When nearly two years ago Football Manager 2009 stormed the world market of computer games, moods of excited players stretched from Newcastle to Plymouth. One group, blindfolded by the revolutionary 3D mode, saw a great successor to the previous version, while the other one, disappointed by the bad compression of the game code and more or less 5 press conferences, considered new game of the British producers as a mistake and remained with their old careers. Why am I mentioning this? Because it seems that an analogy to the FM 2008-09, where interface went under a small lifting, and someone not paying attention to the new features, could take the “orange” manager as a “red” one, might actually repeat in just a month. Might, but doesn't have to –there are as many similarities as differences and now everything depends on how players receive the game.
I had the distinction from the CM Revolution editorial staff, having preview version of Football Manager 2011 at my disposal. I completed with great pleasure the responsible duty of previewing it, given me by this occasion, and I recall more than pleasantly time spent on writing a review. Does this mean that new FM is faults free? Unfortunately, though I would like to say so, I can't guarantee that. However I promise, that I tried to be objective while writing the review of this game, using my experience as a long-term, avid FM player. I also hope that this text won't have to be changed – as it was in some years – after the premiere of the game, and if so, only in plus.
To be honest, while I was watching the download bar on famous Steam, I felt bigger excitement than before first use of any demo or final version. What's more, for forthcoming minutes, nothing could disturb this healthy emotions – everything from the start to the end went without any troubles, the installation took only 20 minutes, and not, what system suggested, an hour. Really simple launch by clicking the “play” button wasn't bugged as well (if I just remind the 2009 version...) and after a while, known themes showed on the desktop: logos of SI and SEGA, charity organizations and licensed trademarks, and in the end huge sign “Football Manager 2011” accustoms us to the new game colouring. I can easily say that the first meeting between my old computer and new FM was fine.
When the loading process end, of what again we are informed in various languages, familiar sight appears. Main menu, which was revamped just year ago shouldn't surprise us with anything major, except lots of blue and crumpled tie of man in coat. Placement of buttons hasn't changed since the last edition, only “FM Club” button is missing, as future of this initiative apparently still isn't known. The Nike football near the “New game” button has been replaced by classic Jupiter, and my eagle eye has spotted, that the multi player game icon is not a globe but a 32-panel ball! None of this buttons have been clicked as first, because as always I chose options.
As predicted, configurations screen went under little changes. Besides traditional options like choosing numbers scale or currency I didn't plan any interference in setup, though I spent a while in new bookmark “formats”, where all details like choosing signs in currencies, dates and pre-match predictions have been moved. Unfortunately, I couldn't test the dark version of default skin – it wasn't available.
First visual lifting was in the new game setup screen – you won't see the pushy and useless creator, and the data choosing process itself has been split into two parts. First, we choose the countries we want to play in, to which we use board automatically divided into continents. Next step is the rest – selection of leagues, database (no changes in it, we can choose either: small, medium and big) and smaller things, like a new feature – filling playable teams having not enough players with greyed-out players. I can't really think of any far-reaching plan in these cosmetic changes – most likely developers assumed that after so many years even this panel should be slightly modified.
Fortunately, there is no such discrepancy in system requirements. Although they haven't been officially revealed and we can just guess the real ones, both on weak and strong computers I haven't seen any major changes in speed and fluency of the play. I won't analyze how many playable leagues will someone's computer take – this task will be done properly by stars and everyone will be able to mix the combinations on private computers.
Inserting my personal details and choosing team to manage is a piece of cake – the only important change I've seen is an option to log on to the two Internet sites, but I'll take a closer look onto that later on. Right now, after entering the ... I've noticed that not only have “news” and “box” been merged, but also the whole space has been used to do so. In result, we have only two windows instead of three, and in my opinion it's the first minus of new FM. Also, once again we can notice the wasted space, which higher resolution monitor owners could use. Unfortunately, they will have to move in half filled boxes.
I was a little worried about this change of events, so I moved to the main screen. I was shocked, because at first I didn't know where I was! Although besides earlier mentioned merging of the boxes only headlines and contents place has been changed, I found interference in the reliable system a very bad thing. SI is thinking, looking for new solutions, fresh look onto some game aspects. So far, they're doing a good job – new layout isn't worse than the old one, it's easy to get accustomed to, and you can easily put a sentence “Better is an enemy of the good” into the books.
What's about interface, all in all it hasn't changed much compared to 2010. Lateral beam buttons have been merged, and everything starts to look like FM Live, mainly because of the coloring, as well as modernity and streamlining of graphic elements (new default herbs and kits), setting the bar higher for the skin makers. I was pleasantly surprised by the belt under the calendar, on which I fit all available shortcuts – last year, playing FM on the same resolution, same thing was unrealizable. One way or another, fans of 2010 should have no trouble with accustoming to this year layout, and road of unrepentant “tree” supporters to get rid of it won't move even by an inch.
