Football Manager 2019 (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 26.11.2018

Review for Football Manager 2019 on PC

It is incredibly rare in gaming that a genre has so little competition, as is the case when it comes to Sports Interactive's annual Football Manager. Some have tried, but most have failed to compete with the football simulator juggernaut - arguably the truest to life depiction of the struggles of a football manager within entertainment. Thus, the clock once again springs round to this time of year when aspiring managers will don their jackets armed with ambition and glory to create the best team ever seen. 2019 is back with several headline features, including an overhauled training system, alongside a redesign of how tactics are envisaged and implemented. With that being said, though, the problems with owning a genre is that potential failure stands more starkly. The question? Does Football Manager 2019 improve upon its predecessor enough to make it worth buying?

Interestingly, it is possible to use a contemporary gaming example when discussing FM 2019 - namely the series by Bethesda. Whilst on the surface it may seem strange to compare these two distant genres, the trouble both have shared is that much of the recent criticism of the titles is linked to their refusal to implement enough changes - specifically, when looking at the core game engines used. Football Manager has suffered this a lot in recent years, where whilst the games have been perfectly adequate, it no longer feels enough to be simply churning out an annual title with simple roster changes and a few bug fixes and quality of life improvements.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2019 on PC

It is on this point then that FM 2019 feels like such an impressive step forward for the series and finally answers many of the fan criticisms of where Sports Interactive is going. Looking at the first headline change - the way training operates - this has had a complete revolution from last year's entry. Previously, training seemed to be a kind of loose meta-game system that players felt obliged to participate in, but not actually invest in. Training has now been allied to the way actual teams in the real world operate. Indeed, according to reports, in designing the system, Sports Interactive actually visited a number of clubs and participated in a series of lectures between people within the football industry in order to gain a greater insight into the day to day routine of training.

Rather than have binary categories of training in week-long blocks (as was previously the case), every day is split into three slots and a vast number of training categories can be placed into each of those slots. This can range from attacking drills or tactical shape to team-bonding sessions. The best thing about this system is that underneath each training slot is a fatigue and intensity bar, which gives tangible impacts on how training will affect players. In addition, each training session shows what it will improve in players and the potential negative impacts, as well. The result of all this is that it provides an exceptional amount of agency to the manager in being able to shape teams a certain way. It also ensures that there is a lot more transparency in how the game systems operate, which was sorely missing from past titles.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2019 on PC

The second headline change in this year's edition is the way that tactics have been implemented. Previously, trying to create a tactic that mirrored the way players desired a team to play was almost like a lottery. It involved so much trial and error that it hardly made it worth the effort. Often, even after consulting online guides, teams still refused to follow the logical instructions given. SI has now restructured the developing of tactics by allowing managers to select from a number of defined templates when they first want to create a new style for their team. Now, that isn't to say it is restrictive. It is possible to ignore the system and just create a personalised style, but what these templates do is set up exactly the instructions as they should be.

As if this was not enough, it has also separated the styles into three categories further - "in possession," "transition," and "out of possession." This mirrors so much of the real-world discussion of football tactics now. It allows play-style to be completely customisable at all stages of a match and reduces further still the binary systems of the past. Again, the result of this is that the immersion factor is completely enhanced, giving the extra satisfaction when taking a team from the bottom of the football pyramid to the top, all the while playing a bespoke brand of football.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2019 on PC

It would be remiss not to add that with these significant changes to core gameplay mechanics, Sports Interactive has taken the sensible decision to implement an interactive tutorial system alongside them. The game guides the player step by step on how to use these features and it is highly intuitive, efficient and easy to understand from the off. More generally, the other changes made are less noticeable but improve the game immeasurably. The match engine could still do with a significant amount of work to bring it in line with modern standards. However, the pleasing aspect is that the animations are not broken as was sometimes the case in previous versions and there are a few noticeable new ones that improve the fluidity of matches. VAR (or Video Assistant Referee) has also been introduced into the game. It is a little bit of a gimmick in the sense that Football Manager has never been known for allowing the computer too much room to make mistakes, yet it does link the game further to real life where the system is coming into force.

Finally, in terms of improvements going forward, there is still plenty for Sports Interactive to work on in the coming years. The pre-match media stuff is very much old hat now and in fact is becoming slightly more irritating with each year that passes. The choice of dialogue has not changed in several titles now and it is still not clear what effect certain options have on team performance. In a time when they have tried to fix the lack of transparency through training, this is still a glaring omission. More work could be done on this.

Screenshot for Football Manager 2019 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Football Manager 2019 is a fantastic entry in the series and anyone that hasn't picked up the game in a few years will be blown away by the structural changes to the way it works. The training system allows so much more flexibility in management, whilst drawing on real world examples of how teams are coached in the modern age. In addition, the tactical system overhaul makes creating a specific style for teams to play in much easier. The all-round performance is great, with the UI sensibly remaining as clean and user-friendly as it has been for a number of years now. There are a few minor things that could be polished up, but this is a great buy and sure to have a whole new group of football fanatics addicted.

Developer

Sports Interactive

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Simulation

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

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   

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