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Football Manager 2024 preview – a kick in the right direction

Football Manager 2024 preview – a kick in the right direction
Football Manager 24 improves on its predecessor. (Picture: Football Manager)

GameCentral has spent the whole day playing Football Manager 2024 and it’s already looking better than last year’s game.

In its quest to replicate reality, Football Manager 2024, like all its predecessors , has fallen short. By Studio Director Miles Jacobson’s own admission, perfection will never happen in the game, but their ambition to try and achieve it burns as bright as ever.

A new player role (thanks Pep Guardiola ), set piece coaches, intermediaries, half-baked positional play, and improved match graphics are among the positive additions highlighting Sports Interactive’s pursuit of football realism.

Football Manager 2024 launches on November 6 and builds on what has come before with several new features, in what may well be the best entry in the series so far.

We spent the day at the Sports Interactive headquarters in London managing Arsenal, and trying as many new features as we could: battling the updated AI on the pitch and on the transfer market, using intermediaries and TransferRoom to sell players, testing the overhauled set piece feature, trying out the new Inverted Fullback role and, of course, judging the new match graphics while playing lots of games.

What impressed us the most was all the things that make the game feel more realistic. For example, in Football Manager 2024 it won’t be as easy to hoard wonderkids at your academy, because they’ve made the AI smarter. In practice this means there could be more competition for that 16-year-old talent you found in the Argentinian second division. The AI will also recruit players that fit its playing style better, in theory making matches more challenging because you’re facing a team of players suited to play a specific tactic.

We found the game slightly more difficult than recent editions, as a result of the smarter AI, but that’s good because it feels more authentic. In fact, in the New Features Roadmap, five of the eight new talking points were about increasing realism in the game. It makes us wonder, though, if the classic Football Manager mode – as opposed to the simpler Football Manager Console and Mobile – is getting too complicated for the casual player. It’s on that path, but it’s not a pressing issue for now.

The addition of late-developing players is welcome too, which is again more realistic, with players now able to bloom both early and late in their careers. Think Jamie Vardy, who only hit his stride at the age of 26. The uncertainty of not knowing which young talent will blossom early or late is intriguing as well.

Set pieces have been a mess for a while now and it seems that Sports Interactive has got the much-needed revamp right too. The new user interface is easy to use and, equally important, the AI will now rotate the players’ set piece responsibilities based on attributes. No more having to manually change who is supposed to do what when you make a substitution. Thank. You.

Most promising, and disappointing at the same time, though, was the game’s inclusion of positional play and the new Inverted Fullback role. This was part of why we chose to manage Arsenal, as Oleksandr Zinchenko fits the Inverted Fullback role perfectly. The new role does mostly what it’s supposed to: the fullback moves towards the middle of the pitch when your team has the ball on the opposite flank, and keeps position on the designated side when the team doesn’t have the ball. But positional play as a whole isn’t fully cooked yet.

Although some roles move according to positional play, the team doesn’t quite gel when utilising it. Positional play is more than Inverted Fullbacks and Segundo Volantes interchanging position some times. It’s about the entire team moving as a unit, and that is not the case here. For this to work every position needs to have roles that can interchange on the pitch.

Football Manager 24 adds set piece coaches. (Picture: Football Manager)

And while we’re talking about tactics, a nice addition would be a function that allows you to set a different formation when our team doesn’t have the ball. This is how many top clubs play in the real world, and it would give us more tactical flexibility. But positional play works to an extent on Football Manager 2024, which is a good start.

Most surprisingly was that the new match graphics didn’t look like Minecraft with a football. The players aren’t as rigid in their movements as before, the ball bounces more authentically, and the pitch is brighter and has more detail. However, the graphics are still outdated by a couple of decades and not bug free.

For example, the crowd still looks like a pixelated washcloth. And when Kai Havertz scored a goal (yes, I’m serious, he scored a goal) he ended up celebrating by himself, because the rest of the team had run past him to celebrate 10 metres away. But this is the space to watch. As Football Manager installs its new engine, Unity, we’ll likely see extensive upgrades on the match graphics in Football Manager 25 and beyond.

The award for most delayed feature is the option to now transfer saves from Football Manager 2023 to 2024. This has been requested by fans for years, and it just makes sense on all levels: players get to continue their managing journeys in a new game, and more people are likely to buy the new game instead of holding on to the previous edition and their old saves.

Football Manager 24 looks better than before. (Picture: Football Manager)

Although it would be incredibly cool if we could transfer saves from even older games, and play the new game trying to get the best out of young Jack Wilshere, Mario Balotelli, and Gareth Bale, for example.

What we didn’t care much for was the additions of intermediaries and TransferRoom, which are in place to help buy and sell players. Selling players is already boring, and intermediaries – brokers who can help facilitate transfers on your behalf – make it even more boring by adding an extra step while taking a percentage of the transfer fee. Similarly, TransferRoom replaces the simple ‘Offer To Clubs’ button, and doesn’t really improve much of the selling process at all.

More: Trending Alan Shearer names the Arsenal star who is 'consistently underperforming' Games Inbox: Will Super Mario Bros. Wonder reviews score higher than Spider-Man 2? Harry Kane double sees England defeat Italy to book spot at Euro 2024

Although the game will never be completely authentic to the sport it tries to imitate, Football Manager 2024 takes a bigger step in that direction than usual. It doesn’t feel new or revolutionary necessarily, but as if Sports Interactive has doubled down on features because of shortcomings from its recent predecessors.

As for our Arsenal adventure, we lost the Community Shield against Man City 3-1 and placed sixth in the league when the demo ended halfway through the season. That either demonstrates the increased difficulty that comes with a smarter AI, or how bad of a manager we are.

Formats: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, iOS and Android (with Netflix subscription) Price: £44.99 (10% off on pre-orders) Publisher: Sega Developer: Sports Interactive Release Date: 6th November 2023 Age Rating: 3

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MORE : Football Manager 2023 review – the Champions League arrives for the most realistic FM yet

MORE : Football Manager 2022 review – become a real-life Ted Lasso

MORE : Football Manager 2021 review – a tactical triumph

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