Having all technical and visual stuff behind me, I could test all these new features I was informing about for the last 3 months. But I didn't start testing, I decided to run a simple career, so that no detail would escape my attention. First thing I noticed was a richer offer of subscriptions given me by my assistant after having a look at my in box. But if we don't want to be flooded by the messages regarding our friends and enemies, and we can't care less about results of some leagues, it's still possible to manage those subscriptions.
Also first meeting with my staff resulted in discovering some new features. My fellow-workers “introduced” themselves, informing about their best aspects of training. It's a little ridiculous that other trainers may disagree with the self presentation, but in this case we can take a look on attributes of a coach and evaluate his abilities. Minute later I received a proposition of receiving a report regarding players that might be loaned for every position, and that's pretty much everything in that aspect.
The manager profile went under massive reconstruction – whole screen has been divided into few small parts, and the first thing that should be noticed is that our attributes won't be showed in 0-20 scale anymore but in percents. In the other part we can find our tactical preferences expanded with visualizations of favourite tactics, and the totally new feature is list of best and worst relations with other managers. The whole package is ended with basic info like our personal details, contract terms, world knowledge and last addition – our recent activity in media.
Another improvement is including bookmark called “manager options” in our profile, where we can easily configure basic match setup with no need to do so before our first game – we can change the camera, match speed or frequency of situations during the match. There is a part called “screen sequence” but I couldn't test it as I received only a preview version. What will it contain? After a closer look, I can say that we will use it to turn on showing statistics of international tournaments and leagues in SITV during the data load.
Meanwhile, after first click on “continue” I was invited to the first press conference. Most of FM-maniacs are of course very eager to know how it was modified compared to earlier releases – I can say with full responsibility that conferences are still boring. Of course, new set of questions is a plus and you can feel something new during first two seasons, but the main problem is that the formula itself isn't fulfilling its role properly. Developers are trying to make the conferences more dynamic by introducing the new “one click” system, but it's still not enough to break the monotony. Of course, SI solutions are good, but if we just want to leave the conference ASAP it's easier to send an assistant, who isn't saying stupid things anymore, as it was in 2009.
Interesting things happened in place, of which reconstruction masses requested for a few years. Rebuild training system is looking more modern, yet still keeps its basic functions, not letting us to lose the routine in control – this year we received quick peek at level of training facilities and workload. Basic set of work, as Miles promised, is now not in two, but four sections, for each position. What's more, players are already attached to adequate groups and only a few lads are in general schedule, from where we can move them to our own schedules. Unfortunately, we'll have to create those on our own, as previous versions schemes aren't working in FM11. But my main attention was focused on placing relatively young bookmark “Coaches” into the main part, and it was done to make more space for...
...well, what for? New feature by SI developers called “match preparation” is something close to info about nearest rival and centre of accustoming the team to match strategies. It appears that they work very well with each other – when we want to prepare the team for the next game we just take a look onto weak and strong sides of our next rival and we choose the most adequate tactic from 3 possibilities. In the bookmarks called like tactics we can find out, how the team is accustoming to the tactical orders given by us and beneath that we can order them to focus on one thing before the game. I can say that developers done all the work for lazy FM players and made life easier for people actually working out the rival, especially that assistant reminds us about the rival analysis three days before every game, and just in case, we can make him care about general and pre-match training.
Interaction system also went under massive reconstruction – it's the end of single suggestions in the media, because we can say that we want to have in our club not one, but a group of players, all in one conversation due to the live meetings. Honestly, the statements system was not only expanded but also classified and formed properly, so it could imitate the actual discussion with a player. To realize this change the range of players reactions had to be widened, and they can be really surprising – unfledged junior expresses his dissatisfaction over the decision of choosing a player to mentor him, and the would-be mentor can stand up, say something and leave. This is a great boost to the interaction – Football Manager didn't accustom us to the first person narration, and here not only we have lots of it but also they are merged in very complicated way.
Increasing the role of agents in FM11 wasn't as huge innovation for me as the previous option. Mainly due to that it wasn't a spectacular thing, apart from creating separate profiles for those, their role is monotony and the whole new thing is mostly based on flooding us with propositions of signing random players. Fortunately, in a little expanded team setup we can declare what reports regarding players we want, if we do want to receive any. It's split into three parts – talented young guns, free signings and transfer-listed players – it seems ok, but personally I'd like to precise things like age, cost and position. Developers have written those filters ages ago, and I really don't know why they didn't plug it in. Nevertheless this option might come in handy and lead to some successful signings, and mainly make life easier for the HC players, to which all “natural” sources of transfer targets are gold. Scouting section won't help them, as apart from general sum up of club world knowledge I haven't found anything new.
Second task of agents is representing players during the contract negotiations. It's also a static role – in the contract offer bookmark we can see his single sentence about his client approach and their basic personal details. A quick peek into our wage budget, current and potential ability of player as well as his interest in the transaction is also a useful innovation. In addition, developers decided to split the contract screen into actual and new conditions, and when some misunderstanding occurs, the element needed to be changed will light up in red. In this way, an optimal game element went under a great reconstruction.
