Football Manager 2013 is flawed. I said it. I’m a die hard fan of the series since it was released more than 20 years ago on the Amiga when it was called Championship Manager and it came in a giant red box published by Domark, but finally I think my love affair with the spreadsheet-on-steroids may be over. Let me explain why.
As with every year, I was super excited to get my hands on the latest version of FM. Last seasons version saw me play through 26 seasons in my first game, starting off at a lowly team and progressing through a career which eventually netted me 6 consecutive Premier League titles and 4 Champions league trophies to a spell as England manager and a world cup win. With 20 years of training, I’d reckon myself a bit of a dab hand at these FM games.
So it was with great pleasure I loaded up the latest version to pit my managerial prowess against the computer teams once again. My first port of call was to allow the match engine to pick me a team. Not for me is the simple selection of my favourite club or just going all in with Barcelona. It threw up Blackburn. A decent start considering they were well backed (or so I thought) and had a decent shot at promotion in my first season.
As with most seasons, I spent the first few friendlies checking new pages out, new features and getting acclimatised. We were ultra successful in the friendlies and headed in to the season with optimism. This was brought to a crashing halt with our first game, at home to lowly Peterborough who soundly thrashed us 4-0. This was a bit of a shock to the system frankly and it bought about an immediate study of the new tactics section. I spent hours reading up on the changes, what others had found and adjusted accordingly, making sweeping changes to my 4-4-2 tactics.
This worked fine for a few matches, indeed we had a 9 game unbeaten run, though some of the performances left a lot to be desired. I’d usually go in to the transfer market at this point, but I thought i’d study up on a few of the bargains to be had via fan sites and read up on the wonderkids.
When things aren’t working out in FM, I usually ensure my tactics are spot on and this was no different. Indeed, I was happy having watched lots of games that, by and large, they were effective, it was just some of the players weren’t up to the job. Transfers have always been the answer I turned to in previous games and this was no different. In January, I attempted to bring in numerous players, but was exasperated at the lengths I had to go to and the time it took to hammer out deals. At one point, Brighton tried to get me to pay £6m for a player who was valued at 350k. You could argue this was realistic I guess and it did cross my mind that perhaps because I was money bags Blackburn, they were trying it on. This later proved to be not the case and anyway, I had a measly £500k given to me by the board for transfers.
I struggled on through the season and scraped a last minute top 6 place, losing 6-3 to Blackpool in the semi finals.
I should explain here that I wasn’t used to finishing outside promotion, let alone losing in the playoffs in any of the previous FM’s (save perhaps the abomination that was the first release of FM07). My analysis lead me to believe that my defence was simply crap. I set about changing it substantially during the summer with limited cash, but was certain I had a better team than the one which had finished 6th the season before.
My second season was even more erratic (beating Man City in the Cup 3-0 away, but losing to Bristol City at home 5-1) and annoyingly the game played two cruel tricks on me. Firstly, it sold my best player for £9m the day AFTER the transfer window closed and I could do nothing about replacing him (he had an auto clause for release at £9m).
But the most horrific problem was my final game of the season. I’d somehow managed to remain in the playoffs all season and beat Leicester on my way to a play off final with un-fancied 6th place finishers Derby. I’d already beaten them home and away without conceding a goal, so I was actually very confident. That was until Scotland called up my star striker and my star defender DURING the damn playoff final. I lost the final 4-0.
Slightly irked (a mild understatement) I decided I needed a new team, so when Cardiff came calling, I jumped ship, but not right away. They offered me the job initially and I hit the delay button as I wanted to see if Blackburn offered me more transfer funds. They didn’t so I took the Cardiff job, but interestingly their initial offer had changed.
First of all they offered me £500k transfer budget (just relegated from the Premier League) but upon going back to them it had changed to £17million. WOW. OK.
I spent the summer rebuilding and managed, through some hard work and always paying over the odds (why does the computer never offer me over the odds?!!?!) to build a reasonable side capable of promotion. Or so I thought.
After 23 games and sitting in 4th in the table, in the semi final of the Capitol One Cup (after beating Man City and Tottenham on the way) I was inexplicably sacked. No warning, just sacked. Amazing. I’d have to think long and hard for the last time I was EVER sacked in an FM game, perhaps back in CM2 when I tried to sell all of Manchester Uniteds players and win the league with a youth team.
Not on the job boards long, I noticed the West Ham job open up and applied only for the chairman to “laugh off interest” from me in the press. Odd. What was even odder was they then offered me the job! Ludicrous.
Mid season and rooted to the foot of the Premier League table, expectations weren’t high, but we were just 5 points from safety with 18 games left. Survival was possible. Or it would have been had I not been killed 6-0 at home by (League two mid table) Leicester in the FA cup for no apparent reason (they had 7 shots on goal, I had 23). This in turn destroyed my team’s morale which in turn lead to a cataclysmic failure to win a game in the next nine outings. We lost 5 of these in injury time, just to rub salt in the wound.
I was also having massive problems signing anyone to the team. I’d adjusted the wage bill, sold a couple of old boys but couldn’t land a single player in the window. I even tried getting a 20 year old from Hartlepool valued at 1.1million but was asked for £9m by them! WTF
Despite losses of 7-1 to Man City, 5-0 (at home) to Man Utd and a 6-1 thrashing from mighty Reading, I somehow managed to beat table topping Liverpool away from home 2-1. Nothing made sense.
I tweaked tactics and I left them alone. I removed players, I fined them, I cuddled them, I smacked them in the face with a hairdryer all to no avail. I played defensive, counter attack, full out attack and went from fluid to direct and back through all the other options. Nothing I did made any difference, sometimes making things worse. Much worse. I did all the things, 20 years of playing this series had taught me in pulling things around, during games and leading up to them, yet still, nothing worked. Even when it did (the away win against Liverpool) I played the same side with the same tactics in the very next game against Derby and got beat 4-0 at home.
In summary, I truly believe having exhausted all known FM tactics (to play the game, not the in-game ones) in trying to have fun and enjoy a computer management simulation that something is entirely flawed with the match engine. Be it defenders saying they are playing well but letting in 7 goals (by the way I’ve never, ever let seven goals in before in 20 years of playing these games) or the inability to sign any players, or just generally the match engine is screwed. Countless times I’d have significantly more possession and treble, sometimes quadruple the attempts on goal, yet lose heavily, home or away.
I could be wildly wrong and I’m sure Miles will correct me, but my perception is that SI have spent a lot of time on these new game options that you have to pay to use (which by the way is a terrible new idea, but one I fully appreciate keeps SI in the wonga). But perhaps haven’t spent the same amount of love, care and attention to the match engine itself.
Sure the game looks really nice and the 3D match engine is very watchable now, but I really don’t care about those things, it’s just aesthetics and I can live without them, as I most assuredly can live without perks like removing the loan window or giving me £50m in the bank if I pay £4.99. But what will drive me away from playing (and therefore ever having the remote inclination of buying any virtual goods in the game) is if I get ZERO fun out of it.
There are other games I would prefer to spend a few relaxing hours playing rather than tearing my hair out and getting annoyed by a selection of badly organised zeros and ones. In fact, I’d go as far as to say playing FM2013 is as painful as having my testicles placed in a metal vice while being severed with a rusty serrated knife and then having salt & vinegar poured in the wound.
And then doing it again. And again. For three whole years.
It saddens me to say it, as a long and loyal servant to the series, but unless this version gets some serious updates that fix it, I won’t be playing it ever again.