last few days one of the biggest selling PC franchises unleashed its latest version to the masses. No, we’re not talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops; the best selling PC franchise year on year in the UK is Football Manager. The 2011 version has now landed, boasting a number of new signings to its ever expanding line-up of features.
Whereas as last year’s Football Manager 2010 involved a radical redesign the interface and the way feedback was provided to the player, FM 2011 is less about tweaking the existing setup and more about adding wholly new features.
The most immediately obvious addition to the spreadsheet-sim is the addition of blood sucking leeches player agents. These game generated NPCs (there are no real-world agents for legal reasons) represent players when it comes down to negotiating salaries and transfers.
Negotiations are now handled in a conversation style
Just as in the real world, agents can seriously complicate things too, potentially making it a nightmare to sign the young South American star from Nowhere Utd. Different agents will have different styles of negotiation too, with some asking you to make the first move before proceeding, others making outlandish demands, and some (the minority) being more reasonable.
There are serious consequences for earning an agents scorn too; be unreasonable around the negotiating table and your star striker might refuse to sign a new contract or initiate a huge media circus before finally accepting a huge pay rise. Like or loathe them, agents are a big part of the football soap opera in real life and the addition of them to the FM universe fits well. It’s also immensely satisfying when a prized player sacks his agent over differences and then agrees a cheap contract extension with you directly.
As well as the addition of agents, the whole process of communicating and negotiating with individual players, other clubs and the board has been revised too. Instead of the simply sending faxes back and forth and then waiting days for a response, replies are now immediate and take the form of a conversation. This means you can instantly tweak an offer for a player, or try and convince the board to let you expand the training facilities without delay. It won’t always work of course, but having the ability to talk one-on-one with players regarding concerns, form and training removes a lot of the mystery when they under-perform or have issues with their team mates.
The match engine has been improved with extra detail and animations
The conversation system also makes the immense level of detail in the game more obvious too. Player confidence, relationships, preferred tactics and moves; these all contribute to a player’s performance on the pitch in the same way as their more obvious stats. The added conversation options make these factors not only more apparent, but easier to take advantage of too.
Also receiving a much needed update is the 3D match engine, added back in 2008 and relatively untouched since. While the engine itself isn’t going to tax any system with a dedicated graphics card, there are lots of noticeable improvements. Stadium detail has been massively increased, with more real-life grounds accurately modelled in the engine. There’s also added detail outside of the stadium, with surrounding houses and streets visible behind the stands, and crowds now react more to the goings on the pitch.
There are also, for the first time, night time matches. In these players are starkly lit by the flood lights and the fans are cast in shadow, although we don’t think Sports Interactive has added any flood light failures. While all these improvements sound pretty minor, they all add to the atmosphere and help make that night-time mid-week away game in January a bit more involving.