Sports Interactive has mastered the art of crafting the most staggeringly intricate and addictive football management sims. It’s something that the developer has been at it for years, and with each year’s entry, Football Manager consistently improves upon its timeless foundations. And while there are certain instalments once every few years that make some huge, game-changing upgrades, Football Manager’s usual modus operandi is to refine, not revolutionize, introducing numerous smart and iterative improvements in each new entry to deliver an experience that, as a whole, feels meaningfully improved.
That’s very much what Sports Interactive accomplishes with Football Manager 2022. The newest entry in the long-running series does make a couple of headlining changes that stand out, but by and large, where it truly shines is in how it makes small, targeted improvements across all facets of the experience to refine it and improve it that much further.
Take the matches, for instance, and the tactics that you employ and switch on the fly during a game. Football Manager 2022 features a completely new match engine, which is one of those aforementioned headlining changes, and with 3D player models now being properly allowed to move across a 3D plane, movements are much more fluid and realistic. Don’t get me wrong, it still ultimately looks very much like a rough representation of what must actually be going on on the pitch during a match, but from smoother pivots to less jarring bursts of speed to curving runs, player movement feels much more fluid, which, in turn, means matches are just much more fun to watch.
"Football Manager 2022 does make a couple of headlining changes that stand out, but by and large, where it truly shines is in how it makes small, targeted improvements across all facets of the experience to refine it and improve it that much further."
Of course, you’re not just going to be blankly staring at your screen while your players are out on the pitch. Responding to situations as they develop during a match and changing tactics on the fly to gain an edge over your opponent has always been the core of Football Manager, and in FM 2022, that activity feels even more involving. That’s accomplished in many ways, with the primary being a complete reworking of the pressing system. Rather than sticking to the binary choices and stat comparisons that defined whether or not your team was pressing and pressing well in previous years’ games, in Football Manager 2022, pressing against teams is a much more nuanced process.
From your players’ placements to the unique strengths and weaknesses of opposing players to determining where you’re willing to leave gaps as you attempt to win the ball back and much, much more, there’s a number of things you have to keep in mind as you decide your pressing tactics. It is, in fact, something that you’re encouraged to keep fiddling with as the match progresses, because whether it’s because one of your full backs is running out of stamina or because the opponent team switched its formation, the instructions you’ve given your team for pressing will need to be constantly kept an eye on and updated.
Another excellent addition in Football Manager 2022 is the Data Hub. A deluge of stats and charts and graphs and heat maps and what have you is what you expect from every Football Manager game, and poring over those details as you tweak your team’s tactics or training or target areas for improvement plays a huge role in the experience. FM 2022 centralizes all of that in a single hub, which is just overflowing with a ridiculous amount of data to analyze. Diving into the Data Hub, breaking down your team’s performances and progress in a number of different ways, and examining it all is something that will appeal to anyone who’s fancied themselves a tactical genius while wondering why the manager of their team can’t do the simplest things right.
"Diving into the Data Hub, breaking down your team’s performances and progress in a number of different ways, and examining it all is something that will appeal to anyone who’s fancied themselves a tactical genius while wondering why the manager of their team can’t do the simplest things right."
Best of all though, is the fact that the changes you make based on your findings in the Data Hub feel like they make a tangible impact. For instance, if you figure out that the reason your build-up play is so choppy is because your ball retention is poor and you keep losing possession in the midfield, putting a solid ball-winning defensive midfielder in the middle of the park might yield positive results. It’s an empowering feeling, knowing that if you’re not doing well, you can jump headfirst into that overflowing pool of data to pinpoint where you’re weak and then make target changes to improve in that area.
Transfers, too, have seen some noticeable improvements. Where it’s been reasonably easy in past games to cheese transfers with smart budget adjustments, rapid player sales, and transfer fee structures that are loaded with potential add-ons to fool clubs into thinking that they’re being paid large amounts of money, things are much more sensible in Football Manager 2022.
Your budget, for starters, feels much more constrained and is something that places much more significant restrictions on your activity in the transfer market. Selling off unwanted players to make a quick buck isn’t as easy anymore either, because if you’re trying to sell off an ageing player, or someone who hasn’t played much recently, or someone who’s in a bad run of form, you’ll struggle to attract many offers, and the ones that you do receive won’t be mouth-watering by any means. Finally, agent interactions have also improved, because rather that just being there as a means for you to get details on what a player’s club might be looking for in terms of a transfer fee, now, after you’ve been in contact with an agent, the game compels you to either declare potential interest in that player or to let the agent know that you’re not interested. Both those actions, as you’d imagine, force your hand to act a certain way in the transfer market.
"Football Manager 2022 is unsurprisingly excellent."
There is, of course, still room for improvement in Football Manager 2022. One of the franchise’s most frustrating and persistent issues has been with media and player interactions, and those systems are essentially unchanged in this year’s games. They still feel a bit too random, still have very little impact, and once again, get very repetitive very quickly. Repetition is an issue that creeps up in other minor ways as well, like with constant emails from your scouting staff or load reports that very rarely have anything new or interesting to say. Meanwhile, like its predecessors, Football Manager 2022 struggles with loading issues as well, and jumping from day to day (or even from event to event within a single day) often feels unnecessarily longer than it needs to be because of the loading. This isn’t a new issue for the series, of course, but it’s one that hopefully will be addressed in the not-too-distant future.
All said and done though, Football Manager 2022 is unsurprisingly excellent. Annual franchises that consistently make meaningful improvements each year are a rarity in today’s day and age, but FM is a gem that keeps on shining brighter. With significant changes both big and small, the newest entry in Sports Interactive’s beloved series delivers – yet again – its richest, most nuanced, and most dangerously addictive iteration yet.
This game was reviewed on PC.
The new match engine is noticeably better; The Data Hub is an equally impressive and helpful tool; Pressing is more nuanced; Still as dangerously addictive as ever.
Press and player interactions are unchanged and remain dull and repetitive; Loading issues.