Football Manager 2018 (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 09.11.2017 4

Review for Football Manager 2018 on PC

Seasons come and seasons go but one thing is for sure, when it comes to the undisputed star player of the football sim genre there is only one name on the team sheet. As is now traditional, Football Manager 2018 has been in beta for the last two weeks and no doubt the most dedicated aspiring managers have already racked up many hours taking a League Two minnow to the height of European glory. Of course, this time is well spent for developer Sports Interactive to allow a fanatic group of people to put the systems through their paces and spot the bugs. The official release comes on 10th November for £37.99 on Steam, and with it the usual stories of gaming addiction as partners are dragged away from their relationships, employees sacked from their jobs, and the annual tradition of someone getting a real coaching job from their achievements in-game. Kick off for this review is fast approaching...and it's live!

No one can doubt the sheer magnitude of the information flowing out of every pore of Football Manager 2018. The amount of stats on every aspect of over 600,000 real life players is an incredible feat of dedication. It is the kind of dedication that marks Sports Interactive's database as one of the world's most renowned; known for powering the transfer strategies of some of the biggest clubs in the land.

One of the headline features of this year's title comes when those stats take shape in the expanded and revamped scouting system. Previously, the onus was on the manager to delegate most, if not all, the responsibilities in order to be successful at finding the best talents. Yes, there was previously assistance from the scouts, but left to their own devices they proved little more than a passive means to throw a whole list of players on the screen, without displaying a realistic portrayal of how a real football side would operate. This has changed in 2018 with, firstly, a more dynamic interface when scouts present a player to the management. A lot more pertinent information is immediately on show which helps determine the scrap from the stars.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2018 on PC

The star system, which previously rated players still plays a role in seeing a skin-deep picture of current player ability or potential ability, however, a new number system helps give the budding strategist a much more detailed analysis. Sports Interactive also has successfully got its finger on the pulse of the real life game when it comes to the increasing focus on trends and analysis. Alongside the traditional scouting reports, then, it is possible to request analysis reports that help build a long term picture of the footballer, feeding in historical stats. These kind of deep and rigorous gameplay enhancements are what really give Football Manager 2018 the scope that other sim titles can barely compete with. In a way, it is a shame that the rest of the improvements can't match up to the purpose of the aforementioned.

Take, for example, the new 'dynamics' system. It has a precedent in real life, of course; throughout every team, certain players are influencers and there are cliques that all come together and influence results. The problem, though, is a historic one for the series, in which far too often the result of matches or dramatic losses of form simply seems to come down to one errant word or a falling out with one player. While the player dynamic and team dynamic system, then, if used correctly, could feed into the realism of running a team, too often it is so ham-fisted and binary that things tend to escalate in a completely farcical and over the top way. The new medical system also plays along these lines. It is good that more information is available to give greater transparency into the likelihood of injury and how training is affecting certain players; the level of injuries seems way over the top, though, and one could even cynically suggest that injuries are aggravated simply to make use of the snazzy new screens Sports Interactive has spent time building.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2018 on PC

One of the other headline features this year is the improvement to the 3D match engine. Certainly praise has to go to the improved lighting and better animations. Frankly, though, the best news on this front is that the disastrous implementation of the two previous titles' 3D match engine is gone. In 10 hours of gameplay, there was not one occasion where a defender just alarmingly decided to not run after a back pass or where a keeper palmed the ball into his own net. Considering how frequently this plagued the game previously (usually not getting fixed until the New Year), props have to go to the developer for taking on some of the previous mistakes and implementing fixes.

There were one or two crashes experienced during that playtime, but apart from that, performance is remarkably smooth. However, the UI within the match situation has been changed from last year and considering last year's was widely praised as the best in the series, this feels like a retrograde step. With that really comes the end of the new additions to this year and that is a bit of a shame, in all honesty. No significant refinement has been made to tactics; nothing to set pieces or other aspects of building your club.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2018 on PC

Worryingly, one of the opening paragraphs of the Steam store page emphasises the "trends on social media." This is one of the ways it feels like Sports Interactive is being side-tracked down the wrong path. Almost any veteran of the series will state that the media (both social and traditional) side of Football Manager just does not interest them. The continuing desire to refine this aspect above other more pressing ones is one of the reasons why it feels sometimes like the franchise is drifting.

Not only does the media interaction generally feel like it is starting to show it's age, but the fact is that most fans have seen through it for the false illusion it is; the illusion of choice and immersion hiding the reality of a system that plays too much into the morale of teams and dictating the way the AI scripts the match outcomes. Saying 'X' to the media too often leads to 'Y' happening.

The best thing Sports Interactive can do is do what any team does when it is flagging a little or the momentum is running out of steam: go back to basics. Enhance the tactics - they have remained the same for a good few years now. Rather than more options for social media, increase the options for building a club in a particular way.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2018 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

At its heart, Football Manager 2018 remains a compelling experience, delivering rollercoaster highs of conquering the world while battling the agonising lows of relegation and sackings. The problem is the first signs of weariness are really starting to show themselves in this year's edition. It is like an ageing star in the twilight of their career; more than previously, there is a lack of genuine innovation from a team of developers who are held up to an exceptionally high standard. For sure, there are some welcome additions; the performance of the 3D match engine, alongside the revamps of scouting and medical teams, for instance, show that Sports Interactive does take refinement seriously. However, the continuing focus on the aspects most fans of the series find the most tiresome - the social media and player conversations - portray a worrying trend of the wrong path being pursued. The fundamental strengths of Football Manager remain, yet it seems a better strategy these days is possibly to pick up the title every two seasons for the best 'bang for buck' factor. For the annual buyer, this year's might prove a tougher pill to swallow and could well be deserving of one mark lower.


Sports Interactive







C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


I do have to admit it becomes like that long-running soap opera where you can ditch it for a long time and then come back, picking up like nothing's been missed. Fantastic game, no doubt, but not one for annual purchasing, methinks.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Agreed Adam. Always the challenge with titles having annual releases as well - wildly different experiences and perspectives depending on the type of 'buyer'. Hopefully that comes across.

Definitely! Did you try out the "Touch" version of the game that comes with FM18? I actually preferred FM17 Touch to the main game, to be honest... I like the Classic mode.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I haven't had a chance to try this years "Touch" but playing last years and speaking to a lot of people, more of the traditional fans seems to prefer Touch since it cuts out all the "fat" so to speak and just gives the core experience more akin to the pre-3D match engine days.

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