Training planned, chit-chats done, wish list begins to fill, so it's time to take a closer look at the tactics screen. At first look we won't notice major changes, but wait... one click, one unfolding of a short list and there it is! The set pieces creator, one of the most promising novelty is at last in my hands! One year ago we received tactics creator, so it's no surprise that the philosophy stayed the same, and this year newness works on the same basis. This time, we have to walk through 12 steps, during which we'll pick takers of set pieces and with help of a special visualization we can pick roles of players during the execution of a corner or a free kick. Yet again SI made FM players life more comfortable, guiding us through the spot, which until now was undercover. It doesn't mean that the creator will bring us goals galore after set pieces – it's task is to fill the gaps in this element from earlier edition, and players will have to look for the best solutions themselves. Of course an improvement in functioning of this piece is noticeable, as players really are standing and doing what they were ordered to do, but it depends only on us will it improve our effectiveness in front of the goal.
After first contact with 3D mode I stated, that it's more than just millions of colourful pixels. This is exactly what I was expecting from SI before the release of FM2009. Players are starting to look like humans, having heads, hand and legs, and during some occasions we can identify numbers on their shirts! We owe it to the improvements done by the developers over the last few months, and mostly to the new match camera called “TV”. Until now, no view has brought the pitch closer to us than this telly one – the way of showing a match is really dynamic, constantly on the move. The view is not only moving along the pitch but also magnifies or withdraws the action depending on the side on which the game is on at the moment.
Another element of 3D, which was... not so good previously, now looks awesome. Players aren't soulless robots anymore but quite the contrary – they react and make gestures adequate to the match situations. They can hide their heads in hands, clap in the win gesture and after lost goal, they can stand for a while with their hands on their hips.
Don't think it's the end of novelties in this element – although it might seem to be unbelievable, SI really took care about even smaller details. After the end of one action, the view doesn't “stuck” until the next one, but the silhouettes of players and referees slowly vanish so we can see the empty pitch during the boring part of game. But when something is going to happen, the players will appear from the air. Also, teams are no longer chasing after proper black and white football instead of the little, white pixel. When the match goes to penalties, a small made penalties meter will appear at the top of the screen, just as it is in the telly. The split screen was given a vertical belt between two parts, making it possible to modify their width.
But nothing impressed me more than the landscapes behind virtual stadiums. Well, not only them – we can also see some new constructions of the stands. If half year ago someone would tell that in FM 2011 the green plains would be replaced by buildings, roads or even... water basins, he or she would be taken as a nut, while all this elements not only were included in the newest release from SI, but also were done with sometimes great precision and they are really raising a climate of the game both during traditional, day matches as well as during this night ones. Yes, that's right, night games are also exceptional – it looks like 3D mode will be a strong point of new FM, and the unlucky ones having weaker computers don't have to be afraid of it, because the impressive backgrounds, spontaneous supporters and colourful stands might be turned off.
Compared to last year, the post-match analysis looks better, as it was enriched with a possibility to look through the stats for the whole team. Analysis of player movement, e.g. when he is on the offside position or when is he dribbling also seems to be a good solution – we can set the best role and tactical orders for the player. It's also the same with the display of most occupied place by players, clearly showing the preferences, positional habits of our footballers or even the badly attached role.
Pre-match preview and post-match summary were also modified. SI added additional information regarding match circumstances, key players, referee profile and the schedule of parallel played matches. Everything was placed in allocated boxes above which is a key expert opinion about the game and horizontal, moving belt, where the press information about the game is.
Another issue is the other post-match option, and also the last bookmark in our manager profile – community websites setup. We can find there two boxes allowing us to log on to our accounts on Twitter or YouTube – so if we hadn't done it while creating a new manager, we can easily do that later. Also, the updates on Twitter may be automatic if we just want to – we can follow the results of such actions on the official Twitter account of Miles Jacobson. Cooperating with YT is nothing more than posting our goals to the site. I'd like to show some of my games here, showing the qualities of 3D mode I written about earlier, but SI would be mad, so... you have to wait! Not long, just nearly two weeks. But as I had the honour of presenting FM right now, I'm obligated to make a conclusion.
Football Manager 2011 will definitely be a good friend of 2010 version fans. Huge list of changes didn't affect the game itself so much, so FM maniacs won't have any trouble with accustoming to it – I know something about it as a person who dearly loved FM 2008, and yet I've played 25 seasons in FM 10. But still it doesn't mean that people that remained with older editions can't and won't accustom to the new one, but with this amount of changes, lads willing to give it another go have a great opportunity to do so. So far I can't say much about the dynamic league reputation, as it needs a few seasons of full commitment, and unfortunately I didn't have time for it. But it seems that if developers planned to introduce this for a few years, it will be mastered better than any other thing in this game. And just for this feature it's worth going with the technological advance.
Translated by: Bolson
Correction by: Kanion
Huge thanks to SEGA EUROPE for making the game accessible.
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