FIFA Manager 12 (PC)

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During the course of my life I have played many football manager games and, like most aficionados of the genre, I believe that there won’t be many more groundbreaking changes to the game, just changes to the way it is presented and a few added extras with each new release. I am fine with that of course, but don’t buy the game expecting there to be too many differences from the previous versions of the game.

FIFA Manager 12 Screenshot 1

Football management games are all about the detail. The player has the ability to control almost every aspect of the club and the team they are managing. This includes player purchases and training, hiring and firing staff, budgets, press conferences, calendar event and so much more. Fortunately, the level of detail that you would like to immerse yourself in can be controlled by assigning staff members to certain tasks. For example, I always set someone to manage the merchandising. I’m here to play footie, not sell coffee cups with team logos on. Of course, selling those coffee cups is important to the club so you should always make sure that you hire the best coffee cup seller you can and set him to the task. I also ask my assistant managers to take control of the reserve and youth teams and just let me know if any player is performing well. You can manage the reserve games and the youth team, but I find that managing the first team is perfectly fine for me.

I am still finding little details and aspects of the game that I never knew existed, and the gameplay is still very interesting and exciting. Just last night I found out how to give the sponsors free tickets for some of the games, and this makes them happier and more likely to give me more money. Prepare to spend many hours in front of your PC developing your team into the best darn team of individuals that money (and a bit of sneakiness) can buy.

FIFA Manager 12 Screenshot 2

The game begins with installation, online product activation and quite a large patch download. These are quite painless unless, of course, you don’t have an internet connection. Once you have passed this stage, however, you can dive right in and create your manager. The game allows for four players to play at a time, but it’s just as much fun to play on your own as it is to play with friends. The game is user friendly and flows quite nicely whilst setting up the game. You don’t have to learn how to play, you can just jump right in with both feet and start the game. Of course, the more knowledge you have of the game and the sport will enhance your appreciation and skill in the game.

There are also different ways to play the game. I like to start in a low league in England and build my team and career up over a few years. My friend Darren, on the other hand, prefers to go right to the top – Manchester United or Barcelona – and manage a huge team with a huge budget. Both methods present different challenges, goals and frustrations. Your club’s goals are set by the board at the beginning of the season and these can vary from ‘Avoid relegation’ to ‘Win the treble.’ The intelligence of the game has been improved over time and this has improved on the realism of the game – mixing it with the ‘big boys’ like Manchester United, Barcelona and the likes allows football fans to play with well known names in the game. One of the benefits of FIFA Manager 12 is that they have the license to use the real names of the players and the teams. This is great fun and you can see how effective Rooney and Messi would be together or you can put your seventeen year old son in the Real Madrid starting line-up. The choices are yours and they are almost endless.

FIFA Manager 12 Screenshot 3

The key to any football manager game is patience and attention to detail. FIFA Manager 12 is no different, and this is not a game for those players who want to dive into non-stop action. I would estimate that at least three to four hours of play is necessary before your team even plays its first competitive game. It is important to work out your team and individual tactics prior to playing the game, and this means gaining an understanding of each player. Having a right wing with strength in crossing and speed is no use if you set the role for a right wing to dribble the ball and then try a long range shot. Similarly, affording a striker a free role is useless unless the player is creative and assertive. Setting tactics for the team as a whole and for the players individually is one of the more difficult and time consuming aspects to any football manager game but, once you get the hang of it, this is quite an enjoyable aspect to fiddle with to get the best out of your team.

EA Sports has managed to include a few extras that I really enjoyed playing through. This includes the personal life section of the game which breaks the monotony of the game without detracting from the game at all. Like most of the game, the personal life is optional and your decision on whether or not you choose to participate does not impact on the game. Another extra is the ‘last day of transfers.’ Depending on your involvement in the transfer market this can be quite a busy and exhilarating time. Currently Cambridge United is over their transport budget and the board are about to sack me because of it – but that’s beside the point.

FIFA Manager 12 Screenshot 4

A few of the points that I thought are great are the ability to play as player / manager, the personal life sub-story which includes dabbling on the stock market and becoming filthy rich (you can even have children and bring them into your team as youth players) and the flexibility of control that you have over the playing environment. This includes desktop widgets and setting hot keys to access often used screens. Another great aspect is the different choices that are available to you in terms of watching the game. I have always preferred getting the match over and done with as quickly as possible so that I can get back to the detailed management. I know other fans, however, enjoy watching the full game in 3D mode and making detailed changes throughout the passage of play.

There are a few changes that I would like to see in the game which I think would make it better. One of the more annoying features of the game is that your team can go on a four or five match losing streak without any reason and, regardless of what you do, the streak will continue until, for some unfathomable reason, your team begins to win again. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the game is the fact that everything is focussed on the premier division in the league that you have selected (Premiership in England, Serie A in Italy and so forth). This means that, whenever a summary or stats screen is displayed, you have to change to your division using the drop down box provided. I am almost sure that there is some way to change this in the settings, but I haven’t been able to find it yet. With reference to the desktop widgets, these take quite a bit of getting used to as well. I accidentally closed my mobile phone and it took a while to find it again (you have to place it on the desktop as a widget, but only on the right hand side of the desk).

FIFA Manager 12 Screenshot 5

All in all, this is a fantastic game for fans of the genre. The gameplay is smooth and intuitive, the navigation is easy to learn and the ability to determine the level of control (which equates to the time you have to spend) you have over every aspect of the game makes FIFA Manager 12 an enjoyable and interesting game. I know I’ll be playing this game for many months to come and enjoying it every step of the way.