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      Football Manager 2013

      Football Manager 2013

      That other football season is just about to kick off, and we've sampled this year's offering from Sports Interactive.

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      Every year the folks at Football Manager outfit Sports Interactive keep hearing the same thing. "It's the same game, just a fresh coat of paint, some added features on top and all the roster movements." And quite honestly, I'm sure a majority of fans would be satisfied.

      Most fans and players, myself included, keep on playing in the same manner, using the same set of clubs, tactics, and maybe even players year after year. Sure, we slowly make use of a number of the new features, adding them into our FM routine as we discover them or discover how they've changed since last year. But there is rarely that "oh shit!" moment as you realise there is something completely new and different.

      This year it would seem they've tried to highlight some of the changes better, and thus they appear ripe and ready in the main menu. Football Manager Classic. Challenge. Versus. New stuff that's easy enough to spot.

      Football Manager titles are typically hard to preview, but I thought I'd turn things on their head and play this one differently than how I do usually. Take a look at the product from a few different managerial angles.

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      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013

      Bill Shankly - Football Manager Classic

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      Liverpool FC may not be at the top of the list for the neutral managers to take on in FM 2013, given the sorry state of affairs at Anfield. Nonetheless there is still a foundation there to rebuild, and few clubs (if any) have the sort of heritage that Liverpool sports. And few managers are as classic as Bill Shankly - so I thought it a natural fit to try the Football Manager Classic mode using the Shankly approach to the sport. Absolute dedication and lots of five-a-side, and hopefully that winning mentality that kept him at Liverpool from 1959 to 1974.

      The basic idea behind Football Manager Classic is to allow players with less time on their hands to enjoy the full Football Manager experience, slimmed down and with the "fat" trimmed. As a long time FM addict (and former CM addict), it pleases me that it will also allow for an experience where I can actually play through an entire season playing from dusk 'til dawn.

      The first issue I'm faced with in manager creation is the fact that Bill Shankly would have turned a full century next year, and the oldest manager you can create in a game of FM is 70, so my Shankly was subsequently born in 1942.

      The first thing you'll notice about Football Manager Classic is the significantly lighter interface and the lessened information load. It's still the same complex game and exhaustive database running in the background - you're just making fewer choices and fewer factors that matter.

      Arriving at the club, the chief scout recommends I go out and get a left-back (Swansea's Neil Taylor is suggested), and he also recommends central defender Ryan Shawcross (Stoke). Not really the calibre names I was thinking of and it looks as if I have better talent in my squad (Enrique at left, Agger/Skrtel at centre), so perhaps the less than spectacular transfer outcomes over the last couple of Liverpool seasons is reflected in the stats of my chief scout (Dave Fallows). Shankly did come to Anfield with ambitions and used transfers to build the team, but of course those were different and my Shankly resides over a team made up of a smorgasbord of nationalities.

      I'm expected to qualify for the Europa League this season, and I thought I'd cancel that Andy Carroll loan deal to start things off and give me another tactical choice up front. He's lodged in the reserve squad (no youth squad in FMC by the way), and I can't find the option to call him back, probably cause the deal has been signed for the duration of the season. Oh well, thought he'd be a player to Shankly's tastes. I send the scouts to look up Darren Bent as he might need saving from the clutches of Villa. I also scout Oscar Cardozo of Benfica, a shamefully underrated player and Edinson Cavani of Napoli (I'm allowed to dream am I not?). I also scout recently relegated Martin Olsson at Blackburn as a potential cover at left-back.

      As I proceed from my first team of managing Liverpool I'm amazed at how quickly the game progresses. It's almost like playing Football Manager Handheld. The media handling has been toned down in FMC, something that feels a bit like a relief as I've rarely enjoyed the often tedious and repetitive questions you get from journalists in Football Manager (real world journos always come up with interesting and worthwhile questions, of course). I'm only asked one single question before the season - say I like attractive football and will encourage it at the club. Well, easy enough to say, before the goals start hitting the back of the net.

      There is no individual training in FMC, so I can't force Downing into becoming a full back - so it looks like Double O Downing will spend most of his time at the bench. Anyway, I opt for a 4-3-2-1 line up and plow ahead with my preparations (there aren't too many in FMC). I set the training to focus on teamplay (no special five-a-side option here), and use only a moderate amount of matchplay in trainings.

      Things start out okayish for Pool, advancing in Europe and not falling apart completely in the league. Reina makes a bit of a fool of himself, first saving a shot from distance with his foot and the aimlessly rushing out of his box to compensate, finding himself in no-man's land as the opponents scores in the empty net. It's a weird sight, and one any manager would likely rather see in text updates than in the 3D match engine.

      I'm undecided about Football Manager Classic, while it certainly streamlines the experience in a way that reminds me of the days me and my friends were hot seating Championship Manager sessions, I've grown accustomed to some of the more intricate features and options available to me over the last few years. And while I leave some management up to the assistant, I still feel this is a better fit for me. Football Manager Classic could still be the perfect game of football management on your laptop as it's quicker and provides you with meaningful gameplay even with short sessions - an intermediate between the full experience and Football Manager Handheld if you will.

