Football Manager 2024 Review
It’s fair to say that I’ve seen it all when it comes to Football Manager. In a moment that signalled just how old I am I realised that, to the best of my knowledge, I’ve played every single version of the franchise. From its days as Championship Manager to its resurrection as Football Manager, I’ve played them all and have seen each and every one of its changes. Most of them fade into the periphery and eventually end up feeling as if they’ve always been there or, in other cases, feel as if they were never there at all, like voice commentary. Some major changes have split the community, with the removal of sliders in Football Manager 2014 coming to mind. I’m sure if you look deep enough in the forums today, you will still find voices within the community who still view their removal as a travesty.
For the most part though, the last few years have been iterative and the developer, Sports Interactive, is keenly aware of this fact. In a lengthy post made back in June this year, Studio Director Miles Jacobson outlined the future of Football Manager with some major bombshells, such as the move to Unity. What caught my eye at the time, however, was the fact that, despite the success of last year’s version in terms of sales, they acknowledged that:
“FM23’s progression had not lived up to the standards and expectations we have set over the years.”
As a long-time player, I managed a paltry forty or so hours of Football Manager 2023, which is a drop in the ocean when compared to the seven-hundred hours worth of Football Manager 2020 I’ve played. With how iterative Football Manager has become, some years grab you and draw you in and others just don’t.
One of the bigger criticisms I’ve always had with what Football Manager has become was that meaningful changes were rare. That’s not to say there was never anything new added to the game that would be disingenuous. On occasion, some of the features added, like the data hub, breathed some new life into the game but fundamental changes like the sliders removal or an overhaul of the 3D match engine never seemed in the offing. Whilst those changes are signalled already for next year’s version with the move to Unity, Football Manager 2024 suffers somewhat by already knowing the grass may potentially be greener next year.
With the noted exception of the changes made to set piece creation, you’d be hard pressed to spot some of the differences. Football Manager 2024 feels like a familiar pair of slippers that have long since lost its ability to keep your feet warm, but at the same time still feel comfortable. Some of the newer features, such as the new types of agents known as intermediaries, come across as iterations of agents. They are useful mind, especially when you need to drum up interest and offload a player. Previously you had to hope that your Director of Football or yourself could do this and I’ve lost count of the times an unsettled player was even grumpier with me because no-one wanted to buy him.
Speaking of set pieces, it’s nice to see a key area of the modern game getting a bit of love in this year’s version. Whilst a lot of top-flight football revolves around passing out from the back, set pieces are still king when it comes to grabbing a goal against stronger opponents. When you enter this area for the first time, you’re taken through a few key steps to get the ball rolling. Your coaching staff will then create routines from your answers assigning roles within them to certain players in accordance with how suitable they are. If you want someone attacking the post, you’ll likely want a tall defender taking that on as they pose the biggest threat in the air. Equally, if you want someone ready to counter a defensive free-kick, you’ll want them to be speedy and good with the ball at their feet. This move to roles means that the routine can stay the same irrespective of personnel on the pitch.
This year’s on-pitch action has also received some attention. Though, as the last of its kind in this game engine, it is the best and most fluid it has ever looked. Thinking back to when it first appeared, it’s no longer a jittery piece of visual confusion and very much an enthralling recreation of the beautiful game. Players on and off the ball make the runs you’d expect them to take and it certainly feels like the underlying AI takes more notice now of the instructions that you set, especially with players put into creative roles with wider freedom of movement. I’ve always liked the 3D match engine and despite its rocky start, I can’t imagine ever being without it. I just hope that whatever comes next year, it has a better start than this one did.
The overarching question remains, though, can or will Football Manager 2024 suck you in to the point where you blink and it’ll be the wee small hours of the morning? It’s a tough question to answer. If you’ve been away from the series for a few releases I think you’ll get a lot out of where Football Manager is at the moment with Football Manager 2024. The multitude of quality of life upgrades in the staff and coaching areas helps hands-off managers like myself keep their eyes on the tactics and match management knowing that the rest is taken care of. Pair that with the new set piece creator and associated coaching staff you can really let your backroom staff just get on with things without wondering if something is being missed.
On the other hand, some may find Football Manager 2024 to be a bit of a disappointment. Unlike the data hub’s arrival in Football Manager 2022 for me, there’s nothing as notable or game changing that’s been introduced this year. That being said, Football Manager is still the gold standard when it comes to doing what it does, simulating football management, but the time is definitely right to retire this current iteration for something new. It’s a testament to Sports Interactive’s willingness to be critical of themselves that the overhaul is even happening as they can, realistically, keep iterating on what they’ve got and the fans will still buy it in their droves. Whatever your view, Football Manager 2024 is the end of an era and, without doubt, it is the most feature complete version of its kind and will be what every fan of the franchise will use to compare when its successor arrives next year.
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