There are few series out there that tend to vacuum up your spare time quite like Football Manager. I’ve often loaded up a save to quickly play a match and do some scouting and then oh no, it’s 2AM, you’re 32 years old, your back is going to be screaming at you tomorrow, why are you like this. While the temptation to invest in a girdle with each passing year rises, something that’s slightly lowered is how much time Football Manager thieves away from me, as more recent entries just don’t feel like they’ve had enough of a new flavour about them to hook me in for the 200+ hours of previous years. Is it the same case with Football Manager 2024?
Well, yes and no. I’ve already sunk 50 hours into this year’s game, and am going to be spending at least triple that as I look to make Everton into a proper football club again (difficulty: Legendary). However, despite some really neat flourishes, Football Manager 2024 remains very similar to every FM release since around FM 20. Make no mistake, it’s still very good in the same way that Manchester City are very good at the actual football, but just like City, that typical efficiency can make things a bit too predictable.
There are certainly more changes to this year’s game than last year, which really felt like a consolidatory release. After years of asking, set pieces finally have a big more weight to them, with players now able to more painstakingly apply players to roles, whether they’re attacking the ball, tracking back, and so on. However, while the added detail is welcome, it’s somewhat difficult to figure out what actually does what for quite a while — it’s not really intuitive just yet. Then there’s the new clunkiness of choosing set piece takers, which seems to be oddly restrictive as you can only choose certain players to take them. Add in the AI automatically selecting the most random set piece takers if you take the assigned taker off and it does feel like there’s some teething problems here, so you can be excused if you just pass it all off to your set piece coach.
One thing that I’ve always really wanted more of from Football Manager is for it really lean further into the role-playing, to help you cultivate stories with your players. I’m not asking for Ferguson and Beckham kind of relationships (though an option to kick a boot in the dressing room could be quite fun), more just there to be layers beyond them getting mad at you for praising their form. This year’s additions of targets and intermediaries help to do just that.
Got a player who’s coasting by? What about a youngster out on loan? Well, now you can set them a target for them to hit, with a promise that you will give them a reward like extra playing time if they hit that target. It’s honestly a brilliant little method of investing you more into your relationships without getting into that potentially murky realms of having real world players act in specific ways. Knowing that you have a young striker out on loan at, I don’t know, Arbroath who has targets to hit immediately hooks you into their development, especially if you have them in your squad planner for the following season. I do wish that some players wouldn’t react so negatively to being set targets, but it does make sense as not every player enjoys being micro-managed.
On the other side of the coin, now it’s easier than ever to cast out players who you never want to darken your door again thanks to intermediaries. For a percentage of a transfer fee, intermediaries will go out and find a club for your unwanted player, with it being a super effective way of trimming your squad if you don’t mind paying someone a few quid for basically sending out a couple of texts. You no longer need to send your least favourite players to the under-21s and demand they play right-back while on double intensity training. That’s still an option though, you sick maniac.
There are plenty of other nice additions to this year’s game, with the J-League’s belated involvement no doubt being an absolute dream for MUNDIAL subscribers around the world. Players can even bring in saves from last year’s game if they really don’t want to let go, and more ways of customising your save than ever, which feels like a YouTuber’s dream. Then there’s the match engine, which, while undoubtedly a bit too crude-looking for a game of this stature, is probably the best one that Sports Interactive has ever put out. With Football Manager 2025 bringing a whole new engine to the experience for the first time in many years, it’s clear they wanted to send-off this one with a bang.
But is Football Manager 2024 good bang for your buck? Well, Sports Interactive have clearly mastered their formula for digital football management crack, the data-crunching chemists that they are. It’s supremely easy to get invested in the silly little dots on the screen, the goofy lil numbers you staff chuck at you, the strange eyebrows that your manager definitely grows as a real human being. Football Manager 2024 will likely hoover up hundreds of hours if you let it, but if you’ve been mainlining FM for the last few years, you couldn’t be blamed for wanting to wait to see what Sports Interactive does in their new era.
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Football Manager 2024 refreshes the formula just enough ahead of its biggest overhaul to date next year, allowing players to become the digital Alan Curbishley with the most depth of any FM yet.
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