For the past year, I played Sports Interactive’s Football Manager 2016, the “premier” football (soccer) management simulator. I managed Borussia Dortmund and conquered footballing Europe for many fictional years. In another save, I managed Olympique Lyonnais, where I won the Ligue 1 and the Europa League in my first season in charge.
In my review, I will rate the game’s four aspects, story, gameplay, graphics, and player experience, out of ten points. One point means total failure while ten points is absolutely mind blowing, and average is six points. Please note, this is the game that I play the most, so my opinion may be biased.
The player picks a club team or a national team to manage, and the goal is to build a team to win trophies and accolades. The manager (player) can seize the greatest glories, such as winning the World Cup, the European Champions League, and the Club World Championship. Having a stadium named after yourself will be the most notable achievement.
Story – 6
Football Manager 2016 does not have a story. The objectives are simple. For club teams, the objective is to dominate the domestic league, the cup competition(s), and the continental cup(s). For national teams, the objective is the dominate the international scene before winning the regional cups and the World Cup. In essence, the story is similar to “Choose Your Own Adventure.” The manager picks where he or she wants to start and to finish. Your board (the team’s executives/your boss) can fire you if you lose too many matches or completely fail to reach your objectives. The manager can retire at any time.
I personally chose Borussia Dortmund of the German Bundesliga because they are my favorite team in Germany. In my opinion, Borussia Dortmund is a great team, which requires some work to reach the top level of football, which includes FC Barcelona, Real Madrid C.F., Atlético Madrid, and Bayern Munich. Whether you win or lose as a manager is up to you, you write your story.
Overall, I can’t fail a story that is up to the player/the manager to write.
Gameplay – 6
Football Manager 2016 gameplay is straightforward yet extraordinary complex to a new learner of the game. In the simulation of a match, the visual representation looked decent. The match fitness or the “stamina” bar over the player symbolized the key visual improvement over the last game. The player model movements slightly improved over FM2015.
Behind the scenes, the game requires a basic understanding of numbers and statistics as well as a sophisticated understanding of statistical analysis. The volume of numbers will be overwhelming when every player has a massive set of statistics, such as average rating, passes completed, passes attempted, shots, shots on target, tackles completed, tackles attempted, and much more. The manager has to assemble a squad that is consistent at winning with a goal scoring touch and a strong defense.
Also, the “regen” player system seemed to be updated. In FM, the “regen” player feature is crucial to the game’s endless timeline since the game technically can never end as long as the save data remains uncorrupted. The “regen” is short for “regeneration,” who are computer generated players that are produced annually as youth candidates for U19/U18 youth teams in every club. These “regens” are used as a next class of players to graduate to the youth leagues similar in principle to junior high students graduating to move onto high school. These “regens” are randomly generated with a set of random quantitative stats for you to see and qualitative stats that you cannot see. Another purpose of “regens” is to fill the ranks of players, who retired from professional play. In this year’s game, I noticed the improvement of overall quality of “regens” in Germany, the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, and other nations.
The developers improved the AI to conduct better transfers or acquisitions for players. I noticed the AI are extraordinarily brutal in tearing up the young upstart teams, such as my Borussia Dortmund squads. The AI will hinder me by buying my best players, who I usually let go if my player wants to leave. I will never hold a player against his will if he wants to leave my club to join another club. I only want the players, who want to represent the Borussia Dortmund with every ounce of courage and determination.
Overall, nothing revolutionary and nothing detrimental, so the rating is average.
Graphics – 6
Football Manager 2016 graphics are middle of road and dependent on the graphics card when the matches are simulated. I am confident the match simulations will look outstanding with a decent graphics card to run the game at the highest quality. When I play, I run on medium settings because my laptop lacks a dedicated graphics chip. FM2016 is not meant to be played for the graphics per se.
Overall, the game’s graphics are average for a football management simulator.
