Football Manager 2017 review – definitely more than just a football game

Valentin Macovei explains why the latest edition of Sports Interactive's popular series could haul you back in...

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You don’t need Frostbite or 3D graphics to love this game: the plain old dots will do just fine. Football Manager has always been about the relationship you can build with your virtual clubs, players and fans. Having a stand named after you means a lot more than seeing perfectly green grass.

Although Football Manager 2017’s match engine isn't too different from its predecessor, this year’s version is clearly an upgrade on 2016's. That's what should be expected these days: minor tweaks rather than dramatic alterations. The developers have spent years perfecting the engine, and rewriting it from scratch would almost certainly result in a much poorer end product. Why change a winning formula?

Some of the lovely new additions

The behaviour of AI managers is much more realistic, with virtual bosses regularly adapting their tactics to take advantage of your weaknesses

There are thousands of new animations, media items and several other tweaks across the game, but these are the ones we found most interesting:

Data Analysts have been added and will provide you with very useful insights. Pre-Match Analysis includes all the stats, trends and heat maps you should be aware of with regard to your next opponents, while Post-Match analysis helps you understand what went well and what went wrong, making it easier for you to take the right decisions in future.

The messaging system is much more defined. You now have the Inbox where you receive emails regarding important club matters, the Social Media Feed – which looks like the typical stuff we see on Twitter - and the traditional News tab. Good news: you can unfollow the clubs you dislike.

The behaviour of AI managers are more realistic, with virtual bosses regularly adapting their tactics to take advantage of your weaknesses – both before and during matches. As a result, employing tactical surprises should prove more efficient than before.

Transfers are trickier. Both players and clubs can delay their final decision and even re-enter negotiations in order to secure a better deal when interest emerges from elsewhere. Pre-contract conversations have also been added: you'll have to agree certain conditions with some players before official talks even begin.

Team Report – the revamped panel displays incredibly useful information at a glance. You can find out what’s wrong with your new squad before even knowing who your players are.

5 things we love…

1. The game is much faster

The new 64-bit version allows the game to run much faster on multi-core CPU powered computers. The application can now use many more resources (RAM, CPU and GPU), which has consequently sped up the navigation and load times. 

2. Analysing squad depth has never been easier

The Squad Depth page is much more intuitive, allowing managers to select formations alongside a graphic of the pitch. You can also customise the players who get assigned to different positions in order to quickly find out the areas of their game that need strengthening.

3. Proper video highlights are now in place

Video highlights have been included in league round-ups. When scouting a player, you’ll also receive a collection of his actions from his last appearance. 

4. It’s really easy to listen to your staff members

Not only has backroom advice become more relevant, suggestions from staff are now delivered contextually on the page of interest.

5. Find out more about your next opponents

Next Opposition Scouting Reports have drastically improved. Your chief scout will advise on your opponents' most likely formation and style, as well as providing a detailed squad comparison and list of key players. You’ll also be told about their biggest threats and the potential weaknesses you should try to exploit.

Football Manager is like no other football game. Sports Interactive's scouting team is made of roughly 1,300 scouts from around the world, with each one having dedicated hours and hours to research. Coaching schools, real-life managers and those involved with running clubs use the game in their day-to-day lives - what more is there to say?

Score: 4.8/5 (it’s not quite perfect, but there’s still nothing else like it).

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