Football Manager 2018 Review – Spreadsheet Simulator

Football Manager 2018 has a lot going for its fans, but anyone else will be totally lost.

Simulations are a hard thing to bring to a mass market, as it takes a very specific kind of person to enjoy the intricacies demanded by their depth and strategy. Football Manager 2018 is a classic example of a game that is going to squeeze hundreds of hours from the players who like what it does.

Let’s get this right out of the way, Football Manager 2018 is very good at what it does. If you want to get into the role, really get into managing a team and taking them through games and to the world cup and beyond, you’re going to find the new dynamics system introduced this year to bring the management sim to life like never before.

"To begin with you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of options, like selecting a team from a pool of thousands, and then dropped in to control and manage a squad to try to lead them to as many wins as possible."

But Football Manager in its sheer breadth of content asks you to built upon supposed knowledge despite my insistence during start up that I was totally new to the game. There are no concessions to help guide a brand new player through the experience aside from a handful of one time hint bubbles that help clarify what are pretty obvious functions.

To begin with you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of options, like selecting a team from a pool of thousands, and then dropped in to control and manage a squad to try to lead them to as many wins as possible. There’s very little direction on what you’re supposed to do besides some must action items such as meeting with different members of your back end team each day, making choices to help or hinder your team.

One could easily fill a book with the intricacies of all the systems at play here, and given the amount of things you can take on yourself it’s surprising how coherent they all become after awhile playing, thanks largely to the years of iteration the game leverages. Any of the daily minutia that you really find undesirable can even be handed off to your assistant manager, at the cost of those decisions now being out of your hands to different degrees. Which can be a lifesaver because these menus can be anything but straightforward at first.

"Forcing players to consider their actions in a more holistic sense really adds to the game by turning those player rosters into more than a bunch of stats for you to move around without concern, and helps bring those unique stories to life that people play these games for."

The stories that crop up during the otherwise super dry presentation are the heart and soul of the game. The new Dynamics system spoken of earlier is the best new wrinkle to the Football Manager series, asking you not only to consider winning games and moving players in and out like so many bundles of stats, but holds you accountable for what you say. A player benched for bad performance might get annoyed with you, and if you don’t put him back in like you said your untrustworthiness could have consequences.

Forcing players to consider their actions in a more holistic sense really adds to the game by turning those player rosters into more than a bunch of stats for you to move around without concern, and helps bring those unique stories to life that people play these games for. When you have to balance not only the concerns of your board, but also the team morale and all the other day to day concerns it brings the game beyond the pitch results and into a more realized vision, and helps create more real concerns. When you ask a player to play through an injury, it’s not just the threat of making the injury more serious, it’s also the idea that you might alienate the player and cause ever further problems.

Keeping the peace all feeds in together with interlinked Match Cohesion, Dressing Room Atmosphere and Managerial Support stats, which can all be raised or lowered by winning games and influenced by your decisions. A ‘hierarchy’ menu shows just who’s who within the dressing room, and annoying the wrong person can start an unforeseen slide.

"Still, despite all of the ways that Football Manager 2018 makes the intended experience shine, the fact remains that the experience is quite niche and unfriendly to a new player."

When you do go on the pitch for a match, a new 3D engine helps boost the believability of the matches. The game is still back on DirectX 11 tech, and you can see it most clearly in the close up models of your character being straight out of the PS2, but given the audience for these games, it’s hard to fault them wanting to work with the lowest common denominator. The new engine helps offer new visual cues to let you pick out when it’s time to switch up tactics, instead of just watching the numbers.

Still, despite all of the ways that Football Manager 2018 makes the intended experience shine, the fact remains that the experience is quite niche and unfriendly to a new player. For everything it does to build the unique stories of each run, it’s not a game that’s easy to get into, or even recommend to someone who isn’t already interested.

This game was reviewed on the PC.

THE GOOD

Dynamics system breaths the players own stories to life. New engine brings up quality of animations. Systems all neatly feed back into each other to bring the feel of managing a team to life

THE BAD

Engine still outdated, models look bad in the few instances they appear Presentation is super dry, and does little to shake off feeling like a spreadsheet simulator, making it really hard to recommend outside the audience it already has.

Final Verdict

Football Manager 2018 is very good at what it does, the problem really is that what it does, is for a very specific subset of people, and to anyone outside of that it’s a game that feels far too often like you’re doing your taxes. It can’t be called bad, but I lament the lack of newcomer friendly features.

A copy of this game was provided by developer/publisher for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.