Yes, we’re beyond the NHL All-Star game and now at the Winter Olympics, but I still wanted to sit down with the newest offering from the Out of the Park developers, Franchise Hockey Manager 4.
Although I have been a Blackhawks fan since the late ’80s, I would only consider myself a casual hockey fan, and that is the approach I wanted take with FHM 4.
So what is it like to play a sports text-sim for a sport you only casually follow? Let’s see.
What I Like
The biggest factors in my enjoyment of FHM 4 are the level of options and approaches the game allows. Want to gut your franchise and start anew? Have at it.
Feel like your team is only a few players and some depth away from contending? Make it happen.
The path you choose to take your favorite franchise is in no way linear, and while at times that can feel daunting to a fringe fan like myself, it’s also part of the excitement and enjoyment of this title.
One of the things I absolutely loved about time with FHM 4 is the fact that most actions are point and click, and if one hovers over an item it gives a brief description of what that action does. This is extremely helpful to one who is new to the title.
Also, the overall user interface is well laid out and pretty self-explanatory, so one can quickly hit the ice and enjoy the in-game experience. Another factor when running a franchise that I appreciated a lot was the option to let the CPU take control of most of the day-to-day options.
While I completely understand this is a text-sim, as a newcomer there were parts of the daily routine that I initially did not feel comfortable with. Obviously this approach may change as I become more comfortable with the title, but the mere fact this option is there speaks well to the level of accessibility the developers are trying to achieve with FHM 4.
Also while FHM 4 is a fully licensed NHL game, it is so much more. For me to be able to take my favorite ECHL team, the Quad City Mallards, and play with them is an absolutely great time on a personal level.
Not only does the game provide the full 2017-18 NHL season, it allows access to all the lower level leagues, and the European experience as well. If playing the current season isn’t quite your thing, well have no fear as FHM 4 allows one to go all the way back to 1917 to play historic leagues and seasons.
So if you have the desire to matchup the Montréal Wanderers and the Toronto Arenas, game on. When all is said and done, FHM 4 lays the direction of your experience in your hands, and lets you decide what path you take it.
What I Don’t Like
As I have described before, FHM 4 offers so many options and approaches for the fan to tailor their experience, it really helps in the overall immersion of the game. While that may seem like a welcomed approach (and it is) it can be overwhelming for a newcomer to the series (which I experienced).
Speaking of the immersion factor though, the actual gameplay is a bit underwhelming. Now keep in mind I am coming from OOTP 18 baseball, which allows for a 3-D in-game experience, so not having that offering was a bit of a letdown.
Being in charge of the every day minutia of a franchise from a spreadsheet perspective is not the most visually stimulating experience to begin with, but the in-game experience failed to grab me and my attention for long periods of time.
I am not saying that there needs to be a fully rendered 3-D option here, but seeing the action occasionally pop-up on screen and reading what is taking place on-ice can only immerse someone so much, and that’s exactly what happened with my experience.
Another option that would be welcomed to the series is a true online experience. Now to play in a league is possible, but it requires people to accomplish things outside of the sim, instead of housing it all nicely right inside the title itself.
Granted, online franchise and text-sim do not necessarily coincide together typically, but it feels like this would open the door for a lot more people to enjoy the game. The developers have stated that an online mode is possible, but will only be included if it is done correctly, and that is a rather large task that needs a strong approach.
So while I would love to see an online mode included, I can at least appreciate the fact the developers’ commitment to making it feel organic to the title itself.
FHM 4 is an incredibly deep offering that offers a way to appease the most ardent of fans, down to someone like me who a very casual fan. The amount of customization is almost daunting, and while the game will most definitely require some time to learn all of its nuances, it is absolutely time well spent.
The novice approach I entered with in no way stopped me from understanding and enjoying the title.
I’m not exaggerating when I write you very well may destroy the franchise that you so dearly love and have to start over — but that is part of the enjoyment. There is no amount of damage you do that can’t be undone with a simple click of a button. I
f you have time and even a bit of interest here, FHM 4 is a sports sim most definitely worthy of your time.