At around this time each year I begin a new story in the world of Football Manager; SEGA and Sports Interactive’s chart smashing management behemoth. I’ll pick a lowly team in dire straits in reality (previous choices have been West Ham, Bristol City, Watford, Middlesbrough and Bristol Rovers), take charge, and manage them to the heights of European greatness.
It’s a labour of love, signing players and watching them mature into world beaters, watching club legends retire, forging relationships with other managers and moulding tactics. It’s a process that takes, on and off, the whole year (or around 350 hours of relaxed playing), so you can understand why I get quite attached to my team, despite being made up of fake, game-generated players. I’m not one to up sticks and move to bigger clubs in search of fame or glory either; one club, to the top, for as long as it takes.
Click to enlarge - The new interface resizes itself depending on your desktop resolution, but means playing at 1,920 x 1,080 can be a little overwhelming
With the arrival of this year’s Football Manager 2012 though, I found myself, for the first time, disinterested by the prospect. I still had stories to tell and glory to seek in my game of FM 2011, where Bristol Rovers had finally claimed its first Premier League title. Could the new avalanche of features championed by developer Sports Interactive convince me to leave the mighty pirates, and start back at square one?
Firing up FM 2012 (and selecting Nottingham Forest as this year’s fixer-up’er team) and immediately obvious (it’s featured on the Start screen) is, finally, a fully developed tutorial; the lack of which has long been one of the deficiencies of the FM franchise. The tutorial is completely separate from the rest of game and takes new players through how to select a team, build tactics, play a match and learn from feedback on the performance.
It’s a crucial new feature, as FM’s wall of data can be confusing even for experienced players. To that effect, there’s also an improved 'How to' section, where you can enter a few keywords and be presented with highlighted menu options or a brief walk-through to find and explain particular features.
Click to enlarge - Nottingham Forest 1-0 Roma; Have it!
This is particularly useful, as many of the game’s menus options have been reshuffled as part of the new resolution-adaptive interface. Previously, the same data was displayed on the screen, regardless of the resolution at which you played. Now, the higher resolution your screen, the more data will be displayed.
At the Home screen this means a fixture list, team stats, league table, squad status and much more are all visible at a glance if you’re playing at 1,920 x 1,080. Player information screens are also resolution-adaptive, displaying positional strengths, season stats, scout reports and contract status alongside the usual numerical attributes. Having so much data on display is a double-edged sword, however, as it’s even easier to feel overwhelmed by all the information the game throws at you.