More than most other annual franchises, Football Manager has a knack for delivering meaningful improvements year on year through the collective impact of multiple iterative improvements, something that not all similar franchises have quite managed to nail down, and Football Manager 2024 sticks to that same philosophy. To those who might not be too familiar with the series, this year’s game might seem virtually indistinguishable from last year’s entry, but once you spend enough time with the game, you do come to appreciate its subtle but noticeable improvements.
This is a series that has always been something of a wish fulfilment exercise for all the wannabe football managers out there (yours truly included), and obviously, that’s an area where Football Manager 2024 continues to excel. Overseeing an entire club, micromanaging its nitty gritties, and carefully taking well though-out steps to ensure you can help your club rise to the top of the world of football has always been a massively addictive and satisfying loop, and it’s no surprise that continues to be the case in this year’s instalment as well. Whether you’re sifting through your pool of scouted players and deciding how to build your squad for the coming seasons, examining your backroom staff and figuring out which areas are in need of enhancements, or setting the training plans for a promising young player that you’re hoping will develop into a proper star, the level of control Football Manager affords in determine the future of your club in even the minutest of ways continues to be as impressive as it has always been.
"To those who might not be too familiar with the series, this year’s game might seem virtually indistinguishable from last year’s entry, but once you spend enough time with the game, you do come to appreciate its subtle but noticeable improvements."
That core formula has also seen some notable improvements, as it does most years. In Football Manager 2024, those improvements come through a number of smaller additions that might not have a wide-ranging impact on the entire experience, but do target some areas where there has been clear room for improvement in past years with solid results. Take the new set piece creator for instance, which allows you to dive into much greater detail when it comes to setting your tactical approach to corners and free kicks, like which post to guard or how many players to leave forward when you’re defending a set piece, or whether you want inswinging deliveries or outswinging ones when you’re taking a corner. Combined with an increased emphasis on the importance of dedicated set piece coaches, Football Manager 2024 makes setting up carefully constructed set piece plans feel like a rewarding endeavor. Seeing your work pay off with goals from free kick routines, for instance, never gets old.
Developer Sports Interactive has done similar finetuning in other areas as well, such as balancing the whole financial aspect of your football club, where running afoul of Financial Fair Play regulations or seeing your club’s budget dip into the negative now has much weightier consequences, like, in the case of the latter, your club’s Board of Directors taking control away from you and selling off valuable to make a profit. Football Manager has generally done a solid job of replicating the nuance and complexity of the transfer market over the years, and this year’s entry feels like another step forward, even if it is ultimately a marginal one. The addition of player intermediaries and TransferRoom also makes a notable difference, adding yet more ways for you to offload players rather than having to rely on their agents or generating interest yourself. Where selling players who didn’t want to leave often felt like repetitively beating your head against a wall in previous years’ games, in Football Manager 2024, you feel like you’re given a greater degree of control, which very much aligns with what this series has always been about.
"The lighting is definitely an upgrade, and some of the pitches do look slightly more detailed, but by and large, you’re not going to see a huge difference."
Meanwhile, another area where this year’s game makes some notable improvements is player interactions, which has probably been one of the series’ bigger weaknesses in the past. Traditionally, interactions with players in Football Manager games have felt either too stilted, too straightforward, or too unpredictable and random, if not a combination of all of the above, and while FM 24 by no means squashes every single one of those issues, it does feel like a step forward. Not only do players’ responses during interactions feel less erratic, the addition of being able to set specific targets also helps streamline things much further. Setting specific targets for players and having future interactions be based on their performances against those targets makes things feel like they’re following a much more palatable line of logic than they have in previous instalments.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, FM 24’s improvements are much more granular. The match engine sees some small improvements once again, coming this time in the form of improved player animations and ball physics. Players’ movements definitely feel less jerky, but you still do get moments where a player might make the stupidest decision possible at a moment where the right choice to make couldn’t be a more obvious one, like a winger running into acres of space, only to stop dead in his tracks and kick the ball back to a teammate rather than running at goal and taking a shot. I do appreciate the fact that it happens less often than it did in Football Manager 2023 – which itself made improvements in this area over its own immediate predecessor – but there’s still plenty of room for improvement here.
The same can be said about the visuals. Football Manager has never been anything close to a graphical showcase (it has both lovingly and mockingly been called a spreadsheet simulator on more than a few occasions), though Sports Interactive has nonetheless made the effort to polish up the series’ presentation side of things year on year. And as has been the case with previous instalments, the improvements in FM 24 are definitely marginal ones. The lighting is definitely an upgrade, and some of the pitches do look slightly more detailed, but by and large, you’re not going to see a huge difference. Of course, the meat and potatoes of the Football Manager experience has always been and continues to be what you do off the pitch, to the extent that there are plenty of players who keep matches limited to text-only highlights, so the lack of meaningful improvements to the match engine might not be equally disappointing to everyone.
"Football Manager 2024 neither surprises nor disappoints. If you’re familiar with what the franchise is about, going into the game, you’re going to get exactly what you expect."
Ultimately, Football Manager 2024 neither surprises nor disappoints. If you’re familiar with what the franchise is about, going into the game, you’re going to get exactly what you expect. It’s an iterative upgrade that continues to build on the series’ incredibly strong foundation with a number of smaller improvements. And though none of those improvements might stand out individually as headline-grabbing ones, collectively, they do make a noticeable difference. Is it enough of a difference to warrant a purchase of the game if you already have Football Manager 2023? Perhaps not, especially since next year’s instalment is promising to be the biggest shake-up in the history of Sports Interactive’s long-running series. But is it a game that you can easily sink hundreds of hours and sleepless nights into, as has become traditional for the franchise? It most certainly is.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Set piece creation is a solid new addition; Meaningful improvements to transfers; Improved on-pitch animations; Core loop remains as addictive and engaging as ever.
Not a lot of major improvements; Player interactions still have plenty of room for improvement; Improvements to the match engine are marginal.