It’s been a few months since I’ve played Football Manager. The summer months are for touching grass. But, like clockwork, the cold, darker nights bring FM back into my life. Football Manager 2024 now lets you pick up where you left off and convert FM23 saves into the new game, to take advantage of the latest features. Sweet, I thought, I had unfinished business with a Wrexham save, and what better way to start?
Converting and loading my previous save took no time, but I’d forgotten about the massive overstimulation of tasks and data and meetings and press calls that ambush you when you jump back in after some time away. Even worse was the rotten state I’d left poor Wrexham in. Rock bottom of the Championship, team a mess, Ryan Reynolds angry at me. When I lost against Welsh rivals Cardiff City to remain in the drop zone, I figured it best I start afresh with my hometown club, which is where I’ve started every Football Manager save since I got addicted to the spreadsheet simulator in 2004.
Time travel exists in FM24, and it’s the first big new feature you’re presented with. Think your club has made a mess of the summer transfer window? Scrap it and start again with ‘Your World’ – and all the cash, one of two new timelines to start. You can still get the ‘Original’ FM experience too. I opted for a ‘Real World’ game, which gives players a ‘live’ unfolding of your club’s transfer business as it happened. This will be even more enjoyable to try when taking over a new side after the winter transfer update.
I was grateful that Mark Robins and the Coventry City board conducted their transfer business early, and players trickled in. It’s a touch of extra immersion, but it meant that I had less time to prepare the new signings, and not everyone was up to fitness, or even through the door yet, by the first league match.
If you’re unfamiliar with Football Manager, it’s about as close as you’ll get to real football without going outside. EA FC is a glossy, arcade-style football game. Football Manager is intricate, a real commitment, but a satisfying one. It feels like a job, because it is a job. Pages and pages of data, player attributes, scout reports, training progress. One of the beauties of it, however, is you can pick how deep you go. If you want to assign tasks to your staff and just handle picking the team and signing FM24 wonderkids, you can. If you want to be the next Pep Guardiola and start under the bonnet of a fourth-tier Danish club, examining every piece of information thrown at you, you can. Your season just might take 50 hours.
Offloading players in FM23 was my biggest pain. Some prefer to disable the first transfer window, but I can’t help myself – I will tinker. Interactions previously with players were quite wooden and unconvincing. Now you go to the agent and have a similarly stiff conversation.
I got excited by the option to offer a player out via TransferRoom until I realized that the collaboration with the real-life football player marketplace replaced the previous ‘offer to clubs’ option, and functioned in largely the same way.
Intermediaries, however, are the new addition, which should help make players more attractive. They’ll let you know the kind of loan or transfer they can sort for your player, in exchange for a slice of the cash. This is useful when offering out players just isn’t working and you want to get rid. However, the intermediary I selected couldn’t move him on when the arranged loan deal collapsed, and the agent’s apathy meant I was stuck paying £5k a week to a third-choice goalkeeper.
There’s a set piece overhaul here too. You can build routines in attack and defense and base it on players and their suitability for their place in the set piece, rather than the position they play. You can also hire an all-new set piece coach, and I hire one with a 14 rating, which isn’t bad for my reputation. Build and allocate roles at corners and watch the goals roll in. The priority list means that the set piece coach will move players into the best job, rather than the game relying on you manually changing things once you’ve made subs on matchday. There’s also a ‘done for you’ option, which builds a set of scenarios based on coaching recommendations.
Just before my Championship season kicks off against fierce rivals Leicester City, my captain damages his ACL in training and is out for ten months. Superb.
Five hours of tinkering, training, and establishing a tactic later, I was through pre-season and ready for that game. I’d set the player instructions, the defensive line, and the approach to attacks. I told my team to play for set pieces.
Loading up the game’s first competitive fixture was exciting. I was winning corners and defending them well. Last year’s broken near-post corner exploit seems to have been nullified with the new set piece setup, and I managed to score from a corner. Then, I scored from a free kick cross; I realized that set pieces were my thing.