      Arsene Wenger's search for eternal youth

      The challenge modes are extensions or scenarios within Football Manager Classic - providing you with an event more streamlined and objective based gameplay. It's something they've taken from Football Manager Handheld 2012 and then expanded upon. You're free to take on any of the four challenges with different teams and leagues, providing us with virtually limitless scenarios to play out for a few hours or more. Naturally this ties into leaderboards and stuff, another area that's being expanded with Football Manager 2013.

      There is often talk of golden generations - Manchester United had the likes of the Nevilles, Beckham, Giggs, Butt, Scholes - and this notion is something that the folks at Sports Interactive had made into a challenge called "You can't win anything with kids". The Busby babes may have something to say about that, but nonetheless this challenge sees your squad enriched with five exceptionally talented young player aged 21 and under.

      I choose to play as Arsenal in this challenge as it would seem right up Wenger's alley. Sure, he may secretly plot to sell them a few years down the road once they've fully matured, by hey, that's just sound business.

      There are three other free challenges (a fifth one will be available as DLC - and fan feedback will dictate if further challenge are to be released) - the others included are The Saviour Cometh (save a team facing relegation), Injury Crisis and The Invincibles (your team tops the league and your job is to ensure the season ends without suffering a single loss).

      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013Football Manager 2013Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013Football Manager 2013

      Versus

      Versus mode is the Football Manager variation of a "Pokémon challenge" or a deathmatch if you will. Take the team you're currently managing and face off against a friend's team. It's your fantasy managers dream and a sandbox of what if scenarios. I think this is going to provide some real fun once you've really got a proper squad of dream players together, and you've really learned how to get the most out of them. Of course, there are still options to play full network games, but this is a nice addition to what's on offer that is likely to suit some people better.

      The Special One

      To many José Mourinho is the prototype of a modern football manager. With surgical precision he can mould a team of individuals into a winning collective that almost always come away with some form of silverware at the end of the season. He's a master at manipulating the media, shifting focus from his players to himself, and allowing them to focus on the task ahead. Some would say he has often arrived at set tables or teams with massive wallets - but winning the Champions League with Porto (even if that was an amazing team with Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche, Vitor Baia to name a few - it was a perfect storm of the right players, team and circumstances for Porto to win the Champions League that year (2004).

      Lately, Mourinho has been hinting at a return to England, and even though one would have to assume Chelsea might be at the top of his list I think it's just as likely he would take over another ambitious team - perhaps even Manchester City, if Roberto Mancini falters this season. After all, history likes repeating itself and Mourinho did succeed Mancini at Inter back in 2008.

      Anyway, as I want to get a taste for what's it like to be in control of a team with massive talent and resources I put myself in charge of Manchester City with the full on Football Manager 2013 experience. It's an experience that requires someone special, someone who's keen on details - someone like José Mourinho.

      Even with all this things to tinker with and all that information the menus seems to handle it fairly well. I'm used to the drop down menus by now.

      Your assistant and the director of football (new feature), will allow you to tailor exactly what aspects of management you wish to deal with. There are lots of little options here, and you can pretty much take a completely hands-off approach to management where you basically make sure you have the best possible people working for you and then just let them handle affairs - coaching, training, setting up friendles, contracts, transfers, and so on. A lot has been there before, but overall little changes have been made to how it's presented.

      Another area that has been improved is the actions you perform while the game is on going, the new interface for on-the-fly substitions and instructions work well for instance.

      I'm going to have to spend much more time in the full on manager mode before the review, it feels very solid, but more time is needed in order to tell whether the changes and tweaks results in a better overall experience.

      900 new features - and still the same game?

      900. That's the number of new features and changes Sports Interactive have made to the game since last year. They could have said 100 or 5000 and I wouldn't have known the difference. The changes are mainly made to ensure as much depth as possible, while still retaining the authentic feel of the game so many have grown addicted to.

      One area I have yet to touch upon is the international management. Typically if you're just managing a national team in FM, you're not that busy and you're mostly just progressing the game to reach your friendlies, qualifiers, and (hopefully) tournaments. I have yet to try this aspect of FM 2013, but the idea from Sports Interactive has been to inject this aspect of the game with more things to do - specifically as far as player relationships and dealing with the media are concerned. Personally, I'm not sure how this will play out as the media has always been one of my gripes with FM - it is looking a little better in this version, but I still think the system, in which you pick certain answers to questions (that soon start repeating themselves) is a bit tedious. Player interactions are also fleshed out more for the international manager, something that will allow you more sway on players who are handled by other managers at their clubs day-to-day.

      Football Manager 2013 feels sleak and fast, and just as grounded in real world of football management as ever. Come November 2 we'll once again spend more time with Football Manager than is healthy.

      HQ

      We have tried a preview version of Football Manager 2013 - and there was still work left to be done in it. We experienced some crashes, particularly with the 3D match engine, but hopefully all of these problems will be ironed out in time for the release.

      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013
      Football Manager 2013

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      Football Manager 2013

      Football Manager 2013

      PREVIEW. Written by Bengt Lemne

      That other football season is just about to kick off, and we've sampled this year's offering from Sports Interactive.



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