The main screen, showing most of necessary information
Just like any normal year, 2011 has brought as a regular continuation to the popular Football Manager franchise that begun already in the 2004 with Football Manager 2005. The developer of the game is Sports Interactive, who were also part of the development team of the earlier Championship Manager (1993-2003). For all those years the Football Manager games have been released either in October or November of the year previous to the game title (in example in 2010 was released FM 11, in 2011 was FM 12 etc.).
Talking about a more personal point of view - I have been a big fan of the Football Manager games since the 2010 version. One day I just thought that I needed a change in my gaming habits, and my very weak laptop would not have allowed me anything more demanding than this game. Just like planned, I bought the game and I must say I immediately fell in love with it. I spent several days playing Football Manager 2010 and as soon as I heard of the sequel being released, I had a clear idea in mind to get it. That is how the tradition started for me, and now we are here - the 2012 version is already out, and I have had enough time exploring it and having fun managing the teams I wanted to.
First of all, some basic information about the game. As I said earlier, I got the 2010 version because it was not demanding on the hardware part. That is a good point, since this year's version is the same (or at least close by the requirements). While not requiring any super-powers from your graphics card, Football Manager manages to offer enough effects and graphical varieties to keep the show interesting. If the gameplay is laggy though, there's always the possibility to play just the tactical part - by reading fairly accurate commentaries, without having to keep an eye on the stadium (apart from a 2D tactical view of the field). But why would you even care if the graphics are not of the top class? This game is not even meant to be graphically superb! It is a management simulation game after all. The sound and weather effects also enhance the display, but sometimes might get on your nerves. For example, in some countries the stadiums tend to become covered with snow in the winter. Seemingly a very small thing, but you can't even imagine how much it can disturb keeping your eyes on the ball! Especially if the ball is of a lighter colour and your player is running quite fast with it.
As the name of the game says, in the game you take on the role of a manager of a football club. You can choose your age, name, gender, favourite club, primary and secondary nationality and even your past experience. The last one has a big part in the overall difficulty of the game - depending on it you get a certain reputation in the beginning, and of course that raises the standards. A manager with almost no past football experience will not be taken seriously and your first club will probably not be the one you wanted (if you start un-employed). Moving your way up in the reputation list by winning competitions, you might one day be considered the best and practically everyone will want you to join them! If you start the game as an employed manager, you can choose any of the clubs in over 50 countries all over the world. You can even start your career in a Blue Square North/South (6th-grade English league) and try out your skills by taking it to the top of the Premier League. That is just one of the several challenges that the lively community has come up with.
How can you achieve your goal of reaching the top, though? First of all, you take charge at a club. You are assigned a transfer budget and a wage budget, which largely depend on the stature and financial situation of your club. If the club is fairly rich, you probably have the possibility of modifying the budgets - increasing one on the cost of another. If you lack the funds, you can always try your luck by asking the board, or more precisely the chairman. Depending on the circumstances and the reasons you give, the board will give you an answer for any request you make - be it stadium expansions, partner club searches, fund increases, facility upgrades or contract renewals. The variety is really big, just like the rest of the game. Apart from the transfer market, you can increase your chances by wise management of aspects such as training, match practice, morale boosting (by talking to the players etc. Basically an endless ocean of possibilities to take different tactical approaches on the game.
Now about the negative part of the game, which can't really be considered negative if this is your first game in the series. That is because the minus of Football Manager 2012 is the lack of useful upgrades. Despite all those years passing, we are still sitting with useless manager wages that cannot be spent in any way; we still have almost the same graphics - especially the crowd that hasn't changed at all in my opinion. The seemingly interesting addition of speech tone lacks actual usefulness, because there is no real difference in the way you speak to the players. The sound has stayed the same as it was... Perhaps one of the updates that I noticed and actually liked very much was the change of interface and overall look of the game - the screen is made to include all the info that is required, all at once and (mostly) without the need to switch something. That surely is a lovely change. If you don't like the two main skins of Football Manager, then don't worry - the community has already taken care of such things and you can find hundreds (if not thousands) of different skins online, together with custom scenarios (non-existent leagues for example), player pictures and such content.
If I had to choose, whether to get a FPS of the year or a new Football Manager, I would choose this one, and I recommend doing the same to you! Just try out the demo and I can almost guarantee you will have a good time. That is, if you are a fan of slow-paced, generally tactical-based management games. If you are a fan of shooters, then this game might not be for you, but still - definitely try it out and see for yourself! You won't regret it if you like it!
The view on the stadium, with the game about to begin