I'm Playing the Best/Worst Sports Game of the Year, and it's Killing me

Illustration for article titled I'm Playing the Best/Worst Sports Game of the Year, and it's Killing me

I love sports. I love video games. That doesn't mean I automatically love sports video games, because as a non-American, most professional and polished titles don't really appeal.

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I love my football games, though, from FIFA to Pro Evo, and that means I've also got a soft spot for the Football Manager series, games that are little more than glorified spreadsheets with what feels like the world's largest sporting calculator buried within.

It's been a while since I've really played one of these games, maybe 2-3 years, but I've been hooked on the latest version, Football Manager 2013, for a few weeks now.

This is both a good and terrible thing.

It's good because, for the first time, the game includes an all-new mode—practically a game within a game—called "classic", which strips away a lot of the really time-consuming and stat-heavy stuff, leaving you with a simplified version that's more suitable to the time-starved fan like myself who just wants to buy players, fiddle with tactics and click through a whole season in an afternoon.

It's bad, though, because boy, this game is broken. Not the "main" game, the screens where you navigate fields of numbers and arrows and buy players and talk to the media and tell your physio he's a bit shit so you're replacing him with a fancy Italian. That's fine.

Illustration for article titled I'm Playing the Best/Worst Sports Game of the Year, and it's Killing me
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But for years now, a key part of the FM experience has been its match day engine, when the spreadsheets give way to a 3D representation of your team's game, where you can watch the action unfold and give real-time instructions to your players. If you want to win at FM, you have to use it, since simulating a match is so arbitrary, but in using it you leave yourself at the mercy of a game engine which seems to think bloopers are as common as highlights, and that your goalkeeper and defenders are running around with blindfolds on while tap-dancing on two left feet.

Never before have I seen a sports video game be so cruel with its glitches and hiccups, robbing you of victory with an engine failure (ie, a complete failure of the game to accurately model the behaviour of a human footballer) every chance it gets. It's crushing. Dispiriting. It's like the bad old days of cheating AI have returned, only you can't even credit the AI with that, because your goalkeeper kicked the ball into his own net by accident.

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I hope developers Sports Interactive can patch the game soon, because as it stands, my heart is breaking every time I play this game, lured in by the promise of sexy menus and football nerd minutiae, then spat on as a defender spins 360-degrees on the spot instead of kicking the ball that's sitting right at his feet oh God just kick it.

UPDATE - Seems turning the 3D engine off, but still simulating the match in 2D, removes most if not all of these kinks. A handy workaround, but still a little disappointing that you have to go back in time ten years just to get a working game of football.

DISCUSSION

RanMiller
RanMiller

Its hard to take someone who calls an FM game a " little more than glorified spreadsheets" seriously. Its pretty obvious you have no idea what you are talking about.

There have been several attempts to make a similar football management game, and only this one has not only "survived" but excelled.

If anything, its main "problem" is how hard it is to make people truly interested in the game. Those sheets and numbers do tell a story, for those actually interested in seeing it. After 4-5 seasons in games, players usually develop attachments to players that are stronger then any modern RPG.

Your complaints about the 3D engine also show how little you truly understand the game.

The purpose of the 3d/2d engine is to convey the raw data of your players attributes and your decisions and show it in an easily interpreted way that is also interactive.

The fact the player moved in an "awkward"/"inhumane" mode is mostly because he either lacks something or was trying to do something else. The only problem of the 3D engine is the budget, its not a triple A production but it does a darn well job out of transferring the huge numerical vectors and data into a coherent interactive football match.

What im trying to say is, that veteran players can usually spot and understand why the player acted in a certain way that might seem totally stupid and incoherent. He might lack the will, the ability or is just torn between what you told him to do and what he actually wants to do.

I feel you were harsh in this review mostly because you didn't spend enough time to truly appreciate the magnitude of the actual details this game simulates.

Its not perfect, but in the way nothing truly is. In any other way this is a perfect game.

:D