Year after year Sports Interactive brings us a new iteration of Football Manager, and every year we're getting closer to being the real deal.
"Goodbye life," is something we often hear from Football Manager fans around the time that the game hits store shelves. Over the years, Football Manager has been a place for aspiring football managers to run their favourite clubs in their own way, letting them buy the players of their dreams, and maybe even showing the world which formation to pick to get Arsenal's midfield working - being a manager isn't as easy as saving and loading over and over again.
Every year, Sports Interactive adds new features to the game, and that is the case for Football Manager 2020 too. In this review, however, we won't delve into every single feature in the game, as most are the same as they were in last year's edition. Instead, we will focus on the features added in the new version of the game. They are Club Vision, Development Centre, Playing Time Pathway, changes to Backroom Staff, as well as some graphical enhancements.
In Club Vision, you can see what goals the board want you to achieve. You can see the targets for this season, next season, and then all the way through the next five seasons. Club Vision also involves the club's style of play; some big clubs want their team to play beautiful and attacking football, while smaller clubs sometimes only care if they reach their target position or not. In addition, the club can also encourage you to buy young players for the future or insist you do transfers on a strict budget.
An assessment of your work will be sent on a regular basis, with marks ranging from A+ to F. If you fail in certain tasks that are labelled as "required", then you could earn a significantly fewer assessment points, or worse, you might get fired. All of your targets can be negotiated at the start of your term in your negotiations with the board, especially if you feel they are too high or have a lower significance than the others.
This feature is a big help for us when choosing the right club and also when determining the difficulty of each club. For example, one club has an almost infinite budget so you can buy your dream players to more easily reach your objective, which is finishing top four in the English Premier League (so they qualify for the Champions League). There is another club that traditionally finished top four, but they only offer their manager a limited budget, and that is the club we chose: Arsenal.
Arsenal actually have a moderate target for the 2019/2020 season, they only need to qualify for the EURO Cup (the equivalent of the Europa League), but some of our star players are unhappy and want Champions Cup football (similarly, the Champions League). Meanwhile, in five years time, the club wants to win the Premier League. A steep journey ahead indeed. If you want to play a campaign that lasts several seasons, this is a great feature. Later you can see how far you have got towards your target, or how different that target was from reality.
Next we have Playing Time Pathway, a new feature you will find in player negotiations. Here you will have to make some promises to a player about what their role is for this season and their playing time at the club. This functions as an expectation gauge for players; a young player surely wants to have gradually more important role from season to season, while for older players you might want to give a gradually lesser role as their ability diminishes.
This will be addressed when you start a negotiation with a player or his agent, before you go into the numbers and whatnot. Be careful when choosing the role of the player, as you should always assess the potential of the player first.
For us, this feature adds a little more work as we have to manage the expectations of players and, as much as possible, fulfil their promises without interfering with the game plan and the team. However, for those of you who don't want to deal with these negotiations, there are staff you can hand tasks to.
Speaking of staff, Backroom Staff is a factor that can make Football Manager both simpler or more complex. If you want to manage everything from selecting players, contracts, transfers, training, and recruiting staff, you can do so. However, if you only care about picking the team and taking care of transfers, don't hesitate to delegate things out to your staff. The key is to find qualified people in their respective fields.
A new feature relating to Backroom Staff is Selection Advice; you can find suggestions from staff about selecting players and tactics for the next match, this time via your inbox. From that inbox, you can choose whether or not you follow the given advice, but make sure you choose the right staff as sometimes FM20 chooses default staff who are not the best in their field. In addition, you can gather other advice from other staff manually.
One more feature that has been added is the Loan Manager, who has become quite popular recently in the real world. Their job is to recommend which players should be loaned and report on their performances at their respective loan clubs. This new role is quite helpful when monitoring the performances of young players who we hope to develop further.
One addition that we think will be a favourite among those who like to develop young players is the Development Center. Here you'll find various reports and recommendations related to your young players. If there is a youth team player who has great potential, he will appear on the main page, so you don't need to struggle to find the best players from the academy. There are also reports on the players being loaned out, so you don't have to go into each player's page to see their performance. Don't be confused when you don't find the U-23 and U-18 squad tabs, because now they are in the Development Center menu. All things related to the youth team are now found here, ranging from tactics, staff and training schedules.
As for the graphics themselves, there are indeed a number of improvements, such as a livelier audience animation, improved player movements, and a not-so-bad manager model (this is the part we least enjoy from the Football Manager series). As a game that relies on simulation, for us, this is a welcome addition but not a game-changer.
One thing we need to discuss is Brexit, which will have a significant influence on player transfers, especially in the Premier League. A work permit will be increasingly difficult to obtain for players from outside of the United Kingdom. Only world-class players and those from top footballing countries have a good chance of being able to grace the pitches there. There are also restrictions on the number of foreign players, so you have to plan the team according to the existing rules, which is not an easy task.
Football Manager 2020 provides a smoother club management experience. The role of staff is becoming increasingly crucial, especially if you want to delegate a lot of responsibilities out. It is important to arrange qualified staff to aid your work going forward, because every suggestion, report, and maybe even contract negotiations will depend on the quality of the staff you've assigned. Even so, your instincts and philosophy as a manager will often be more effective than a stack of reports and suggestions from your staff.
You also need to be careful if you want to delegate certain tasks, such as renewing player contracts, because sometimes they offer new contract to players without the manager's knowledge. In our case, the player was not in our future plans and his contract was to expire at the end of the season, however, our Director of Football gave him new terms. Fortunately (but sadly too), the work permit was denied by the UK government because of Brexit, on the grounds that his country of origin is not one of the world's top footballing countries, so we were able to cancel the new contract without feeling bad.
Overall, Football Manager 2020 has a variety of additions that we think are good news for those who want to play for the long haul thanks to the emphasis on long-term planning and rewards. This simulation becomes increasingly complex, but it can also become simpler, depending on the path you take. Finally, we also want to note our appreciation of Sports Interactive's move to deliver environmentally friendly packaging. This year's Football Manager innovates in all the right places and we like the new-found flexibility it offers. Old or new player, Football Manager 2020 will continue to kill your time.
8 / 10
New features like Dev Centre and Club Vision give more reasons to play longer, you can go hands-on on with everything or focus on one or two things, staff advice useful for new players.
Staff advice is sometimes misleading, some bugs, Brexit.