on 29 December 2013
Football Manager 2014 could have been the perfect footy manager sim, but unfortunately Sports Interactive have developed a game that is so stacked against the player the the enjoyment is all but destroyed. No matter what team the player is in charge of, be it Man Utd or St Pat's Athletic, the player will struggle, even against opposition that should be a walk over. Many times it feels that no matter what the player does, they will be outmatched by the computer AI, who will usurp their tactical changes every time.
To make everything even more difficult, the player's tactics, which have to be built up over time, are wrecked if any changes are made during a match...and changes HAVE to made during every match. An attribute that is "Fluid" can be reduced to "Awkward" with the simple click of a mouse button. So, what you have is a complete waste of time on behalf of the player, because the AI will always get the measure of your team's tactics and will out play them in the match engine. This is borne out by numerous accounts from players that have recounted their winning streaks at the start of a season, which all of a sudden fail to even secure a goal, even against the lowliest of teams, while they manage to gain access to your goal and oftentimes, score that vital goal, much to the bewilderment of the player.
Of course, there are shock results in football all the time. But FM14 takes surprise defeats to a new level completely, at least for the human player. In addition, there seems to be teams that the human player will just not be able to defeat, no matter what they do. For instance, I played Liverpool (5th) off against Sunderland (16th) 11 times in a row and Sunderland won EVERY time and sometimes by fantastic margins like 5-0 or 7-1. I even used the downloadable editor and gave the Liverpool players attributes of 20 across every important entry, I took away all "Unhappiness" and eliminated all "Injuries" and upped the morale to "Superb". Played each player in their "Natural" position and used the strongest formation where everything was "Fluid".
Liverpool still lost!
What this means is that all the in-game indicators that the player is doing something right are useless, because it comes down to simple, dumb, random luck as to whether the player wins the match or not.
Now, if I'd played my Liverpool team against a Barcelona or a Man Utd and those results happened, I might be more inclined to take it on the chin and move on. But this is Southampton we're talking about. Southampton are a team I have nothing against BTW, I used to watch them all the time during the Tiss days.
In the game's favor the database is fantastic, with tens of thousands of players to view and scout for. Unfortunately, the transfer system is very dubious, to say the least. The costs of transfers fluctuate so wildly that is simply irritating. Offer 10 million for a player and watch him say no to you, but yes to another team for a fraction of the price, leading to some truly headbanging moments.
Speaking of players, routinely, the players attributes will keep dropping, regardless of what the manager does. even if a player is getting constant first team football, his attributes will drop. Now, theoretically, this is ok, but in practice, it means that over time your team just gets worse, resulting in inevitable defeats. I've had 1st team players drop stats by up to 3 or 4 points over a couple of games, despite a solid training regime, good performances and results. For instance Luis Suarez was my highest scorer, gradually managed to achieve drops in his important stats over the first half of the season, to the point where he became useless to me, despite the fact that he was a constant 1st team player, with goals in double figures! So, during training, I focused on the attributes were failing and got Suarez to train on them. The result, was that he started to drop in other areas.
That, like much of the game, doesn't make any sense at all.
The match engine too, will have you tearing your hair out. It never looks like football and teh players look utterly ridiculous at times, which is somewhat ok, because FM14 is really a statistical simulation. However, players really do the most infuriating things. Defenders (even of high quality) refuse to "get stuck in", even if you have ordered them to do so. Strikers will fire the ball at the goal from a 1000 yards out, even though you've ordered them to "work the ball into the box". Players won't close down opposition, despite being told to and so on. All of this is on the player side as well.
The AI side (regardless of ability) will gain the most extraordinary breakthroughs of your defence. they will convert the most minimal of chances to goals. They will turn around all of your instructions and tactics and often will get a result against the players team, regardless of who they are.
This means that FM14 ends up just being an exhausting trial, where all the proper and correct efforts that the player engages in come to naught, on a continuous basis, because the game mechanics are designed to force the player to fail.
It's difficult to say to a potential buyer not to buy the game at all, as there may be some people out there that will love it and with subsequent patches and tweaks, it could end up being great. But, I think people should be aware how artificial the game difficulty is and just how the game gets the better of the human player.