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Football Manager 2017 Review: Relegation

Football Manager still offers the intense management experience fans have grown to love, but should have done so much more.

For years, Manchester United sat atop the Premier League. Fielding a team of legitimate superstars, they were locks for the Champions League, and amassed a record 20 league titles.

You wouldn't know that looking at them today.

The last time they won a championship was four long seasons ago, and they've been left in the dust by rivals like Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and even Leicester City, who beat the odds and won the league last year. It's hard to see Manchester United's decline as anything other than a successful team resting on their laurels, not doing enough to change, improve, and keep up with rivals.

Do you guys see where this analogy is going yet?

Now, if you're not a fan of the Football Manager series, let me give you a quick rundown. It's almost like a "Soccer Tycoon" game, where you don't take control of the on-pitch action, but do take control of literally everything else. And I do mean literally.

You'll be in charge of your team, from scouting, to transfers, to coaching, to formations, to developing your U-18 and U-23 squads. Everything. You have to motivate your players, you have to attend press conferences... no stone is left unturned. The game's "action" is in managing all of this, spending your money wisely, and delegating tasks well -- and it all takes place on a clean, spreadsheet-like user interface that makes it pretty easy to find whatever you need. 

Now, this kind of game, admittedly, isn't going to be for everyone. If you're not a micromanager, this kind of stuff doesn't speak to you. But you need only look at the Steam sales charts to see that there is a huge market for this kind of thing. It's nice to be in full control of a team in this way, and it was personally very nice to try and lead a perennially middling Everton team to a title. So that's the appeal.

Unfortunately, Football Manager 2017 itself is not worth a recommendation. 

To its credit, die-hards will find things to like here. The micro-management is as satisfying as ever, with new tooltips to help newer players learn the ins and outs of what is, frankly, a pretty tough game to break into. The user interface, though bare-bones, works very well and is largely unchanged from previous iterations of the games. When you're putting together your squad, color-coded indicators let you know at a glance whether you're making a terrible decision or not, so you always have a decent idea of what you're doing.

So, yes, the core of the game is fine. But everything around it has stagnated. The few changes that the game has made over previous iterations are all but imperceptible during play, and obsolete elements of the game have yet to be addressed. I realize that people don't play this game for the graphics, but the live match simulations look and play like something from the late 1990s. The ball moves erratically, and players just seem to mill about, looking bored even when attacking or tackling -- regardless of their morale or skills.

This may seem like a purely visual complaint about a game that admittedly doesn't put much of an emphasis on visuals, but in-game coaching and adjustments are a key part of Football Manager games. After all, the ultimate goal is to win games, and it's really hard to do that when the simulations look so shoddy. It's legitimately hard to make adjustments when it's so unclear what is actually happening. Was that goal scored because your players positioned themselves well, or was it because the defenders' AI just stopped working?

And that's really what dooms this game. The new writing is great, and the game really does do a great job of taking you through the ins and outs of managing a soccer team. The problem is that on the pitch, it's hard to see your decisions take hold -- and that's supposed to be the payoff, right? 

If you're a die-hard fan, you likely have Football Manager 2015 or 2016 already. Save some money and just stick with those. Maybe when the 2018 edition rolls around, we'll finally see the graphical upgrades we need to watch our micromanagement unfold in all its glory. 

Our Rating
5
Football Manager still offers the intense management experience fans have grown to love, but should have done so much more.
Reviewed On: PC
Published Nov. 2nd 2016

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