By Steve Wright
I'm going to come straight out here and say this: Football Manager 2013 is a great game, and yet it is a boring game.
I understand that every video sports game is played passively – I understand that I'm not actually skating up the ice in NHL 13 while I'm sitting on the couch – but at least I'm directly guiding players to the net. Football Manager 2013 is a different beast altogether, where you're sitting on the sidelines coaching your team, making player selections, addressing the media and crunching the numbers to make your season successful and profitable.
In short, it's a great game if you are into that kind of thing.
Football Manager 2013 is a simulation fanboy's dream. It's incredibly in-depth, and even after watching tens of videos by Sports Interactive to help in managing every facet of the game, I still felt like I was way in over my head. This is a good and bad; I feel like the stress that I was encountering whilst trying to play would be the same stress I'd feel if I ever got handed the keys to the Melbourne Heart in real life. But does that mean the game's a little too realistic? Being a newcomer, saying that Football Manager 2013 is intimidating is something of an understatement.
Little by little, I began to understand what was required of me, and began to fall into the role. I played the FM Classic mode, which meant I could take a chosen team – and I selected the Melbourne Victory – through a normal season. You begin by selecting a goal (mine was to get in the top half of the ladder rather than win it all… and I barely pulled that off!), and then you can micro-manage to your heart's content. FM Classic allows you to trade players, attempt to woo foreign imports, deal with the press, manage team lines and in what became my favourite task, dealing with diva-type players who constantly demand more and more.
I ended up trading all of those complainers, by the way.
Moving on to game day, you're in direct control of who's playing each game and the mentality of your over-arching game plan. Even though you can set an initial tactic, it's all able to be changed mid-game. I enjoyed managing my players so they used one formation, initially, and could swap to a more defensive mode automatically if I was getting beat-down. Throw in substitutions and the like, and I felt like I needed to play the game up in a management box, yelling commands into a headset.
I can see how one could get caught up in the exercise that is sports management, but ultimately, it's not for me. Over time, the thrill of the trade wore off, and I found myself hitting the "Continue" button to go from match to match, not really caring if I won or lost. I probably could have done more between matches so that it didn't feel like I was just killing time from game to game, but I didn't really understand – nor care to, after a while – what exactly that would be. The game tries to help out from time to time with prompts that basically have your correct course of action ready to be clicked and performed, but near the end of my season, I was ready to leave Football Manager 2013 alone. But, it wasn't you, Sega… it was me.
There's no denying that Football Manager 2013 is a well-crafted and polished game, it's just that it's only going to be suitable for a very specific type of person. If you're more of a top-level manager who wants to direct every aspect of your empire, you're going to enjoy this game. If, like me, you'd rather be the grunt on the field – and possibly a demanding diva who'll end up being traded – this won't be your cup of tea. Choose accordingly.