Another year, another Football Manager. Is this one as addictive as ever? Find out in our Football Manager 2014 review.
Published on Oct 28, 2013
The Manchester United hot seat is calling. With Sir Alex Ferguson deciding to chew his final gum in the Old Trafford dugout, accepting a job at the Theatre of Dreams throws up an increased sense of importance in Football Manager 2014.
It’s one of those rare moments where what’s happening in real life can be reflected in virtual form, but this time, you’re the chosen one.
It’s time to practice your best Scottish accent, choose your snuggest three-piece suit and spend over the odds on a midfielder whose hair is more iconic than his footballing ability. Welcome to Manchester.
As with every new iteration of this ever-popular simulation, it’s pivotal to underline which changes make a real difference and which have been spurted around as marketing guff.
Mimicking Moyes’ troubled start to his Red Devils tenure perfectly, it’s best to start with a dip into the transfer market.
Cue an instant bid rejection for Stephan El Shaarawy and the realisation that it’s immensely difficult to land major targets for a reasonable sum.
This season’s system focuses on realism, as opposing managers supposedly react appropriately to developing situations. While this sounds intriguing on paper, it’s curiously executed.
Despite offering additional cash on top of El Shaarawy’s value, and unearthing his public desire to leave the San Siro, AC Milan decide to negotiate.
The Rossoneri return with a hilarious asking price of £93 million. That’s roughly the price of a three-legged Gareth Bale.
Although Italy’s 21-year-old has the potential to be a future Ballon d’Or contender, dumping a World Record fee to secure his services is absurd.
Our attention turns to Julian Draxler, Schalke’s established and versatile attacking midfielder.
Bid rejected, ridiculous negotiation fee fired across in return. The same happens with Luke Shaw, Juan Fernando Quintero and Thorgan Hazard until we eventually land Lorenzo Insigne in a fair deal.
Eyeing up lesser known talents for a smaller sum, Everton confirm a £9 million asking price for Ryan Ledson, a 16-year-old midfielder who signed his first scholarship with Roberto Martinez’s team in the summer.
That’s an awful lot of money for a youngster who is yet to ink a professional contract, even if you’re paying for potential.
Real-world transfer prices continue to hike at this time of recession—hence Liverpool’s £35 million deal to sign Andy Carroll—but Football Manager 2014 often pushes this notion to the extreme.
It’s perfectly acceptable for opposing managers to ensure they receive significant funds for a player’s exit, but asking prices have a tendency to border on the ridiculous and are seemingly drummed up randomly.
Changes To Football Manager
This only ensures newly installed ‘live’ negotiations—which function like the game’s sit-down contract meetings—continue to be cut short.
Thankfully, once you do manage to strike up a deal, useful clauses have been added to ease the selling club’s pain.
Should you purchase a young player without the immediate intention of starting him in the senior squad, his contract can include a loan back to the team he was purchased from (perhaps something Moyes should have employed with Wilfried Zaha).
Alongside this, you can exchange players permanently and on loan in the same transfer, improving your chances of toppling managers who remain on the fence when selling.
Money-grabbing players may be attracted to your team if they can ensure extra payment for sitting on the bench.
The substitute’s fee provides their bank account with an additional boost if they are deemed surplus to requirements and can make all the difference if your target is attracting the advances of many teams.
Football is a game of endless opinions, and this year, you’ll receive greater feedback from the staff around you.
Assistant managers continue to provide tactical advice during matches, while coaches file in-depth reports on how your Under-21 and youth team players are performing.
Should Adnan Januzaj join up with the first team or continue to develop away from the cameras? Your backroom team will help you come to a decision.
Chairman and members of the board will also outline spending plans, something you should take extremely seriously now Football Manager 20 14 includes the FIFA Financial Fair Play rules.
Sports Interactive should be praised for implementing the guidelines—which ensure any club that incurs significant loss will be punished—in a manner that warns you of overspending without harassing with needless specifics.
Classic Mode Returns
Should you wish to play with less worry and constraint, Classic Mode returns after its excellent debut last year.
For those who don’t have the time or patience to meticulously work through endless screens of text, this will get you straight into the action.
Steam WorkShop functionality has also been added, allowing players to easily exchange logos packs, customisations and Challenges.
The developer wants you to take real care of your squad in normal mode, as highlighted by a plethora of positioning specialities that aim to provide players with specific roles.
Deploying Marouane Fellaini as a deep-lying playmaker or box-to-box midfielder should make a huge difference to how your selection sets up, but disparity on the pitch is non-existent.
The nuances between holding midfielder and regista fail to register, as Paul Pogba and Andrea Pirlo end up playing identically.
This mishap should be considered part of a larger problem with Football Manager 2014.
Players lack individuality and remain soulless on the pitch, as expressive personalities are nowhere to be seen.
Although it would be unreasonable to suggest Jacobson and his team can implement behavioural traits for the entire database, esteemed stars could certainly be covered, while emerging talents should have their mind-sets developed in conjunction to your regime.
Football Manager 2014 Review
At this stage in the series’ lifecycle, it’s extremely disappointing to witness Wayne Rooney trotting across the pitch without a temperamental fire burning in his belly.
Luis Suarez can almost be mistaken for a decent human, while John Terry’s leadership skills and affinity for Wife Swap is missing from play.
Well-known individuals remain characterless and are nothing more than avatar variations gestated from Football Manager 2014’s number-crunching seed.
This year’s 3D Match Engine plays a good game of football—your players’ confidence and output is easy to read—but animation remains sketchy.
Teams continue to skate across the hallowed turf as if they’re puppets floating from your managerial string and matchday presentation is two generations away from competing with FIFA 14, but that’s nothing new.
Crowd reactions are responsive in the same way BBC studio audiences laugh uncontrollably at Mrs Brown’s Boys, and ultimately, appear robotically canned.
These criticisms are undoubtedly a reflection of the franchise’s top-quality output since the days of Championship Manager.
When things evolve so slowly, the next steps forward appear so obvious yet so far away.
Like the armchair brigade tweeting #MoyesOut with weekly regularity, expecting major progress over last year’s showing is extremely ambitious.
Even so, similar to the deadwood harbouring in Manchester United’s team, there are plenty of obvious improvements that need to be addressed when the next title drops.
Football Manager 2014 is another worthwhile addition to the series, one riddled with drama and embroiled within the addictiveness of Fantasy Football culture, but its lack of competition ensures a complacent performance for fans who renew their season ticket each year.
6.5 / 10
5.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
9.8 / 10
TBA / 10
7.7 / 10
Much like inspecting the evolution of Rooney’s fascinating mop, you’ll need a magnifying glass to identify the follicles of change that make a real difference to the Football Manager experience.