I've spent over 100 hours with Football Manager 2022 since the beta launched. I'll probably spend another thousand plus over the course of the year. Football Manager has always been that kind of game, not just for me, but for countless players who create their own little worlds and shape the football landscape for years into the future.
It's also the kind of game that's hard to really explain to people. My FM22 story is vastly different to yours, and despite being bound by the same systems, there’s no uniform FM22 experience.
I'll be honest - I missed FM21. Last year, I just stuck with FM20 and ended up coming up on the year 2040 with few real-life players anywhere to be seen. What this has done for me though, is highlight the stunning improvements Sports Interactive made in the Football Manager series.
More Stuff Works As It Should
Football Manager is such a vast game. The latest iteration implemented several fixes and tweaks that have absolutely sucked me in and made me invested in far more aspects of the game that I otherwise might've missed out on.
Some bits just seem to work better in FM22. In previous Football Manager titles, I've only ever found success by being an absolute ballbuster of a head coach, praising players only when they win (and sometimes warning against complacency), and flying off the handle when they lose. Now, there are more options than ever for dealing with your players.
You can now gesture in press conferences and team talks, rather than just pulling out the classic 'Calm' demeanour followed by the occasional 'Assertive.' Being too much of a wildcard in the dressing room will quickly lose you the trust of your squad (the option to 'Throw Water Bottle' is usually a poor shout), but a well-timed berating can work wonders. A much wider variety of options is actually important now and influences your team when maybe they didn't before. You have to think about which touchline shouts to do, and it takes effort to figure out the best response in any given situation. You can't as easily cheese players into agreeing with every decision you make.
Positions are easier to fiddle around with too. I love a 5-at-the-back formation, with wing-backs pushing forward when we have possession, and most left-backs are comfortable switching between the roles. It always seemed weird to me that a fullback wouldn't be able to push up a little higher and would have absolutely zero knowledge on playing that role, so it's nice to finally see some flexibility in various positions. It's an extra level of customisability I wasn't able to experiment with in the past - you're able to strategise without having to splash out in the transfer market for specialised wing-backs.
Football Manager 2022 has implemented all manner of new features. The ones that stand out most to me are the bits that make spending decades in-game (and months in real life) more of a seamless joy.
If the words 'dynamic youth ratings' don't mean anything to you, that's cool. Basically, what it means is that a country's youth ability can and will change over time. Let’s say you want to take control of a nation with a less-than-prestigious footballing history. You could, over the course of a single career, raise the profile of football in that country, inspiring the public and youth to back the game more and more. It's a real long-game feature, but as someone who goes decades into the future with my saves, the chance to make a non-footballing nation into a global sporting powerhouse is a really exciting one.
The other thing to highlight is talking to players' agents when signing them. In real life, players are people with specific wants and needs. They also have agents working for them, who also have specific wants and needs. In Football Manager 2022, you can actually go to the agents and talk to them about wishing to sign their client, granting you a touch of insight on how interested the player is and what it might take to make it happen. It's hardly a huge conversation that makes the agent feel like a real person with emotions and all that, but just makes Football Manager and the world you create in it that much more engrossing.
Fun with Stats and Data
If you're into your sports stats, Football Manager 2022 is ideal for you. The Data Hub is a great improvement on analytics, perfectly reflecting the modern game, and it lets you analyse everything from corner success rates with different set-piece plans to shot accuracy and reports on individual player performance. You can even request special bits of info from your data department, so if you want a scatter graph to show where your goalkeeper's distribution falls compared to the rest of your league, you're in luck.
It's also great to see the expected goals metric change as the match goes on. I won't pretend to understand the exact intricacies of how it's calculated, but it takes into account various factors, including shot accuracy, frequency, attack dangerousness, and overall pressure on goal to come out with a number for the expected goals each team should be scoring. Having it visible in-game makes it so easy to see at a glance if your team is in the ascendency.
Not a fan of the deep maths stuff? That's fine too. FM22 chucks some simplified stats and puts them into words you can understand after each match as well, so you don't have to worry about them if you don't want to. It's a bit of a gateway drug though - you might end up knee-deep in scatter graphs if you're not careful.
I Now Love Deadline Day
In Football Manager games of old, deadline day was a chore more than anything. Sure, you had a bit more time if there were deals to get over the line, but it failed to capture the frantic tension that always comes with the deadline. There's no real way to replicate Jim White hamming it up whilst Harry Redknapp gives his eighth interview of the day from his car window.
You get a whole lot more now, though. Agents will blow your inbox up with offers for their player, deals fly around and get hijacked out of nowhere, all with a unique yellow coat of paint to set the day apart as a special occasion. Now, instead of sighing and clicking 'Decline' when offered to take part in deadline day, I eagerly await the wheeling and dealing that ensues, dipping into it as and when a bargain pops up. Sometimes, they're rash decisions made on incomplete information too - but that's what transfer deadline day is all about! I wasn't clamouring for an improved deadline day experience, but I'm delighted with what they did with the event.
It's a must-play, the perfect next step for existing FM fanatics, and the ideal place to start if you've never dipped your toe in the deep end of management simulations. You'll be able to get started easily and stop playing after just one more game. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to lose 6-1 to Liverpool in a failed attempt to implement a Gegenpress at Reading FC.
Reviewed on Mac (Steam)
Review code provided by publisher
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