Football Manager 2013
In the games industry today one of the worst crimes that can be committed by any publisher of developer is to churn out a new game in a series every year without fail.
The only place where this has become acceptable is in the field of sports games by few developers have really embraced the concept of annual iterations and turned it to their benefit in the way that Sports Interactive has with their Football Manager series.
With the Football Manager series Sports Interactive has taken the annual iterative release cycle and used it as an opportunity to search for perfection.
They start from a pretty solid foundation. Since the series was born back in the nineties as Championship Manager it has been one of the most curiously addictive around.
In fact you could say that the approach taken by those that play Football Manger echoes the zealous approach taken by Sports Interactive in their pursuit of management-sim perfection.
This year sees one of the most ambitious update to the series with over 900 improvements implemented in Football Manager 2013. That's why it is also so very difficult to review. A game of such complexity cannot be fully appreciated in the window available for most reviewers and yet we'll still give it a try.
In the main game mode Sports Interactive have added more depth and breadth than ever before, refining the already overwhelming set of options open to budding managers.
Perhaps one of the series' main failings of late has been that fact that it goes into too much detail, dragging players into micromanaging everything from training schedules to transfer deals.
This time out, as well as putting more control in the hands of the players on every facet of football team management, Sports Interactive has subtly handed the players the means to step back and only invest time in the aspects of management that they find most rewarding.
This is achieved by allowing players to let their assistant manager take over the duties that they would rather not have to deal with. It's a very simple concept when you think about it but it has a very powerful effect on the way the game plays and takes some of the bewilderment out of the main game mode.
Not content with this kind of refinement to the main game mode, Sports Interactive has also created the new Classic gameplay mode.
This harks back to the older days of the series when Football Manager was a simpler more straight-forward game to play. SI has managed to combine the more forward-thinking elements of the main game mode with a more manageable interface and set of options.
The Classic mode still has the 3D match engine for highlights, contract negotiations and the ever-so-engrossing player and tactical selections but without the more nuanced elements like player chats and team talks.
Everything also runs that bit quicker because you can only have three playable nations in Classic mode making the game more tailor made for budding Alex Fergusons that just don't have the seven hours to spare every day that you can lose to the series.
It is very engrossing and for anyone willing to spend a bit of cash to make things easier microtransactions are available to remove limits on things like the number of loans you can have and speed up your scouting processes. All of these are available in the game for hitting certain milestones but for the more impatient players around these in-game purchases can give a helping hand.
The other major introduction to Football Manager 2013 is the Challenge mode. This allows players to take on specific challenges and see if they have what it takes to be a manager that can get teams out of tight spots.
There are four different challenges in all ranging from taking a control of a team half way through the season and saving them from relegation through, dealing with colossal injury woes to meet expectations to scoring a historic perfect season, all the way through to guiding a talented youth team through to achieving their full potential.
Each challenge has a different difficulty level and duration but they all offer player a unique opportunity to shine as managers beyond what the normal game offers.
With the increased depth that every new iteration of the Football Manager series has offered in the past it could be said that they have made the game even more impenetrable for novices. Football Manager 2013 has gone a long way to address this problem and they have produced some impressive results.
The introduction of the new Classic mode really brings back the joy of the older versions of the game while making Football Manager 2013 a lot more easy to get to grips with for novices than the last few years entries.
It is the Classic mode that really makes Football Manager 2013 shine. Whether you're new to the Football Manager series and looking for a way to learn the ropes or a lapsed FM fans who just didn't have the time to get drawn into all the minutiae of FM 2012 playing FM 2013 will remind you what you loved about the series in the first place.
Annual iterations are generally a bad idea but Sports Interactive has used them as an opportunity to chase perfection. If games like FM 2013 are the result of that then the rest of the industry should sit up and take note.