Release Date: November 2
Platforms available on: PC
Developer: Sports Interactive
Genre: Football Management
The Football Manager series has always prided itself on its depth and realism, offering a level of authenticity its rivals have never been able to match. Sports Interactive's opus has become a life-devouring behemoth over the years, growing in scope with every installment and posing an increasing threat to our work and interpersonal relationships.
With Football Manager 2013, the studio has bucked this trend and adopted the 'less is more' approach. The game's headline feature is the inclusion of 'Classic' mode, a stripped down version of the world's most thorough football management simulation that is sure to divide the fanbase down the middle.
Even in the full-fat version of the game, the training system had been overhauled with palatability in mind. A comprehensive overview panel replaces the stat-bloated ways of old, making it easier to drag players in and out of individual fitness regimes or send your entire squad off to a training camp in one fell swoop.
There are few fans out there who won't welcome the new training system with open arms, but the expanded role of backroom staff might irk the purists. Some of the more tedious aspects of the game, such as contract handling, can now be palmed off on your co-workers. While the option to do this can be very useful, we couldn't shake the feeling that we were cheating, or at the very least doing things the lazy way.
The matchday experience has been dramatically improved thanks to a refined interface peppered with additional features. Players are now served bite-sized messages from their assistant while a game is in progress, offering suggestions on how to improve the team's performance across each area of the pitch. This is a useful inclusion that makes matchdays feel more interactive, and less like a spectator sport.
Enhancements to the 3D match engine have also been introduced for a more realistic experience. This area of the game has always been rooted in previous generation technology, but it continues to move in the right direction. Stadiums have been rendered with greater detail, there are more player animations and the laws of physics more strictly enforced. The end result isn't quite cutting edge, but it serves its purpose, adding some flavor to what is a rich text experience for the most part.
'Classic' mode represents a significant departure from Football Manager's established norms, but its inclusion comes as no surprise. There are hordes of fans who have been following the series since the early Championship Manager titles, many of whom feel alienated by the complexity of recent iterations.
Anyone expecting a return to the simplicity of the early Championship Manager titles might be somewhat disappointed. It's still an in-depth experience, with the expansive team and player rosters intact, just a less time-consuming one. Nevertheless, its inclusion will almost certainly draw legions of fans back to the series who simply don't have the time to dedicate to the demands of the fully-fledged game.
Steam-backed online multiplayer rounds off this value for money package, with Valve's platform hosting online leaderboards and tournaments. Players can even import their squads from their solo campaigns, entering them in user-created leagues and cups online. The competition is always sky-high, but the sense of accomplishment is incredible when you get one over on others with the side you have invested so many hours into.
Football Manager 2013 is not going to relinquish its crown in the football management genre any time soon. The inclusion of 'Classic' mode is a shred move that is sure to pay dividends, causing many old fanatics to relapse and encouraging newcomers to join the fold, but it still remains miles ahead of its competitors with its sheer level of depth, sophistication and challenge.