Football Manager famously runs on fairly low FM24 system requirements, but I’m playing the game on a 2021 M1 Macbook Pro, which is getting the best out of the match engine graphics when set to ‘very high.’ I get buttery smooth highlights on matchdays, and new animations mean players have a closer control on the ball. Some still call for better, EA FC-type graphics, but I’m happy with this year’s more natural gameplay animations – the graphics aren’t why I’ve stuck around since 2004. FM24’s graphics upgrades make player animations more natural and dynamic on the ball. The crowds in the stands still appear to be on a simple animation loop, but you can tune out their presence quickly.
The most satisfying part of FM is getting your tactics bang on, and your players doing exactly what you envisioned. At full-time, my team had hit the ground running in a 5-1 dismantling of the opposition, running vertical tiki-taka football I had set up perfectly (especially as the real-life result went Leicester’s way).
Other positives in FM24 include a welcome introduction to the officially licensed J League, which is an FM24 challenge save I’ll take on at some point in this game cycle. Upgrades come to international management; an improved national pool view makes team selection easier. You can also set players individual targets when they head out on loan, or if you want them to buck up their ideas.
If you’ve never played FM, be warned, this game can and will overtake your life. The investment you make into these virtual avatars of real-life players, the stories you can build in your mind, can be all-encompassing. I learn names of players from far-flung leagues, who I buy for my team and transport to superstardom. And then, come the newgen players, with their made-up names and faces, and I build lives and a career for them, especially if they’re some of the finest FM24 bargains around. Give them their debut at 17, at home, when the team is three goals up, and I think of how proud their non-existent parents must be.
But then come small frustrations. The 3D newgen faces are still embarrassingly bad, and you lose immersion when your 16-year-old winger emerges with a beard and receding hairline. Player interaction feels stale; the same lines are trotted out and it’s way too easy to upset a player and cause unrest in the whole squad. Media duty is possibly as good and varied as it can be, especially in the age of football cliché, but I do wonder how many Football Managers attend every press conference and tunnel interview.
I’ve not played enough hours to see a long-term save with developing newgens, but bug reports across the forums still complain of lagging talent in certain attributes and positions.
Anyway, back to my season. I clocked up over 20 hours of gameplay in early access for this review, but as I got to October 27 and 13 games played in FM, my Coventry are performing 11 league places above the real-life equivalent. By then I’d also seen injuries to both my goalies, meaning – yes – the player I was trying to shift via intermediary came into the first team. He played one game. He conceded four goals.
I was actually picking up injuries at an annoying rate. I noted to improve my rotation, take a look at how intense training was, and hire better medics in order to prevent FM24 injuries. Every year FM players speculate that there’s too high an injury rate in-game, but in this early access version, I can’t be sure if it’s a bug or if it’s just football.
The Saudi league is not playable until modded in, but all of the stars that have moved over there are available if you want to tempt them back. Good luck with negotiating the wages, though. The Arab teams will come in for your players offering eye-watering fees, which also feels like a bug, but that’s currently the case in reality too.
The beauty of Football Manager is that massive changes aren’t needed in order to satisfy hoards of fans. This edition feels like a bigger step forward than those made in FM23, but with each release, I can’t put my finger on many specific improvements that would genuinely improve the game. I know I’ll sink 300+ hours into it over the year, where it is, and that’s without the time spent looking for the best FM24 kits and logo packs.
I’m pleased overall with the improvements; SI’s boss Miles Jacobson himself states his team didn’t “dial it in” based on the blog and roadmap to a new era of FM with FM25. FM24 is a great addition – possibly the greatest. However, with what we know is coming down the road, the addition of women’s football still to come, this still feels more like a bronze medal match than a World Cup final. My fear is that this edition, even with its flaws, could be the best for a while, as a new, Unity-driven FM might have a troubled start to life.
Football Manager 2024 review
Football Manager 2024 brings added finesse to the ultimate sports management simulator. There are frustrations for seasoned players, and a heavy learning curve for rookies, but this is still the best single-player sports game on the market.