FOOTBALL MANAGER is back for another iteration - Football Manager 2013 - and this time Sports Interactive have thrown out the ' if it ain't broke, don't fix it' ethos that dominated FM2012 - opting instead for a brilliantly different and intuitive new take on the series.
Right off the whistle, veteran FM heads will notice vast changes, and not only in the user interface. The 'new game' option has been shown the red and substituted for either 'Career' (full FM experience) or Classic (stripped-back and simplified version of FM).
New players would be advised to head straight for the Classic mode, which eases you into the FM experience without completely blitzing you with information. For example, press conferences have been removed, replaced with the occasional question posed in your inbox. Team talks are gone, as are pre-match opposition instructions - though these are technically available during matches using the Target Opposition option.
Classic mode aside, the most obvious change in FM2013 is the radical overhaul of the interface - the navbar now features pop-up menus and looks altogether tidier, and though it takes a while to get used to, once you're over the hump it does save on a fair amount of between-game clicking. The redesign doesn't seem to work quite as well in windowed mode, but the overall impression is that's everything's a bit sleeker and more efficient - particularly taking into account the new array of information (fixtures, news items and so on) that make up the new loading screen.
The match day experience has also been significantly improved, making you feel more of a part of the action than in previous versions. Your assistant manager gives you constant guidance via a Twitterlike match feed, so you can find out if you've given the opposition's winger too much space without needing a PhD in the mechanics of the match engine.
The menus are also displayed much less obtrusively, while team information like your players' condition and match rating appear by default in between highlights. Admittedly, I very rarely change tactics ingame, but now in-game commands feel much more integrated and easier to judge with your assistant's counsel on offer. For the first time it really feels like managing on the touchline is just as important as the weeks of preparation that precede it.
There are, however, a few minor gripes. There are still far too many meetings, some of which feel just short of arbritrary. Pre-match, post-match, induvidual player talks, team talks, half-time pep-talks, you name it - there'll be a talk for it. You can now talk to media in the same tones you use to talk to your team (passive, aggressive, calm etc.). In reality, this does make very little difference to the gameplay other than how the press note your tone afterwards in articles. These tiny issues affect the game in such minor ways that it is impossible not to give this title a solid score. The fact that they have finally refined FM to make it more accessible to beginners would have sold it for me regardless, but the sheer level of refinement and improvement gone into this title means I can safely recommend it to you also.