Football Manager 2020 Review
That’s not to cast its new additions to the side altogether, though. Top of the pile is the Development Centre, essentially a new menu which aggregates all the useful info you’d want to know about your young players in your organisation’s youth squads. Traditionally, keeping tabs on your potential wonderkids has been one of the fiddlier and less enjoyable aspects of the job, too often leaving you stumped as to why the 16 year-old you’d pegged as the Bolivian Messi has a stats screen full of downward arrows.
21 Football Manager 2020 Screenshots
The Development Centre doesn’t ensure those promising kids all become world-beaters, but at a glance it’s at least apparent why they’re not flourishing. Young Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham suffered in my first save for not getting enough first team football, and my backroom staff let me know his stats weren’t progressing as they should be as a result. Still, what’s a manager to do when Olivier ‘The Jawline’ Giroud’s putting in a twilight season for the ages and locking down the deep-lying forward spot with his production?
It’s these emerging, totally unscripted dilemmas that make modern FM so compelling. In earlier games the upshot would have been as simple as an ‘Unh’ box next to Abraham’s name and an email from his agent requesting a transfer. Now there’s squad harmony to consider – Abraham doesn’t hang out with the really influential players in the squad, so the likes of Willian and Cesar Azpilicueta aren’t losing sleep over his lack of first-team football, and overall morale remains high. If he were better integrated into the core group though, a shrewd manager might decide it’s better to maintain the positive squad dynamic and give Tammy the minutes he wants, albeit at a tradeoff of poorer performances upfront.
All of which probably sounds so formidably complex and off-putting to someone who’s never played the series that it might as well be written in sanskrit. Therein lies another aspect of FM 2020’s new content: fresh user-friendliness. What this boils down to is a series of tutorials, cunningly disguised as briefings from your backroom staff, which break down exactly what you’re looking at on each of the important menus – tactics, training, team talks, interviews and suchlike – and why you should care about the information therein.
Most useful of all, for beginners and perennial junkies alike, is the introduction of the Club Vision system. Here, the board of directors lay out a set of objectives and philosophies, adherence to which will define your performance as manager of the club. They’re wide-ranging and vary in priority – some clubs might see promotion to the top flight within three years as a non-negotiable, do-or-die mission. Others might be content for you to play a particular brand of football, and give youth players plenty of opportunities in the senior team. You do get the chance to push back a bit on these before blithely accepting them, but since you’re the new starter and they’re the board – well, how much weight would any manager carry in such a negotiation?This formalised list of objectives gives new players an anchor to base their decision-making around, and prevents them from being sucked away into the endless vacuum of Inter Milan under-16s scouting, looking up Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s career goals tally, tracking down ‘90s Premier League players for data analyst positions, or indeed anything else within the morass of potential distractions that lie just a click or two away.
But more profoundly than that, it changes the definition of success or failure in FM. It provides a framework for achievement and fulfilment for any manager at a club of any stature. And that’s a big deal, because since its earliest iterations as Championship Manager, before the messy Eidos split, this has been a game about building a squad that will sooner or later win every competition in professional football. It didn’t matter if you’d taken charge of Southend United or Bayern – it just didn’t feel like you’d finished until you won the Champions League, domestic league title and a domestic cup or two all in the same season.
Now things are different. There’s genuine pleasure and reward to be had in playing the Sean Dyche or Eddie Howe role, destined never to lift a trophy but consistently overperforming on a tight budget against giants of the game and earning a stoic nod from the board by way of reward. It does get tiring hoovering up the same elite players year-in-year-out and achieving improbable dominance. It breaks the illusion that your little world of spreadsheets and news articles is reality. More than just offering clear guidance, Club Vision negates the need to ‘win’ the game on those same, tired terms.
There’s plenty of intrinsic pleasure in watching your team realise the tactical vision on the pitch that you crafted with hours of careful deliberation on the tactics screen, too. More than ever, Football Manager 2020’s 3D match engine produces a match that looks like a game of football. The new animations are especially noticeable in keepers’ acrobatic saves and showier moves like aerial volleys, but in truth they’re all over the pitch.
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And they’re not just for show. Since the match engine is your most immediate means of evaluating player performances, roles, formations and a plethora of other tactical decisions, it’s important to be able to trust your eyes. Historically there’s been a vagueness about matches, where you see players do something wilfully stupid and you’re not sure if you’re witnessing a limitation of the tactic or of the game itself. There’s still an element of that in FM 2020, but those bizarre discrepancies crop up less than before, and when your players do pull off something special, the match engine’s able to sell it far better.
And ultimately it’s these little moments that colour your experience, despite the fact it’s such a longform game. Depending on quite how hands-on you prefer to be in your managerial duties, one season might take anywhere between 10 and 100 hours to play through. In that time you’ll attend hundreds of press conferences, twice as many meetings with your staff to analyse performances and scout potential new signings, deal with the personal difficulties and fallings-out of the headstrong young millionaires under your charge. But that’s not what you remember.
What you remember are the stories you infer, in your own imagination. Watching Ruben Loftus-Cheek absolutely welly it in the top corner at the Kop end of Anfield after an agonising two seasons in rehabilitation after a knee injury, and feeling personal pride akin to watching your child take their first steps. Letting Willy Caballero go back to his native Argentina for a swansong season at Boca after he implored you to let him go and raise his family there. Lifting the trophy on an online fantasy draft tournament, having beaten teams selected by real footballing personalities along the way. It might not be a revolution – in fact, it’s hard to see how SI could ever enact one now on a series whose fundamentals have remained so unchanged since their inception – but Football Manager 2020 is a fine excuse to delve back into a perennially addictive series.