Another year, another Football Manager release.
Except for this time, it’s different, very different, than before.
This is the genius of Sports Interactive, the company that creates one of the most involved simulations of football ever committed to a game disc. They could quite easily reskin the game every year, adding a transfer here or there, a few more kits, perhaps a couple more leagues.
But, no, they absolutely refuse to rest on their laurels and so here we are, with perhaps the best Football Manager game they have ever released.
This year, new managers are given a club vision as soon as they step into the virtual boardroom – there really is a boardroom, too, all lovingly 3D-rendered when you first take the reigns – and expected to complete objectives over the course of five years. Already, you’re roped in.
Will you be able to bring through the best youngsters from the club’s academy, or turn a midtable League One team into a club pushing for promotion to the Premier League? You won’t just be judged on results now, it’s about progressing the club as a whole.
At Spurs, for example, this writer has been set the challenge of becoming Premier League title contenders within the next three years. With this squad, that’s a challenge.
Not only that, but SI has also incorporated loads of graphical improvements so, if you prefer 3D to 2D (don’t worry if you don’t, 2D Classic still exists in the game), you’ll see even more detail in every single game you play. Plus, the AI has been tweaked so it makes for a more responsive, well-rounded experience.
There are a number of “quality of life” improvements, too, and this is perhaps the most impressive thing introduced thus far. SI know that their game takes a long time to play – some saves can span literal real-life years, trust us.
And because they know that, they’re making the game more accessible for those customers who perhaps don’t have the time to sit playing the game all night, in their pants, until the sun comes up and then realise they have to go to work in two hours. This is excellent and more gaming companies should do it.
Add in a completely new ‘development centre’, which allows managers to track the progress of their youngsters, both at the club and out on loan, in order to maximise their potential, several changes to the way backroom staff help you out and a revamped contract system and we’re onto a winner.
On the latter point, managers can now promise certain amounts of playing time to certain players. This writer’s favourite is the ‘back-up goalkeeper’ option, so you won’t have that pesky 37-year-old stopper asking to play against Arsenal in the league.
All-in-all, this FM is another evolution of what was already a fantastic formula and, really, it’s so easy to get sucked in and end up sinking hours upon hours into this version of the game.
This may well be SI’s best ever release.
Football Manager 2020 is released on November 19, 2019, for PC and Mac and will also be available on Stadia. For more information, head over to FootballManager.com