Everyone has an opinion on football, especially when it comes down to the team they follow. It’s fair to say that all football fans have – at one point or another – asked, “What are you playing him for?” or “Why have you bought him? He’s rubbish!” or just shouted at the TV or at the manager with wise words of how the team should be operated. So here’s the newest installment of Football Manager, the game that tests your knowledge of the beautiful game.

Every year, I’m impressed with how in-depth SI Games makes the entire experience and this year’s FM is no different. I loved Football Manager 2013, even though it wasn’t hailed warmly by every fan, and clocked over 2,000 hours’ worth of gameplay. Only after playing Football Manager 2014, I realized how much FM13 needed improvements that appear in FM14.

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I’ve played a lot of FM over the years, I could tell what changes were made and greeted them with a “Whoa, that’s a great feature to have,” much like a giddy schoolboy. One of those  new features is being interviewed for vacant job positions in other clubs. If you’re doing well, a bigger club invites you to interview with them. Like any job interview, you’re judged on your answers. If you’re a manager with a good record and you have a high reputation, you’ll fare better and even be able to be more forceful with your demands, expectations, and philosophies.

The new interface is less complex with everything pretty much done through you news inbox or your manager profile. The main improvement comes in the form of the match engine, however, which was needed after FM13. When planning your tactics, before and during a match, the first thing you notice is: there are no sliders on there anymore. You no longer have to go through the mind-boggling process of deciding how ‘deep’ your defense needs to be or how far to ‘push up’. You just click ‘push up’ or ‘defend deeper’ and the players respond accordingly.

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Last year saw the introduction to the assistant giving advice during a game in order to help you get an idea of correct decisions being made and what might need improvement. This was quite frustrating last year when you’d instruct your players based on his advice and discover it’s completely wrong. This year, you can just ‘apply advice’ to automatically tell your players what they need to be doing.

There aren’t any massive issues to note with the exception of when you tell your players what to do and they do the exact opposite, like naughty schoolboys craving attention. It’s all good and well until you end up losing the ball. I found this to be a problem with goalkeepers refusing to play the ball short when I have short center forwards who tend not to be able to get on the end of lofted balls.

Player morale plays a massive part in FM13. Your players often get upset by how training is going, so you may need to keep one eye on your coaching staff and training program. When playing classic mode, there are things obviously missing from the normal manager mode. But there are some things I feel should have been put in there: the assistant taking control of friendly games, for example. This mode is supposed to be a quick version of manager mode, yet it pretty much forces you to play pointless friendlies games, which I often get the assistant to care of.

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I’ve not yet tried the online. I assume it’s the same as the previous years where you and a pal or a number of pals fight for every cup on the game until getting bored and starting a new game every other day. What else is there to do? Well, if you think you know what you’re doing, why not take up one of the challenges? Guide a team to league victory using nothing but U21s or stop your favorite team from being relegated with only a few games left to do so.

9.5/10

Football Manager 2014 is a much better effort from FM13. The improvements may seem slight, but they are considerable in terms of their relevance to the beautiful game and how it operates. FM14 is a quicker, fuller experience because of the aforementioned updates. The manager mode is worth delving into, but if you don’t have time for all the stuff that some people find linear and you just want to sign players, the soon to be cross-play classic mode is for you. I expect I’ll be registering more than my 2,000 FM13 hours on Football Manager 2014.