Note: our Football Manager 2022 review is for the computer version of the game, from the Steam store
Try and explain Football Manager to someone who doesn't really follow football and it's a pretty difficult sell. Essentially, it's a computer game in which you take on a (mostly) office job, while much of your day-to-day life involves sorting through your inbox, recruiting employees, keeping them happy and hitting your bosses' targets.
What's more, you actually become attached to said employees. It's even stranger when you explain to the uninitiated that no, you didn't feel a twinge of sadness when Marcus Rashford rejected your offer of a new contract: it was the regen leaving that really twisted the knife. The computer-generated, faceless chap who never even existed.
And yet for all the weirdness of FM - for the fact that it's become perhaps the densest football simulating machine known to the sport - and for all the tiny aspects of the game that are so hard to explain to a layman, like affiliate clubs and ditching players over 30... Football Manager 2022 is no less accessible or fun than it's ever been.
Football Manager 2022 review: the new features
New features this time around feel minimal on first glance. Women's football is in the works for the game - that'll be included next year at the earliest - so it's fair not to expect a headline new component to dominate your attention.
But the new additions are actually very welcome. Wide centre-backs can be employed in back threes now and from a tactical standpoint, they're extremely necessary for covering space out of possession. You might not use the attack-minded roles - not unless you're Chris Wilder - but this simplest of tweaks is enough to give managers months of musing over new formations and iterations of tactics.
The DataHub is superb, too. A slick new section to review just how things are going, you can find everything there, from match momentum to Expected Goals and pass maps. The detail is incredible and gives you more insight than ever before - but it doesn't feel overbearing or like it's a whole lot of information that you don't need. That's FM's greatest trick, in a way: it can make a world of info feel like it's really simple to discover and sift through.
The match engine has been improved, too, which Sports Interactive always mention in the big release - but what perhaps flies under the radar is all the work that never gets the shoutout it deserves, waiting for you to use. Take the New Zealand league system, for example, which over the last two and a half years, has seen so much detail packed into it that you can manage in Oceania and never return to Europe.
While the DataHub might be the first thing you check out on your FM download this time around, it's the Ghanian wonderkids, work permit system and club philosophies that really gel this game together as a whole. And though FM is an ever-growing ecosystem, it's never been easier to start from no knowledge of the game at all and just dive straight into.
Regen ratings will be reflected in the country's standings as a footballing nation and each rules page of a league now contains work permit information. You can now speak to your team after a result, which is useful to keep momentum after a run of games - and there are even mental health information notes alongside your player's condition ratings. It's stuff like that, which seems tiny, but across a 20-year career, it's actually huge.
Football Manager 2022 review: the verdict
The 2021 version of FM came at a time in which the game had taken on new significance for many.
A lot of people turned to FM20 during the pandemic as something to replace football during its break - and so FM21 welcomed more new players into the game and gave more weight to interactions - such as recruitment meetings around a table and the ability to give gestures alongside team talks (while playing FM22, FFT managed to kick over three chairs in one meeting with a player... beat that).
So what's Football Manager 2022's place in the world? Well, it seems natural to see it as a transition between the post-pandemic game and the future game which will include women's football - especially given the extensive analysis that's been added to the game this time around and the countless tiny details that you might not notice until you're 18 years deep managing at Kaiserslautern (If you tell your team you expect to see them in training in the morning, your backroom will now book that session: there's another tiny detail, for you).
Your non-football-supporting mates may think they'll never understand it - but that's not giving Football Manager the credit it deserves. Its genius lies in making this densely packed world fresh every November - and FM22 is another excellent new game to get stuck into for the next 12 months.
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