Football Manager 2015 launches this Friday (November 7th) on PC, Mac and Linux – but will it be another hit? PCR spends a few weeks with the game.
In an age where downloads and console gaming are more prominent than ever before, the Football Manager series has continued to defy the market with incredible sales of traditional boxed copies – providing a great opportunity for PC retailers.
Earlier this year Football Manager 2014 broke the record for the number of consecutive number ones (17) in the boxed UK PC game chart. Overall the series has sold millions of units since launching in 2004 following its spiritual predecessor Championship Manager.
Now Football Manager 2015 approaches, boasting a number of interesting new changes. So how does it differ?
Well, the first thing you’ll notice is the fresh user interface – a sidebar has been added to the left of the screen, aiming to give players quicker access to menus that may have been difficult to find before.
When you create a new game you’ll be asked if you want to be a ‘tracksuit manager’ (think Jürgen Klopp) or a ‘tactical manager’ (ala Jose Mourinho). What this means is do you want a more hands-on approach with the squad in training, or will you leave that to the team’s coach and focus on tactics and player recruitment?
Footballers are now more lifelike as they run, pass and tackle during the 3D match view, with developer Sports Interactive seeking the help of AFC Wimbledon players and Creative Assembly’s motion capture studio to record more accurate animations.
Touchline team talks and media interactivity have been revamped, with the player now able to talk to the press in the tunnel.
Other tweaks include improved lighting, ball physics and AI, new stadium types, tactical player roles and instructions, roles (like wide playmaker and inverted wingback), scouting and preferred player movements.
The beautiful game
Updates aside, fans and stockists of the game will be most pleased to hear that Football Manager 2015 features the same enjoyable, engrossing and addictive gameplay the series is well known for.
It’s the little touches that make Football Manager magical. Managing Arsenal, we brought in a new defensive midfielder to replace Arteta, who immediately approached me after hearing the news and explained he was concerned he was going to lose his place in the first team. While that was our plan, the fact he spoke up about it and got worried after the meeting oozed realism. It’s like the game knows what you’re thinking – you really can manage a club just how you like.
Scoring that winning goal in extra time, using the press to unsettle your opponents or get more funds from the board, disciplining unruly players by leaving them to rot in the reserves, offloading a stinker for a high fee or bagging a bargain (and bragging about it to the press e.g. “Juventus have been robbed”) are just a handful of small memorable moments that make the game a pleasure to play. Not to mention taking small teams like Chelmsford City FC to the Champions League.
The wealth of tactical, scouting and management options is great for fans of the series, but can be pretty overwhelming for newcomers. Thankfully the ‘Classic’ mode strips out some of the more advanced features, allowing gamers to focus on core team management and matches.
The Football Manager movie
This year retailers have an extra SKU to stock in An Alternative Reality: The Football Manager Documentary – a 70-minute look at the impact the series has had on gamers and how it’s even shaped football.
There’s interviews with managers like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Alex McLeish, footballers including Andros Townsend, celebrities and fans.
It’s a decent insight into the simulation title and the inner psyche of some of the more serious fans (yes, there are those that dress up in a suit for a virtual cup final, set their bin alight to recreate the atmosphere of a flare-filled Turkish stadium or even interview themselves by talking into a mirror).
On top of that, the documentary gives customers another disc to buy – especially for those who are long running fans of the series.
With a few essential tweaks and updates, Football Manager 2015 largely sticks to the successful formula that has made the series such a hit with PC gamers in the UK.
Early reviews elsewhere have been strong, with Football Manager 2015 enjoying a nice early rating so far on review aggregator website Metacritic.
This will no doubt sell extremely well – both in download and boxed form. There aren’t many boxed PC games worth stocking anymore, but Football Manager 2015 is probably the safest bet you can make on choosing just a single game to bundle with a new PC.
Although titles like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are still popular on PC, Football Manager has something they will never have – a huge appeal to footy-mad Brits, regardless of age, status or other interests.
And they're going to love it.
Key info/how to stock
SKU: Football Manager 2015
Released: November 7th
SKU: An Alternative Reality: The Football Manager Documentary
RRP: £12.99 (DVD), £14.99 (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Signature Entertainment
Released: Out now