Football Manager 2017: My initial impressions

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As sure as the world keeps spinning, Paul Pogba will be described as a waste of money, Mike Ashley will play the role of super villain and it won’t really matter who’s prime minister or president, the approach of winter means the release of a new Football Manager game. But what’s not as predictable is whether Football Manager 2017 will be lacking in any obvious major improvements like the majority of versions released in the last decade.

Having played very little of FM16 compared to previous iterations due to other commitments, I feel I’m coming in to this season with fresh legs and in a position to put my best foot forward. So let me tell to you a few things I like and don’t like as much about the FM17 beta from the short time I’ve played it.

As Miles Jacobson says in the game’s features reveal video, FM17 is the best-looking version ever. It’s a joy to watch matches, even with comprehensive or full match highlights. The game seems to flow better, players move the ball quicker and the ball appears to move more realistically. This gives you the impression you have greater control over in-game events as there will be a lesser element of randomness caused by game mechanic defects.

I’m enjoying seeing my set pieces played out as my players actually seem to be doing what I’ve asked them to. In previous games, I might as well have given up on creating set pieces as it felt like my team did whatever they felt like doing. This could have also been down to weaknesses in previous match engines – I don’t know. And when you’re choosing players to take set pieces, the game automatically orders your squad with the best corner/free-kick/penalty taker at the top of the list, which I’m quite sure is a new feature. This might sound like a small detail but it’s the small, tedious jobs that can make FM more laborious than enjoyable.

It’s only the beta but I’ve noticed we still have to endure the annoying ‘bug’ where goalkeepers catch the ball after it’s gone out of play while they’re stood over the line which no keeper would bother doing in reality.

Another issue I’ve noticed is the press are already asking me what I think of a club’s relegation chances after only a couple of games. Maybe this is just the way football is now.┬áThere is always speculation about managers’ jobs and teams are written off almost immediately; many predicted Leicester would be relegated and look what happened. This might be a bug that needs looking at though.

Unfortunately the beta is really slowing my laptop down. Maybe the new game requires a more powerful system to run well on. Maybe it’s just an issue with the beta as I vaguely remember having the issue one year and the game seemed to run easier once the full version was released.

I like that my staff tell me when one of my players on loan is doing well. Before, I would send a player on loan and just hope for the best. It would take too much time and effort to remember to check up on how players out on loan were doing.

I’ve seen people criticise the new social feed in FM17 but I like it. It shows various opinions from fans of the club posted online. Keeping your fans happy is extremely important so it’s great to get this instant feedback about your team’s performances. In previous games, I often had little idea of how I was doing in my job. Of course, you know if you’re losing every game it’s not going to please the board or the fans but these ‘online’ comments give you up-to-date and specific reactions which can either serve as a shot in the arm or welcome encouragement.

I don’t think it’s simply down to me taking an extended break from the game that I’m enjoying the FM17 beta so much. From what I’ve noticed so far, I think small improvements to lots of things have mounted up to make this new game a considerable amount more enjoyable than some of its predecessors, although it’s still early days. It’s a shame we’ve had to wait so long for what seems like an overhaul of so many nagging features but I think patience has paid off for fans who buy the game every year. So what are you waiting for? Go and download the beta from Steam.

You can win a free code for the full game which includes beta access by retweeting my pinned tweet and following me at @fmscrapbook

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