Football Manager 2015 Review (PC)
Football Manager 2015 could present itself as the best way for soccer newcomers to learn its ins and outs. I'm surprised they never have, because Football Manager 2015 has made massive strides to create a more intuitive experience for both newbies and series vets.
Kelvin Mak noted in last year’s Football Manager 2014 review that some things had been moved around within the game’s menus. Well, if last year’s effort was a small step, FM 2015 took a gigantic leap forward with an entirely new user interface.
The new user interface helps break down complicated information into digestible chunks. In previous years, you navigated between the game’s various screens through menus at the top of the window. This time around you’ll use a a vertical menu bar on the left side of your screen. You can then move through different options within a section by using tabs near the top. The important sections -- Squad, Tactics, Training, Scouting -- have their own menu options on the left-side navigation.
There are still some areas in which the information being presented could be more intuitive — transfer offers, for one — but as a whole I found the new interface to be positive.
The big new feature in this year’s Football Manager 2015 is the option to choose what type of manager you are: Tracksuit or Tactical.
What kind of manager are you? What do you focus on? You can allocate “manager points” into various categories representing different skills and priorities, such as scouting, tactics, managing players and more. You also have the option to choose a more balanced approach and divide the manager points equally. However, in a management game, this feature falls flat.
Scouting within the game has been redone, mostly, to make things more challenging and realistic.
My biggest takeaway is that scouting a player no longer gives you the full god-like set of player information. Instead of a firm numerical rating, you're given a range. As someone who has scouted a sport professionally, this approach resonated with me because I understand the difficulty in watching a player once from afar and trying to get a firm assessment. When I’d watch a player just once, there wouldn’t be very much I came away feeling sure about. The same holds true in Football Manager 2015.
The other big challenge presented by the new scouting system is that your scouts’ knowledge matters much more. If you’re a small club with just one scout, your knowledge of the players dotting the vast football landscape is limited to what your one scout knows. If you’re managing a small club in England with a local scout, you won’t have a wealth of information about players in France. It’s now a legitimate difficulty for small clubs to find a useful player.
The Football Manager world as a whole feels more immersive and alive. The experience of interacting with the media brings more variety to the stories and press conferences, with new team tunnel interviews. Tabloids try to trip you up into saying something juicy for a headline, while more reputable journalists want to talk tactics. Handling the media feels like a bigger part of your day-to-day experience as manager this year.
Many of those same improvements carry over to your club’s internal affairs. Players seem to bring more personality to their interactions with you and the media, giving a better handle to balance the happiness and well-being of everyone. When I first took over my club, for example, I decided to change our captain. Doing so triggered a series of conversations and meetings in which I had to win the respect of the players, keep the former captain appeased, and refrain from throwing anyone under the bus in the media. It was real drama.
Heading down quickly to the pitch itself, Football Manager 2015 sees improvements there, too.
You have more managerial control over what happens in-game, as you can give touchline team talks to address your players even while they’re knocking the ball around. It gives you something else to think (worry) about during a match, along with changing tactics and making substitutions.
Longtime Football Manager players who had hoped this year would represent a revolutionary new version might feel disappointed, but there’s a lot to like here.
The new scouting setup introduces more strategy to wrap your mind around, and while I’m disappointed with the managerial styles feature, it may be something rendered more meaningful the deeper I immerse myself.
If you haven’t played the series before, but have been on the fence for some time, Football Manager 2015 is the one you want to jump in with. The new user interface makes it easier than ever to tackle each area of the game without feeling overwhelmed.
Either way, this game is worth picking up.
Learning Curve: Relatively speaking, the annual adjustment period for hardcore players is probably a little greater, while this version should be more accessible to new players than earlier versions of the series.
Animations: Sports Interactive says they added over 2,000 motion-captured animations and new lighting. I didn’t count the new animations but the work shows. The game looks much smoother on the pitch and features player models with more detail to set them apart from one another.
Ball Physics: A weird thing to note in a review for this game, maybe, but the improved ball physics help the game-watching experience much more than I expected. I didn’t realize how much the physics in prior games took me out of the experience until I played Football Manager 2015.
Immersion: Along with some of the aforementioned new additions that improve immersion, new improvements to job interviews and displaying managerial history make you feel like a real person in the game. The “Tracksuit Manager or Tactical Manager” feature could have helped big time here, but alas.
Score: 8.5 (Great)