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Back onto the pitch: 'Football Manager 2016' beta impressions

'Football Manager 2016' is out in beta right now! But how is this year's version of the sports sim stacking up?

We’re just a little over a week away from the November 13 release of Football Manager 2016. And while fans are salivating in anticipation of the game’s official release next Friday, the good folks at Sports Interactive have continued their annual tradition of gifting a beta to those gamers who pre-ordered. It’s really more of a soft launch than a beta, since the game will be playable up until the official release date and any progress gamers make will be transferrable to the full game.

As of October 28, anyone who pre-purchases Football Manager 2016 will be eligible to jump into the beta and start crafting the club of their dreams. For the first time ever, players can customize their manager and create their very own club from scratch. In short, FM16 is shaping up to be one of the good ones.

A screen shot of Football Manager 2016's customize a manager screen.

If you’re not one of those people who absolutely needed access to the newest version of the PC mega-franchise right this instant, then allow us to weigh in! You see, ever since the 28th, those happy few who’ve already bought the game and immersed themselves in all of its simulation glory, well, they’ve been just clamoring to tell anyone and everyone about how this year’s iteration of the classic sim series feels in their hands.

Fortunately for you, fair reader, we’ve combed through the comments, the feedback, and the usual assortment of gamers who just like to complain to bring you the most relevant user critiques from this year’s beta. Without further ado, let’s hit the pitch.

How’s It Looking?

In a sports simulation, looks aren’t usually on the top of people’s wish lists. After all, you spend a significant portion of your time in any Football Manager game just looking at menus and screens filled with random names and stats. How pretty can a developer really make that?

As it turns out, pretty darn pretty.

Screen shot of Football Manager's new UI.

As one person put it, “The UI is sexy as h*ll.” That’s fairly cut and dry in terms of praise. That redditor wasn’t alone, however, as  Sky Sports host Pete Graves echoed that sentiment on Twitter:

Of course, the interface upgrade may also have some folks wondering if there’s a bit too much information on the screen at one time. The overall effect of all the new information can be a bit daunting for some players.

In Summary: The new version of Football Manager 2016 is gorgeous to behold, but you’d better be prepared to read your way through the Champion’s League. 

More screen shots of Football Manager 2016's UI.

How’s It Playing? 

So, sure the game is pretty. That’s almost a given, even with games that are released annually like Football Manager. The gameplay is really where it’s at, and with a series like Football Manager that tends to mix up its gameplay year after year, that aspect of the game can be kind of a question mark.

Football Manager 2016 simulation gameplay.

Thankfully, users have been incredibly kind in their critiques of the notoriously difficult sim. One player proclaimed:

“Seen some dodgy keeping still though, especially when you see it in 3D. One on ones still seem to be missed more than scored. Overall though, I'd tentatively say its a good improvement.”

When it comes to individual player skills, the title still plays favorites (hope you’re a Rooney fan!) as much as any other sports game. From nation to nation, the level of detail can be surprisingly hit-and-miss. 

For example, the French leagues (notoriously under-represented in past titles) have finally been updated. As one gamer wrote:

“I want to highlight the fantastic work made on french leagues … I'm a Bordeaux fan, and this year, it is so good to finally have 60 players in my squad. All the stats were realistically updated!”

Unfortunately, the initial rumblings from players indicate that Australian leagues may not have fared quite as well, at least in terms of the level of detail available in the beta.

Fans of the series should be relieved (or disheartened, as the case may be) to find out that the game’s historically high level of difficulty is unchanged

Of course, one Fulham fan actually stated, “Overall Rating: 11/10 best game ever... I can now forget how crap my team is in real life and live through this video game.” If you can win with those guys, FM16 can’t be that hard.

Just a heads up, players hoping to get a jump on the top potential in Football Manager 2016 can check out this reddit thread, which is sure to expand in the coming weeks.

In summary: Most people are pleased with the gameplay changes, and Football Manager 2016 is still hard as crap, especially if you’re trying to win with Leeds United.

How’s that Software Working? 

Football Manager 2016's Create a Club mode

Gameplay improvements are only worthwhile if the game actually works on your machine. In a world where games are launched seemingly half-finished on an increasing basis, how is Football Manager 2016 doing while it’s in beta?

On this note, you might be pretty surprised by the answer. Several users have actually stated that the newest version in the franchise plays better on their machine than the last. Even in the beta, the game seems to be playing quite well for most. Though some people have cited issues with multiple crashes, these bugs seem easily remedied (at least according to the comments...we have had zero issue with the game’s performance).

In summary: Works good.

In short — assuming you just scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the article in order to get the gist of the beta — all you need to know is this: If the initial user feedback is any indication, Football Manager 2016 is one of the best iterations in the franchise’s history. Developer Sports Interactive has clearly swung for the fences in their quest to deliver the ultimate in sports management sims, and the result is largely successful. If you’re the type of gamer who simply loves to get lost on the pitch, then this is definitely the game you’ve been waiting for. Prepare to get your life destroyed.

Published Nov. 4th 2015

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