Try as we might, the yearly release hold can be inescapable for many of us. Especially when it comes to sports titles. For example, while the long-running EA Sports FIFA series may be under a new name – now aptly titled EA FC – a lot of its sameness lingers. There were some tweaks, sure, but nothing to truly enhance the overall experience. Which brings us to Football Manager.

20 years on, the partnership between Sports Interactive and SEGA is as strong as ever. And yet, although the past couple of entries were more often than not enjoyable – one need only glance at my play time to confirm – stagnation began setting in. The experience itself was still the best in the business and yet, there appeared to be little room left to grow. Nothing revolutionary, some minor tweaks, and perhaps a little lack of imagination.

So how have the folks behind the ever-popular managerial simulator responded this year? With more new features that you can shake a stick at. Noticeable upgrades to both the on-field physics and matchday lighting, which truth be told, feels like a night-and-day difference even from FM23. And, most importantly for some, even more choice when it comes to where you want to take your career.

Who Needs Reality Anyway?

Football Manager 2024 Review Your World
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

Look, I would be more than content to start every FM save from now until forever the same way. Would my play time be a little more sporadic? Likely. Even still, I know myself. Thankfully, FM24 has given its players all the more reason to throw their free time away.

Whether it’s the tried and true ‘Original,’ ramped-up reality of ‘Real World,’ or the alternate reality that could very well become ‘Your World,’ FM24 presents three career paths to consider as you begin managing. We’re not going to shame you for sticking with the ‘Original,’ at least not initially, but there’s something invigorating about taking the ridiculous riches of Todd Boehly’s Chelsea and getting every player imaginable off the books – at your own risk, of course.

You could simply stick to the ‘Original,’ but that would mean having to hold onto a lot of players you don’t necessarily want. And certainly, a whole host of those you didn’t recruit yourself. But if you’re looking for a stronger dose of mapped out realism, ‘Real World’ has you covered. Think about taking Tottenham Hotspur and realizing that on the day before the Premier League season begins, Harry Kane is leaving. Sure, you know it’s coming, but the question is: How are you going to adjust?

What if you’d rather start a save in which everyone is where they were? Well, that’s also an option! In this scenario, Christian Pulisic is still at Chelsea. Harry Kane hasn’t left. You can sell every Schalke 04 with a hint of value, enraging everyone. These are definitely not specific examples.

Whatever the case, the initial transfer window is there for you to shape. Almost entirely.

Rolling Saves Will Always Be a Game-Changer

FM 24 Review Squad Planner
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

In Football Manager 23, I brought Ange-ball to Manchester United. Maybe it was out of pity. Perhaps it was because whatever it is that Erik ten Hag has them doing now, coupled with their even worse transfer business, made me think ‘Wait, I bet I could do better.’ And alas, I did! Because you see, Football Manager isn’t real life. Though, there is a case to be made that it is sometimes more enjoyable than real life.

All that is just a long way of saying that in Football Manager 24, I could bring those Ange-ball tactics and that very same Manchester United save to this year’s edition if I chose to do so. In the end, that wasn’t the direction taken. However, the fact that it is now a possibility feels like an important shift.

Suddenly, I long for my Schalke FM22 days when, within four seasons, I was able to sign the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Manuel Neuer on free contracts. Sure, they were at the end of their careers, but this is Schalke we’re talking about.

Anyway, it’s good to know you don’t have to start from scratch if you don’t want to.

Various Ways to Rebuild Your Squad

Football Manager Review Sell Sell Sell
Image Source: SEGA via Twinfinite

You don’t have to lie to us: We’ve all used the In-Game Editor at some point in our Football Manager careers. Am I projecting? Oh, most definitely. But am I right? Again, yes. Still, even at my lowest point, I only ever really used said editor to rid my club of players that just would not move. Sometimes there was interest, but no bids. Other times they’d be begging to leave, only to turn down seven different loan offers within a two-week period. So I moved them to a club with genuine interest, usually at half their in-game value, and that was that.

I know, I know; it’s sickening. The good news is that in Football Manager 24, there are multiple routes to take in order to remove some of the deadwood, as it were. Stirring up market interest with their agent (think Tobias Fünke talking himself up around the water cooler) is one way. Another way is by hiring an Intermediary Agent, and let me tell you, that option is a breath of fresh air.

There are pros and cons, of course. That player may not want to leave and this may cause unrest, but why should you care? They’re not in your plans, so it’s time to move them on. Simple as that, and I can say that with confidence because I know for a fact that I’ll never have to do something like this in real life. Though, it may also come at the expense of general squad morale, and that’s a little trickier to navigate.

If nothing else, making it a little easier on us to move some of our squad is a welcomed change, even if it’s not as easy and underhanded as using the editor to do so.

A Fresher, More Authentic Feel

Video Source: Football Manager YouTube Channel

I imagine most of us don’t typically pour hours upon hours into this series for the graphics. Even still, FM24 upped their game in terms of presentation this time around. Be it through in-game tactical progression or overall presentation, there are noticeable differences.

The Continental Competitions (UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and European Conference League) remain, as do their licenses. Those anthems are still bangers. Animations are genuinely crisper, from penalty shots to goalkeeper saves.

There have been minor bugs here and there – a la players suddenly giving up on the ball; ignoring tactical instructions; blurry images depending on the weather. Yet all in all, it’s another step up from last year’s edition. Sometimes, that’s all we’re really asking for.

At Its Core, FM24 Gives You Reasons to Keep Playing

For a while, admittedly, Football Manager could afford to coast. There are plenty of simulators out there, but when it comes to sports simulators, it’s difficult to find one more engrossing than this. Part of that is due to the sheer volume of clubs available. While it’s fun to save a struggling Premier League side from itself, it’s arguably even more fun to rise through the ranks (if you’re able) with a club from the sixth tier in English football (or the third tier in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and so on).

No matter what, most of us were probably always going to pour hours into this game. But this time, Sports Interactive and SEGA have taken a large leap forward, improving on the tamer-yet-newer features of the past couple of entries while going all-in on a variety of fresh ways to greatly enhance the player experience. At a time when other franchises had a chance to retool and swing for the fences but didn’t, Football Manager went for it.

Not everything is going to come off, sure. Bugs will appear. Player moods will swing a little more wildly than they have in the past. At times, it will seem like no matter what you do against a certain club or player, it won’t work. That’s football, baby. You can always go somewhere else. You can always try something else. Maybe the Eredivisie if you find the larger leagues a little too stressful. Go to Iceland, Japan, or heck, bang your head against the wall while adjusting to the MLS registration rules.

There is no single way to play Football Manager 24, but then again, that’s been the charm of the entire franchise. There are several reasons to keep coming back for more, though, and it’s apparent the developers took that to heart this time around.

Football Manager 2024

Reviewer: Shaun Ranft

Award: Editor’s Choice