The Football Manager series started as Championship Manager back in 1992, a game I remember playing fondly as a student. A falling out between the developer (Sports Interactive) and the publisher (Eidos) resulted in two competing offerings. You’re still managing football in Championship Manager and still aiming for the championship in Football Manager (published by Sega)… Football Manager 2016 like its annual predecessors since 2005 is a football simulation not for the faint at heart and not for those who get nauseous at the mere thought of numbers.
Playability: Almost accessible faster goals
The core of the game is seriously solid with an abundance of real world football statistics from Prozone, which itself relies on stadium camera analysis of matches and players. As reference software, Football Manager provides a bargain basement access to professional level consultancy data. The old casual video gamer might never use three quarters of the options at his fingertips (set pieces, training, tactics, transfers, match planning, scouting, staffing etc) but cannot complain as more for the same price is always better. It has been a while since Football Manager made an effort at being accessible to newcomers. Football Manager 2016 has a stripped down Touch Mode where the focus is “only” on transfers, tactics and matches. Touch is already overwhelming but at least you can breathe easier and with only a little patience be gratified by the results of your scheming on the football pitch.
Annoyance: Balance the books
I have to admit the full play mode of Football Manager 2016 is way out of my game playing premier league. The Touch Mode is available as a standalone game but for a little extra cash, Football Manager 2016 offers an exponential increase in features. However, there is also a big jump in accessibility and head scratching between the two modes with nothing customizable in-between. Football Manager 2016 is touted as a realistic simulation, but the world it depicts is strangely cold and void of sentiment. Where’s the uproar? Where’s the chanting? Where’s the summary dismissal? Where’s the backstabbing transfer? Where is the obnoxious stardom? Where is the dizzying fall from grace? Football Manager 2016 only requires you to balance the books and crack open the puzzles of its algorithms.
Beauty: For those who see beauty in numbers
Football Manager 2016 is a visually dry gaming experience. The interface is antiquated and on par with early 1990s statistical packages. The latest iterations of Microsoft Office and Google Docs may have more bells and whistles. There are spreadsheets artists who are capable of faithfully replicating Hokusai’s Great Wave or a picture of the Tower of London. Football Manager 2016 is definitely not one of them. Don’t expect virtual reality quality from the match engine. The commentaries of matches appear as subtitles at the bottom of the screen. While the animation is fluid, there is little excitement in the stadium and soon you are forced to go back to the humdrum of pouring over endless reams of statistics. You’ll have to crank up your own radio station as the game’s soundtrack is nonexistent.
The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Spreadsheet fun 6/10
Football Manager 2016 has too much in common with the less glamorous tasks of my daily job. It is a nerdy game with a nerdy interface. I’ve never managed a professional football team so I cannot really comment on the realistic qualities of this simulation. I haven’t heard Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson comment on the game either. If you’re a casual gamer like me and just want to enjoy a quick little game of footie, Football Manager Touch 2016 (the more affordable and accessible streamlined version of Football Manager 2016) is a worthy alternative.