Review: FIFA Manager 12
While FIFA 12 claims to be a revolution for the FIFA series, FIFA Manager has always been in the shadow of the Football Manager series. Can FIFA Manager 12 be the one to echo its brother's so-called revolution and break the chain?
- Worth The Time?Definitely, especially if you're in it for the long haul.
- Things LovedSlick menu layouts, epic soundtrack and desktop widgets, responsive match controls, sports facilities management. Accurately captures the experience and intricacies of being a football club manager. The ability to customise every aspect of the game and streamline or enhance it to suit your taste is invaluable.
- Things HatedSheer volume of data can initially overwhelm, user-unfriendly menus take time to get used, 3D match simulation visuals are awful, limited range of answers for press conferences.
- RecommendationFor anyone who loves the nuts and bolts aspects of FIFA Soccer's manager mode and of course fans of management simulators. Even Football Manager fans may be swayed.
- Name: Fifa Manager 12
- Genre: Simulator
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: 2-8
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: EA Sports
- Publisher: EA Games
- Price: R305 - R349.99
- Reviewed On: PC
The FIFA Manager series as a whole can best be described as an odd duck. Unlike its cousin, the FIFA Soccer franchise, FIFA Manager is not the top dog amongst its competition. Instead, it is often overshadowed by the more refined, more focused Football Manager.
Why mention this? Well, the contrast is curious and probably a bit humorous. Not only that but I do believe that the latest addition to the series manages to narrow that gap a little more. Part of the odd duck label is also the fact that there’s an amount of wasted effort and things that just don’t make all that much sense. More of that later though.
FIFA Manager 12 tries to capture the essence of being a club manager. It makes every effort to replicate the dynamic nature of being a manager and certainly offers players all the intricacies of the job. In that regard, it does very well. Players can control every aspect of the club and team from financing and budgets to transfers, marketing, sponsorship deals, training regimes and more.
You really won’t feel anything missing from the experience when you compare it with what the likes of Mourinho and Ferguson have to do to earn their pay check.
Perhaps the party-piece of this game is that nothing is static, save for the fact that you will always be managing things in a text-based fashion. Just about everything can be altered and changed to suit you. You can really make the game whatever you want it to be.
If you just want to handle transfers, training and direct players during a match then you can choose to leave everything else up to the assistant manager. Alternatively, if you have a penchant for pocket-protectors then you could shun all of the above and opt to take the reins of the club’s finances, marketing and sponsorship deals. It’s a great mechanic to help newcomers ease into the series because if you have to deal with everything from the start, it can overwhelm you like a tidal wave.
Over and above this, you can even choose what path you’d like to take. You could start a new team and build them up or start the game with a choice of 3 mid-table teams in a league of your choice and battle to take them to the top. Those in it for an easy ride can just pick a team of their choosing and take things from there. A nice little side option is the choice to simultaneously manage a national team.
This offers a nice change-up from managing a club since a national team gives you a limited range of players and its success really depends on your managerial skills and how well you can work with the players at your disposal. Those who choose to start up with their own new team also get to have control over the club’s stadium and renovations.
In terms of bookwork, players can reallocate the club’s budget, to a degree. They also have the ability to handle marketing of the club and merchandise sales as well as setting up and attracting new sponsors. You can even launch campaigns to build support for the club.
With regard to the squad, the game goes pretty deep but mercifully knows where to stop. You can do all the standard stuff such as transfers, assigning various players’ roles and determining the general training regime but also drawing up training programs for individual players. You’ll also have to control players’ egos and manage them from a human aspect from time to time.
There’s also the expected things such as having to deal with the press although this gets a touch laborious after you’ve seen the same set of options for the 20th time. It’s not bad and the press interaction is sometimes interesting, especially the realistically journalistic questions that get asked but the range of answers is very narrow and once repetition sets in, it becomes a bit of a joke.
New to the game though is the option to manage sports facilities such as player lodges, training camps and high-performance centres. This adds another layer of depth to the overall experience and works rather well. All aspects of the game work rather well actually. Transfers are realistic and never really frustrate. It’s easy enough to acquire players within your budget and even to sell players off. Other clubs will even offer players to you if they need the money and some players will request to join your team.
The only element of the game that really disappoints is the match gameplay. It’s not so bad if you choose to manage the match in a text-based manner but the option to view a 3D simulation of the match is irresistible. It disappointed me majorly because of the lacklustre visuals. What I was looking at was akin to something I’d seen back on PS2. Admittedly, this is not a game-breaking issue but in this day and age, surely EA Sports could do a bit better with the 3D simulations given the visual heights that FIFA 12 has soared to. I’m not asking for an Impact Engine or anything of the sort but just something that at least matches the quality that the rest of the game exudes.
Beyond that, matches are a delight with responsive controls for you as the manager from which you can control players like your own life-sized marionettes. Instructing them when to make runs, pass etc. You can also change various elements of the team’s tactics on the fly during a match. This makes it quick and effortless to get your team into a defensive position to hold onto a lead or go all out for one final thrash at goal. The best part about the system is its responsiveness which may be a tad unrealistic but is something that can be forgiven because you want the team to surge forward when you tell them to not in 5 minutes time.
What’s great about this game is that it allows you to do everything you’d expect to and want to do. Not only that but it does it very, very well.
Of course licensing goes a long way to helping FIFA Manager 12 achieve that ultra-realism with over 25 licensed leagues and in excess of 40, 000 players. Even the soundtrack is surprisingly epic even if you’re just doing some admin work or going through e-mails. In other words, it’s not the aneurysm-inducing vomit-fest that is FIFA 12’s OST. That’s a good thing, in case you were ever in any doubt.
FIFA Manager 12 is not without its faults though. The menus can initially be very unfriendly and difficult to navigate and it might take you a bit of time to find all the features and figure out how to perform certain functions but this never becomes a frustration. The sheer volume of information, even if you opt to streamline your experience, can be overwhelming at times and takes some time to get used. Once you get the lay of the land and explore all the menus, things are rather simple and straightforward. This is helped by the clean and functional desktop-style layout of everything with the option to add widgets which allow you to keep track of the latest news, league stats and more.
The game seems to know just how much info it’s hurling at you though because there is the option to print data out so as to keep track of everything. This is also an indication of the time you need to invest in FIFA Manager 12 to accomplish anything.
One nice touch that has been added is a feature whereby you can set up a match between any two teams and then watch the 3D simulation. This is great if you want to see what might happen when Liverpool play Chelsea in the league this week or maybe what might happen when City face United in the return fixture. You’re stuck with those God-awful visuals but it’s still one of those nice-to-haves nonetheless.
There’s also a degree of misdirected effort that makes me think of GTA IV with its options to watch TV in-game and other features that have no place in a video game. For example, you can use your managerial earnings to buy paraphernalia for yourself such as cars, toys and other trinkets that have no effect on the game whatsoever. You also have the option to put your manager avatar in a relationship or even give them a family. This will result in you having to deal with family matters. I didn’t know FIFA Manager 12 came with a free demo of the Sims. Sarcasm aside, this feature feels completely sundry and not only makes no sense in the game but also detracts from the overall experience. Like everything else though, you can choose to turn it off. They really took it a bit too far though, I mean you can go on holiday for God’s sake! If I wanted to do any of that, I’d just play the Sims or maybe walk away from the PC.
Beyond that, I really cannot fault FIFA Manager 12 for much. Anything that might cause problems or be regarded as an issue can be changed due to the dynamic nature of the game and the level to which you can customise your experience. That said, every element of the game, save for that stupid relationship/family thing, is well executed and does a fantastic job of not only replicating reality but also the experience.