Football Manager 2019 Review

Football Manager 2019 offers some visual changes and aims to make things easier for new players, but it's still the well-worn features that win out.
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Verdict

A welcome refresh of the UI, more visually pleasing training and tactics menus, and all the addictive depth you’d expect from an entry in the Football Manager series.

Pros

  • So much to do
  • Nice visual tweaks both in the general UI and in specific sections
  • Remains ridiculously addictive

Cons

  • None of the new features feel like game changers
  • Still intimidating for new players

Key Features

  • Review Price: £34.99
  • Available on Mac OS (reviewed), Windows and Linux
  • Release date: November 2

Football Manager 2019 is the latest entry in the hugely popular football management simulation. It isn’t a significant update to the exceptionally addictive and very tough-to-master title. Instead, it focuses on making the stat-heavy interface more welcoming to new players.

The first thing seasoned FM veterans will notice when they boot up this version is the refreshed look. You could almost call this a minor reboot of the franchise, with purples and yellows replacing the dull greens of old. It feels fresh and vibrant, even if it took me a while to get used to it.

But the change of hue is arguably the least important part of the redesign. Instead, that goes to the brand-new tactics and training areas – two of the previously hardest-to-master parts of the game.

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Football Manager '19

Fear not statsfans, the information overload is here if you want it

The tactics screen, for example, now lets you choose your playing style from a selection of notable mantras. There’s ‘Tika-taka’ for fast-paced passing, ‘Gegenpress’ for Jürgen Klopp-inspired pressing and ‘Route one’ for, well, Stoke circa 2013. Once you’ve selected your chosen style, it will automatically alter mentality, player roles and more.

The ability to choose a notable style quickly and easily is nice – but it’s not a solution that will simply make you play like Barcelona. Choosing the ‘Tika-taka’ style with Cardiff City, for example, just didn’t work and left me with a team that gave the ball away nearly at every pass. You’ll still need the right players to make the most of the these options.

The first time you start a game and begin to build a new tactic, you’ll also get a thorough overview into how everything works – and, boy, there’s a lot. This works well as both a primer for completely new players and a refresher for those who, like me, don’t have a lot of time to spend remembering how everything works. These tips and instructions are in no way basic and they’re very wordy, but it does at least make a very intimidating game somewhat more accessible.

This theme of accessibility runs throughout Football Manager 2019. Take the Training area: your current regimes are now more visually accessible than before, showing your week at a glance and top performers. There’s also new ‘Mentors’ section that’ll coach younger players into hopefully becoming wonderkids.

Even though I like the new way training is handled, it’s still the part of the game I enjoy focusing on the least. Setting up regimes, like set-pieces, is time-consuming and confusing, and you’re bombarded with so much information is feels overwhelming. This is fine if you play religiously every year, but for other players it just feels like too much information. If you’d rather focus on more pressing matters, at least you can always pass the training off to your assistant manager.

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Football Manager '19

There’s been a light redesign, but it’s still familiar

Tactics also benefit from the same helpful instructions when you enter for the first time. Take the time to read through them, as it will help you in the long run.

There might be a lot of new things here, but I still feel like certain areas that really needed improvement were left dormant. The awful Social Media feed still flows with terrible views on your signings from fans, while the canned answers in press conferences feel super restrictive. It’s the same when talking to your players – make one wrong move and there’s no way to talk an unhappy player round.

The 3D match-engine remains one of my least favourite features of the entire game. As deep and immersive as the whole game is, as soon as you enter a match environment, that immersion is broken. I’m not talking about the graphics as such – no-one is expecting FIFA levels of authenticity. But it’s the annoying animations and glitchy performance that need improving. At least there’s the classic 2D view, which for me just feels like the right way to play a game like this.

Squad dynamics was the big feature in FM 2018. It was meant as a new way to interact with your team, gauging how well they got on with each other and which social groups they belonged to. For me, it felt like another thing to keep an eye on that made little difference to the actual game. That feature is still here and I actually noticed it making more of a difference this time around. Players aren’t as likely to fly off the handle this year and keeping your players happy feels easier.

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Football Manager '19

Match options are still practically eldritch and will take work to learn

Honestly though, the new features aren’t what pull me back in every year to get sucked into what easily is the most addictive game out there. It’s the sheer depth of what you can do, it’s the hours and hours that can be plunged into scouting the world for the next wonderkid or meticulously setting out your tactics only for West Ham to go and score four goals in the first half and render all that work pointless. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

So much care and attention has been put into this game that it feels like a bargain. Little things, like the introduction of video assistant referees to leagues where they’re being used, the ramifications Brexit can have on the Premier League, or the completely new and improved work permit system, add so much.

FM 2019 might focus slightly more on enticing new players, but it’s the experienced players who will still get the most out of it.

Verdict

A welcome refresh of the UI, more visually pleasing training and tactics menus, and all the addictive depth you’d expect from an entry in the Football Manager series.

Score