+ Improved man management
+ More tactical analysis
+ Better interface
+ Improved simulation
- Some wooden dialog lines
- Home field advantage
Final score: 8.5 / 10
Controller support: No
Windows XP or Vista or Windows 7
1.4 GHz or faster processor for XP, 2.0 GHz or faster for Vista and 7
1.0 GB RAM
128 MB MB of RAM graphics card with Nvidia FX 5900 Ultra or better or ATI Radeon 9800 or greater
2 GB of space on the hard drive
I love Liverpool. I am young and have not known them during their glory days, the 70's and the 80's (i was barely old enough to walk) but ever since I saw the first televised matches from England I begun loving this team and my respect for them only grew during the early part of the previous decade.
This year I like the fact that they do not have the biggest or the best squad, I like that they failed to get into any European competition and that some of their biggest transfers seem to be not working out (I am looking at you, Caroll). Fans of football clubs are not usually happy when they have a bad season but it's OK for me because it allows me to right the wrongs of reality using a little game called Football Manager 2012, created by Sports Interactive and published by SEGA.
The core of Football Manager as a series has been pretty much the same for the last few editions. It involves taking charge of one team from among the huge number of selected leagues and then handling most of its affairs (some can be delegated to the Artificial Intelligence) from transfers and training, motivation and contracts to tactics, mentality and line-up. Once the season proper starts managers can see the results of their preparatory work in a 3D match engine that gets better and better each year or via an old school 2D birds eye view. Once a match is over the process begins anew until the manager gets sacked or the team reaches its goals.
The big changes in Football Manager 2012 are to the match analysis, which offers more details for the player to evaluate and tweak his tactics, and to the player management side of the game and they have a major impact on how a season evolves. It's essential to look at patterns of ball delivery and missed tackles and the likes to re-arrange a team and get the best out of a group of players and much of this analysis needs to be done during the pre-season so that players have a chance to get familiar with the new tactics before the season kick-off.
The developers at Sports Interactive have increased the importance of talking in Football Manager 2012, especially when it comes to the players that are under the gamer's leadership. In previous games I rarely managed to say something offensive enough to a player to destroy his performance but playing now with Inter, Liverpool and Valencia I managed to offend both Gerard and Chivu pretty seriously after taking a harder than needed line after they failed to meet my high expectations in important matches.
And the talking is not limited to individual players as the game now offers the options to getting the entire team gathered in order to talk about the big issues of the game, with players able to voice their opinions and overall mod changes a distinct possibility.
There's also more conversation with the media for those interested, with the manager now informed when someone else mentions him or his team and encouraged to issue a response. I managed to develop quite a bit of a rivalry with mister Fergie of Manchester United, which he probably used as reason to beat me both in the Premier League and the League Cop during two consecutive seasons.
When it comes to transfers it's now much easier to see who is available and create filters to get the exact player one needs for that run to first place. The other clubs are also much more eager to keep their best players and money is no longer enough to lure a big star to a team that does not also have the pedigree.
The training element has remained pretty much unchanged, although the player needs to be careful about making specialized training decisions based on the advice of the other coaches and it seems somewhat harder to teach a player a new position.
Overall the simulations seem to produce more realistic results than in Football Manager 2011, although it still seems to me that home field advantage for big teams, like Inter, Manchester, Bayern, is given too much importance. I mostly tend to use the 2D view with the speed set to max and that means that one can get though about three weeks of the season in one night of play.
Team of the week
My main criticism of Football Manager 2012 is that, as it strives to come closer to the real world of football, it also introduces the problems that it has, mainly that smaller teams with limited budgets find it pretty hard to be competitive. In addition to my Liverpool game I used to also get a team from the lower leagues (think Huddersfield or Crystal Palace) and try to win back to back promotions, which nowadays seems pretty much impossible to do.
Graphics and audio
Football Manager 2012 has benefited from a real make over and the effects are pretty solid. The interface, which is always a challenge for a video game that must deliver so much information and choices in a simple and clear way, manages to be helpful (first time players should leave the hints system active for a few hours) and easy to understand. The menus are slicker, the transitions simpler, the whole game seems better optimized.
The 3D match engine is also better looking, although nowhere near the fidelity and smoothness of movement seen in something like Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 or FIFA 12, although I suspect that most players will choose to use the old, trusty and much quicker 2D engine to see how their team plays.
The sound design in Football Manager 2012 is pretty limited and even the match soundtrack becomes very quickly boring but this is actually a blessing in disguise as it gives gamers the time needed to catch up on some football podcasts or listen to some team chants while play.
It's relatively easy to setup a multiplayer game of Football Manager 2012 and playing this game with at least another human being, preferably a close friend who is open to being ridiculed and then firing back, is one of the best experiences for a committed and football loving gamer.
It's best to pick teams that are in the same division and my house rules always stipulate some agreed limits on the money for the transfer market (the editor which comes with FM 2012 makes some small adjustments easy) and I found it best to only simulate about two weeks during one multiplayer sessions and then spend the time between gaming to attack the player choices and the tactics of the other players involved in the multiplayer match.
Football Manager 2012 suffers from the main issue that affects most, if not all, yearly video game launches: it's hard to tell which new features are crucial and which are just nice but not fundamental additions.
The focus on player morale and the man management aspect of coaching is welcome, even though it feels at times that player can be a little too fragile (a lot depends on choice of league and team) and the new options linked to transfers and to quick tactics changes are also very important and add a lot to the experience.
Fans will also be happy to see the updated leagues and the tweaked player attributes and the way the 3D game mode is being steadily improved will certainly help a lot of newcomers to the series.
But it would be nice to see the developers at Sports Interactive take a year off from creating full fledged sequel, instead choosing to release just some small updates and then focus on making some really fundamental changes for the 2014 version of the game.
In the meantime all frustrated and happy fans need to pick up Football Manager 2012 just so they know that when something goes wrong with their team in real life they can change it in a safe virtual space.