Editor's note – This preview is based on the beta currently available with pre-orders. It isn't a final build of Football Manager 2017, and is still in development.
Available on PC
The world’s most definitive football management sim is back, and Football Manager 2017 promises to be more realistic and immersive than ever.
Each iteration heralds the implementation of hundreds of new features, and even seasoned veterans can benefit from an introductory crash course on release.
You’ve probably read about the addition of the UK’s Brexit to the game, but what else can you expect from FM17? Here, serial managerial failure Lee Price records his first impressions from the game’s beta – which, we must flag, is an unfinished version that will likely undergo changes before it hits the shelves.
Every time I load up a new version of Football Manager for the first time, I feel a sense of dread and panic – is this the year I finally give up on my as yet hapless pursuit of virtual football dominance?
Then, seven hours later, I wonder quite how it got to 4am – and how I’m going to explain it to my missus.
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So when I received my code for FM17, I could barely breathe until I’d managed to download it and see what tweaks and new features those clever clogs at SI have come up with this year. And this is what I found.
Immediately, the first thing to notice is the revamp of the manager profile set-up.
A particularly savvy addition is the ability for users to set their management responsibility preferences from the setup menu – which saves you from having to instruct your assistant to take friendly matches, for instance, at the start of every new game. Likewise, you can dictate preferred settings for training, scouting, and all the other delegation options.
It’s a small but smart detail that has the feel of the creators listening to people who play the game.
Visually, there are more advanced manager appearance options, which includes the ability to generate a 3D model from a photo.
Or, if you’re like me, you’ll ask the game to randomly generate your appearance until you find one ridiculous enough to share with your mates.
When taking over your new team, you'll discover a thorough breakdown of strengths and weaknesses compiled by the coaching staff. Miraculously, this is both more streamlined and yet more detailed to previous equivalents.
This is displayed in side-by-side lists. A similar approach is used for the staff advice memos, which are now delivered in one categorised message direct to your homepage, rather than that clunky, separate screen of recent years.
Even better, to implement the advice – whether it’s initiating a new training programme, offering a new contract to someone, and so on – you simply tick which tips you’d like to use.
The same format is applied for pre-match tactical analysis of your side and your next opponents.
Next to your inbox is a new tab called Social Feed, which is the biggest new arrival in terms of your day-to-day routine.
Clearly inspired by Twitter, it’s a twist on the usual "latest news" updates page, in the form of social messages. Here, you'll see clubs announcing transfers, and fans reacting, and so on.
You can now "follow" continents, countries, clubs and players, rather than simply "subscribing" to them as before.
There are some interesting new tweaks to transfers, too.
When attempting to buy someone, you can now add in a new clause that stipulates that the deal will only go through once you’ve offloaded the player you’re replacing.
When you get to the contract phase, there’s a new layer in negotiations, where certain players will want you to commit to certain pre-contract promises.
These range from assuring them of playing time, which is the same as telling them their squad status, to promising to invest in the club facilities if they join.
Other vows include making that player club penalty-taker, promising to win the league this season or in the near future, and allowing them to treat your team as a stepping stone.
Loans have been revamped, too, to allow different fees to be agreed based on whether or not a loanee is playing.
Other clauses available to add to loan agreements include mandatory future fees, although these are subject to your player agreeing a permanent contract up-front, future buy-back fees, a set fee if your player reaches an agreed number of appearances, and an agreed payment if the loan club enjoys certain successes in their stint.
…is very much up to you to discover. I don’t want to ruin all the surprises, after all.
A few other titbits to whet your palette, though.
Your staff lists will now include data analysts; loading screens include updates on league-wise stats; the match-day graphics have been improved again; the highlights package includes a pre-kick-off walk out and line up; and moving advertising hoardings.
* Football Manger 2017 is released fully on 3 November; the beta is available now on Steam.