Player Experience – 7
Football Manager 2016’s experience surpassed my expectations with new tweaks under the hood. In multiple match-ups that I would have lost by default in FM2015, FM2016 offered a slight opportunity for upsets against the likes of Real Madrid C.F. and Bayern Munich, which I exploited. Also, the manager must change formations within a season whether in domestic competition or continental completion because the game’s AI watches your team’s frequency of line-ups and formations. The tougher AI is a great challenge to any aspiring manager because in the real world, using the same formation repeatedly will eventually be “found out,” which means that the opposition has discovered the inner workings of your formation and a way to defeat you.
One thing I found quite worrying about Football Manager 2016 would be the application crashes. The game crashed quite often after repeatedly switching from the game to another background application. In FM2015, the game crashed once in a week or two, but FM2016 crashed around once every other day. The application crashes probably had to do with my multitasking, but I imagine this happens to people besides me. I always save my game after every match or every important event in my save.
Overall, the above average experience earned its grade. The experience changes met my expectations as the developers promised.
The Last Call – 6.25/10
From my wealth of experience of playing Football Manager 2016, I enjoy the game for what it teaches about the vast footballing world. There are the age old problems of FM still exist, such as the surprise series of injuries that are absolutely brutal near the end of the season. When I managed Borussia Dortmund, I had my fair share of the usual FM traitors, such as Marco Reus (in real life has stayed at Dortmund), who left for Arsenal for Champions League football and a big money contract. In my experience, be prepared for the bittersweet moment of a superstar transferring out of your club to a wealthier or more reputable club for big money. It’s impossible to avoid the prospect of traitors because even with endless victories in the domestic league and continental completion, the players will get bored and move on to other challenges or demand higher wages among other things. At worst, be prepared for an exodus of experienced players, which I chose to suffer on purpose to gain more knowledge.
I learned about the need for innovation in formations, and one way to learn is to “learn by doing.” For example, I rely on the classic 4-2-3-1 wide formation when I play with any team, but in FM2016, I ventured out occasionally to using the 3-5-2, the 4-1-2-3 wide, and the 4-3-2-1 narrow (“Christmas tree” formation). Most of the time, the formation experimentation is trial and error, which is the fun of experimentation and learning, which I enjoy. No formation is perfect, so tweak and tinker the formation to reach its full potential.
Also, I learned about the wealth of talent around the globe. From the traditional footballing superpowers of Argentina, Brazil, and England, the “regen” players amazed and dazzled with incredible goals, assists, and key statistics. From the rising footballing powers of South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.A., a few “regen” players rose to glory for club and country. Finding an unknown quantity (“regen”), perfecting his skills, and graduating a world class player brought great joy to my tough days of studying and completing homework.
Totaling up 6, 6, 6, and 7, the sum is 25 and divide by 4. I give this game a 6.25 out of 10. Do not mistake this relatively average grade for the game. I used this systematic approach to analyzing the game to be objective, but I understand loving this game is a subjective feeling. Be warned Football Manager 2016 and later reiterations, such as the newest FM2017, feature few incremental improvements. Do not expect revolutionary changes within every successive edition.
I always wait for the improvement in training the players, but I never see significant changes. In FM2016, the manager can actually see the stat improvements of each player to the tenth decimal point, which is a small improvement. Two FM games in, I eagerly await a training overhaul, where the manager plays a larger role in developing academy players, which is realistic. For example, Jürgen Klopp played a huge role in developing Mario Götze in Dortmund. Another example, Pep Guardiola helped turn Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi into the superstars that they have become at FC Barcelona. Why can’t I, as manager, do the same? To tutor a player to accelerate their growth to reach their full potential faster. Maybe limit this “manager tutor feature” to one tutee per season? With this “manager tutor feature,” I think this manager tutor feature would make the buyers of later FMs to be less angry at the minimal improvements in each successive game.
You can also check out my other thoughts on Football Manager 2016 in a video on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avZLxPqYQx8
I play this game not because I enjoy its story, gameplay, graphics, or player experience, but I want to expand my thought on the game of football. I play this game because I want to write a different chapter in a club’s history that will never be reality in this world.