Before we kick off our FM24 review, how about some context? From a certain point of view, you could describe Football Manager 24 as the end of the 'middle years' of FM.
What do we mean by that? Well, you could split the history of FM into three eras: the first incarnation of the game had a 2D match engine; this middle era brought in 3D graphics for the matches; and next up, the developers have already promised that FM25 will be a major overhaul, with a new engine running the show behind the scenes.
Indeed, if you've been playing these footy-bossing games ever since the Championship Manager days, you'll be no stranger to the ebb and flow of incremental updates, with each new season bringing notable changes to the fore without breaking the established formula.
When we spoke to FM24's lead designer, Ant Farley, for our One More Life podcast (the episode will be out on Wednesday), he mentioned that the final game of an era — like this one — often ends up as a fan favourite instalment that players stick with for the long term.
Farley even went so far as to call FM24 a 'love letter' to this era of the series. And now that we've had a chance to play it at length, we're pleased to report that we think this love letter will be pretty well received by the fans.
The bones of the game are very much still what you'd expect. Your inbox will fill up with transfer requests, press queries and injury updates. Your team selection process will no doubt cause headaches and p*ss some players off. Your board confidence will rise and fall based on your results and targets, with the threat of the sack always looming overhead (or is that just for me?).
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At its core, this remains a very fun way for football fans to spend their spare time. If you've ever looked at your beloved team's dwindling form in real life, and wished they'd signed the player you wanted or lumped for your preferred formation, FM is still the best way we know of in which to scratch that tactical itch.
It's just as addictive ever, in fact, even if more casual armchair experts might prefer to play the simplified Console, Touch or Mobile versions at this point. There's no denying that the main PC version of the game is an absolute juggernaut in terms of depth, details and databases. For some players, this might be too much. But for others? Well, this is the good stuff.
The new features this year are pretty good, as well, with one of them being downright game-changing: If you so desire, you can bring your save from last year with you and continue your story without having to start all over again. This is totally optional, though, so there's no worries if you'd rather start again from scratch.
Whether you import your save or start a new one, you'll be able to add a number of new tricks to your managerial arsenal. One of the coolest of these is that you can now make promises to players try and motivate them.
For example, if you send a young striker off on loan, you can promise him first-team football when he gets back. You can even give him a target number of goals to get while he's away, tied to your promise. (Note: not every Premier League starlet will love being told to bang in 20 for Woking if they ever want to make it into your squad, as we learned the hard way.)
You can also now hire set-piece coaches and plan out your free-kicks and corners in much more detail than before, which can be very satisfying when it pays off. And in terms of transfers, you can now rope in intermediaries to try and shift your unwanted players. A nice touch in terms of realism, and it does make things a bit easier in terms of thinning an overloaded squad.
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The Japanese J-League has also been added to the game after much demand from fans, which is very welcome, but you'll have to wait until FM25 if you've been hoping to start managing women's teams.
Indeed, the spectre of next year's Football Manager 2025 does hang over this game somewhat, and that's a big part of why we don't feel able to give FM24 a perfect score. We know that next year's game will have women's football, while this one doesn't, and we're assuming that FM25 will bring much better graphics onto the pitch, as well (the current ones are showing their age a bit).
We can't give this game a perfect write-up when we know there's a major overhaul coming that will hopefully make the series even better than it already is. Also, we do hope that the new engine helps to make the overall experience feel a little bit less fiddly. The menus within menus within menus does sometimes get a bit frustrating.
That being said, if you've enjoyed the current era of Football Manager, we reckon you'll absolutely adore FM24. It does feel like a love letter, a culmination of everything the developers have mastered in these middle years. We look forward to seeing what they do next.
Football Manager 2024 launches Monday 6th November for PC and Mac. Players can get early access and start playing now if they pre-order the game.
FM 24 Console will come to PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S on 6th November as well. The Xbox version will be on Xbox Game Pass.
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