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OS Scores Explained Football Manager 2017 Overview (PC)
Pros
Packed with subtle additions; Enhanced match engine; Fantasy Draft AI teams.
Cons
No major innovations; Social media wears thin; Occasional engine mishaps.
Bottom Line
Football Manager 2017 adds to the best sports simulation series on the planet with a barrage of low-key additions.
8.5
out of 10
Football Manager 2017 REVIEW

Football Manager 2017 Review (PC)

 
Oh no, it's that time of year again. I try to avoid Football Manager as much as I can, purely because of its addictive qualities. I'm a writer with a busy job these days, and my time gets too easily invested in a multi-season save, falling prey to the game's alluring nature. It's not just me that suffers in this way. Since its original inception back in 1992, this series has destroyed marriages, ruined school grades and been the catalyst for a multitude of sick days at workplaces across the world.

In recent years, its momentum hasn't slowed one bit. Each year presents new challenges to keep the game feeling fresh and new, and that's no easy feat for a series with as much depth as this one. This year's game didn't need to reinvent the wheel, and it doesn't, centering its focus on fine-tuning and making subtle improvements across the board.
 
 
Gameplay

Those who had a chance to sample last year's iteration aren't going to feel overwhelmed in the early hours of Football Manager 2017. The UI is a familiar one, and the development team has clearly strayed away from implementing any major overhauls in this area. That's not a bad thing, as the interface is easy to get to grips with, while offering as many complexities as veterans wish to delve into.

One of the first things you'll notice upon loading a new career is the new social media feed. It sits alongside the traditional news timeline of old, replicating the more modern aspects of today's digital world. It's a fun addition, and it's also remarkably true to life. The so-called "trolls" of the social space are ever-present, having a tendency to criticize in any situation regardless of your success levels. The problem with social media is that it grows old before long, and recycled comments become apparent as you put more time in. Eventually, it becomes more of an afterthought than anything else.

As Football Manager has continued to expand, it has progressively questioned our judgment and challenged us to become more intelligent managers. A brand-new example of this comes in the form of player promises. Now, when offering a contract to a player, he might request certain promises from you. My star defender asked to be made captain if he signed an extension, but I was wary of how detrimental that move could be to the morale of my team. I had to try and negotiate further, persuading him to drop the request. It's yet another immersive feature that adds a greater tactical focus to transfers and retaining current players.
 
 
Improvements have also been made to manager avatars this year. They were a welcome inclusion last time around, but some felt they lacked detail and came off as gimmicky. That's no longer the case, largely due to the new gameface feature. Using a clear picture of yourself, you can superimpose your face onto your chosen avatar. While other series have traditionally struggled in this area, I was amazed by the results here. It's actually a little unnerving to stare at my face every time I hit the menu screen. I didn't think I was that ugly.

It's easy to forget just how in-depth Football Manager can be at times. You've probably heard about the addition of Brexit this year, which can have potentially major political and financial effects on the way you do business. The little things impress me the most -- the implementation of new rules, regulations and competitions in even the most minor of leagues being a notable example. Purists of the sport will continue to gravitate towards this series for these reasons alone.

I could talk all day about the additional new features in this year's game, but to the casual fan they won't appear all that prominent. Football Manager 2017 is still very reminiscent of last year's game in many ways, but that isn't a bad thing. It's still as fun and addictive as ever, and there's potential here to sink hundreds of hours without sampling everything the game has to offer. That said, a lack of major innovations might fail to satisfy those who have grown tired of last year's version.
 
 
Match Engine

Football Manager's match engine has undergone a variety of improvements, and the matchday experience is a very enjoyable one for the most part. It all starts with the new pre-match cutscenes, adding an element of immersion that was missing in previous years. It's clear that the engine's graphics have been touched up once more, and although they're a far cry from FIFA or PES levels of detail, games are still visually satisfying to observe. Despite the improvements, the engine still isn't all that intensive for low-spec PCs to handle, which is a huge selling point for those who don't identify as "hardcore" gamers.
 
 
Also, a brand-new camera angle centered behind the goal is arguably the best view in the game this year, but I've found myself limiting it to replays because of its inability to track all 22 players from its vantage point. Still, it's a nice addition to the engine that you'll see on plenty of YouTube highlight videos over the next 12 months.

While the cosmetic stuff is impressive, the player AI of this year's engine is particularly noteworthy. It feels like even the smallest of tactic changes have a direct effect on the way your players react, and this is particularly evident in defense, where features like hard tackling and tight marking are well replicated. Games feel balanced in every third of the pitch, and there aren't any obviously exploitable weaknesses to take advantage of.

Although player animations are impressive this year, don't expect perfection out of the engine just yet. In particular, goalkeepers sometimes engage in bizarre reactions, and full-on blunders like players blasting the ball the wrong way can also become an issue. These problems aren't game-breaking, but they're a slight immersive detachment. Luckily, their frequency has been greatly reduced since the game's transition from beta to full release.
 
 
Game Modes

The majority of us will spend our time playing Football Manager's primary career mode. But, delve a little deeper into its feature set, and you'll find some fun, alternative ways to play the game.

Fantasy Draft is one such example, making a return from last year to offer a draft-based scenario in which teams can compete in leagues or cups. The big difference this year is that AI teams are available for use for the first time. These are fabricated clubs, with many being managed by famous faces from the soccer and entertainment world. You can play against them in a single-player setting if you wish, or you can mix and match with online and offline opponents to suit your needs. It's a welcome addition that adds a greater appeal to the mode.

Of course, you can also take a full career mode online, and the Create-A-Club and editor options allow you to customize the game to your needs. Simply put, you're not going to get bored with the content on offer.
 
 
Final Thoughts

It's easy for casual fans to point the finger at Football Manager 2017 and say "it's the same as last year's game," as they so often do. This is a series that hasn't undergone a major overhaul for years, but it remains as popular and addictive as ever, progressing subtly by adding unprecedented levels of depth and realism along the way. There's nothing else on the market that comes close to offering the same level of authenticity as this series possesses.

With Football Manager 2017, there's something for everyone. It's the perfect starting point for a beginner, and the complex nature of the game is well complemented with supportive features along the way. Series veterans might be hesitant based on this year's subtle enhancements, but there's still enough here to recommend a purchase, even if it arrives later down the line.

Yet again, this is a simulator of epic proportions. It offers unparalleled realism, retaining the great qualities of past versions while adding an additional layer of balance and true-to-life managerial elements. It's guaranteed to stick long in the memory, as team talks, highlight reels and press conferences populate your daydreams for the next year. Watch out, it will take over your life.

Score: 8.5 (Great)

Member Comments
# 1 tarek @ 11/13/16 02:36 PM
Great write up. I'm looking forward to this since I do a refresh of my version very 3 seasons and this is my next one.
 

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