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Football Manager 2021: A Football Game for Purists – PC Review

Every year all the sporting franchises release the latest iteration of their annual series, and Sega’s Football Manager is no different. While most franchises go through peaks and troughs, the FM series has instead been going from strength to strength.

The main series is now in its 17th edition. Despite this, Sega has still found ways to make it different from past versions, in what is another strong instalment.

A Football Management Game for the Purists

It is fair to say that the Football Manager series is not catered towards the same crowds as other AAA series such as FIFA and Madden. Those series provide an arcade-like experience. They immerse you in the gameplay and make you feel like you are on the field with your heroes (and perhaps make a bit of money from microtransactions while they’re at it). Football Manager, however, targets a different audience. The focus is on statistics, combinations, and long-term goals – the subtleties of football. Instead of gamers who may jump from franchise to franchise, this series is aimed at the purists who want to watch the turning of every minor cog.

So I guess it is at this point that I make my all-important declaration. I have never played a Football Manager game before. Never. Sure, I’ve played football before. And I like the concept of playing a Football Manager game. But I have never sat down and put the hours into this game as most players have.

Detail, Detail, Detail!

The first thing to highlight is FM21 carrying on the series’ penchant for fitting in every minute detail possible. With 117 leagues across 52 nations and six continents, they really have searched far and wide to include everyone around. Everyone’s invited – no matter how important you may be.

However, the detail doesn’t just stop there. Everything in the game is done so to intricate specificity, and at all levels too. It’s everywhere, whether you’re planning training for a powerhouse like Manchester United, or conducting youth scouting for Boca Gibraltar.

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The attention to detail is in every aspect of this game © Sega

Now I’ve played other sports management games before. I can tell you for sure that, when you love the sport, that level of detail is both admirable, and even a slight turn on. There’s no bigger sport than football, so kudos to Sega for taking the bull by the horns and creating this behemoth, and doing it with the level of respect they have.

Perhaps Too Much Detail?

Unfortunately, the hefty amount of information is also this game’s only downfall. As a new player to the series, the amount of information to process is daunting. FIFA may only expect you to do a minor amount of management in between games. FM21 on the other hand takes its title seriously. It’s not a football simulator, it’s a management simulator. Now while that can work out great for some, for a newcomer it is an extraordinarily steep hill to climb.  

Walls of information on screen after screen do not make an attractive proposition for many casual gamers. Navigating through the mountain of emails in your inbox each in-game day (I told you it was a management simulator) can get frustrating when you are simply trying to get to your next match. You can’t just ignore everything though. You’ll be forced to make decisions on various loan offers or whether to pursue that 17-year-old Turkish striker. You may want to handle the glamour work, but you’ll have to rifle through the admin first.

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Spend the day at work processing emails and then come home to… process more emails © Sega

Credit must be given when due, and Sega has done an excellent job of lessening this curve. At the beginning of your managerial career, you may choose to own up to your inexperience and let the game guide you through the initial stages. Now to be fair, this is relatively standard for almost any game. But FM21 enables you to decide whether you’ll handle each facet of management, or delegate it to your trusty assistant manager. This does take a lot of pressure off. Still, as I mentioned earlier, FM21 isn’t necessarily about going from stadium to stadium and walking the sidelines – it’s about the nitty-gritty in between too.

Great New Additional Details

To keep these games fresh and to avoid the inevitable “It’S tHe SaMe GaMe EvErY yEaR” comments, developers need to keep adding features each year to make it a new experience for everyone. The latest additions to FM21 are excellent, regardless of your level of experience.

The biggest one for me is the communication aspects. You no longer just pick a response when chatting with the team or the media. You now have to select your hand gestures too. These range from the reserved, such as having your arms crossed or your hands in your pockets, to wild gesticulations such as waving your arms about, throwing a water bottle, or kicking a chair. Your responses and actions will affect the way your players, staff, and the media think about you.

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You can now express how you feel through your actions © Sega

Other features include improved presentation elements before and after a game, giving you a more svelte feel in the dressing rooms or fronting the media. The in-game HUD has changed as well, allowing you to see more – yep, you guessed it – detail. Sega has also finally decided to dip their toes into the controversial ‘Expected Goals’ fad, or xG for those in the know. Like any new feature introduced to any sport, it hasn’t gone without controversy, but it is here to stay, so Sega has added their take on the angle.

When Making Experiences, Attention to Detail Matters

The game continues to carry other great features. While the in-match graphics won’t have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief (unless you think you’ve accidentally started up your PS2), the facial recognition gives you the option to transplant yourself into the game for that added immersion. And while it may seem boring to some, aspects such as handling visa issues show the extraordinary depth you will not find in any other game series.

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Let’s face it: Football Manager won’t rock the gaming world with each release. FIFA and Madden have big budgets and massive releases, while Football Manager caters to the niche, faithful crowd that buys it every year. But each year they reward that group, and occasionally suck in an extra gamer or two while they’re at it.

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Football Manager 2021 Review
Summary
There is no doubt Football Manager 2021 is a good game. In fact, it's a great game. If you’re new to it, you need to prepare to sit down and get ready for the long haul. But pay those dues, and you will be richly rewarded by the immersive world Sega has so lovingly created.
Pros
Ridiculous Depth
Improved Presentation Elements
Communication Aspects
Cons
Detail, Detail, Detail!
Overwhelming for New Players
8