Football Manager 2012 Review - Own Goal
Away from the tweaked interface, FM 2012’s biggest new feature is the introduction of tone when communicating with the players and coaches. This sees, finally, the expansion of dialogue options during team talks or one-on-one meetings from a paltry five or six for each situation, to dozens. This makes it a whole lot easier to put across the hair-dryer treatment, make light of losing against superior opposition or convey your happiness at a good result.
Team talks have also been tweaked to accommodate both team and individual talks, allowing you to, for example, praise the players for their performance but still chastise your lazy centre back for his defensive errors. How players react to team talks is also now immediately clear via instant feedback, making it easier for you to see which players respond best to different attitudes. It’s a big change, but it adds a great deal of extra control to team motivation, which in previous FM games has felt at best, ropey, and at worst, like blind luck.
Click to enlarge - Team talk dialogue options have been hugely improved, but the same can't be said for press conferences
Disappointingly, the tone system doesn't make it into the ever-tedious press conferences, or board-room interactions. Presumably Sports Interactive is saving this feature for next year, but having overhauled the player interactions so extensively, the stilted, clunky press conferences now grate more than ever.
On a more positive note, the match engine has also benefitted from the annual lick of paint, and looks better than ever, or more accurately, still not as good as FIFA 98. However, this is part of FM 2012’s great appeal; it’ll run on pretty much any PC, including ancient PCs, net-tops or your work laptop (yes, I see you playing on the London-Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads train, you know who you are).
Still, new and improved character animations do add a little extra to the game, such as injured players writhing in pain instead of simply lying down, and the stadia and crowds have been massively improved. Every fan is now a low-detail 3D character that reacts to the flow of play as opposed to a cardboard cut-out, and larger stands now cast shadows over the turf, both of which are nice touches.
FM 2012’s match tactics screen has also been overhauled, but oddly for developer Sports Interactive, it’s a rare misfire. The new tactical screen makes it easier for your coaches to pick teams for you, and for you to manage backup tactics and set individual player roles.
Click to enlarge - Marcus Tudgay, goal machine. Maybe
However, it doesn’t let you easily see the stats of players when configuring their roles; for this you’ll need to jump to the separate player instructions screen, which is a process that quickly becomes annoying when you’re trying to find the best player suited to playing as a poacher or playmaker. The fact that you can’t sort the squad by role suitability also rankles, and the integration of ‘Shouts’ - effectively groups of quick tactics such as ‘clear ball to flanks’ or ‘push higher up’ - is also largely redundant. It’s a shame, and means that when it comes to team selection and tactics, FM 2012 takes a rare step backward in comparison to last year’s game.
Despite being derided for its similarity to a mid-90s football game crossed with Microsoft Excel, Football Manager remains one of the most popular PC games year after year, and that’s because it’s consistently out-performed the opposition in a genre with huge appeal. It’s also a game that’s undemanding on your attention without compromising on enjoyment; you can get just us much out of it playing for five minutes or five hours and it can be played at home, on the train or while watching a rubbish film. FM 2012 retains this appeal, and the new features (of which we’ve only covered a few) add plenty to the game to (just about) justify the annual franchise tax. Make no mistake; FM 2012 is a rewarding, challenging and fun game for those with even a passing interest in football.
Despite this, though, FM 2012 is the first Football Manager in years which I’ve felt comfortable skipping in favour of returning to my ongoing tale from last year’s game. The new interface can easily feel overloaded, and the altered tactical screen seems counter-intuitive rather than an improvement. The only standout feature is the new tone and dialogue system which, while long requested, doesn’t make this a mandatory purchase, especially as it doesn't extend to press conferences. I’ve no doubt that FM 2012 will be hugely successful, and for new players it’s the best Football Manager starting point ever. For seasoned players such as me, though, it’s back to Football Manager 2011 and Bristol Rovers. Come on the Gas!