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Similarly to last year, Sports Interactive have released a feature breakdown video, unveiling some interesting changes ahead of FM23. Having watched the 40-minute-long teaser, I cannot wait to get my hands on the new game and test out these new features. Instead of changing things for the sake of change, Sports Interactive have addressed areas of the game that were without being disrespectful, slightly outdated. The video was split into five different segments, each revealing a new in-game feature.
For those of you that haven’t watched the feature breakdown video, I would highly recommend it, as it was very informative. However, if you don’t have the time to spare or simply can’t be bothered to watch, then this article will highlight the key FM23 features unveiled by Sports Interactive.
The first of the five segments was titled “Recruitment Revamp”. We all fancy ourselves as a tactician on FM, but arguably the most enjoyable part of the Football Manager experience is the buying and selling of players. With this in mind, Sports Interactive have made several changes to the recruitment of players, tying the game closer to the real-life process that clubs follow when signing a player. Here’s a breakdown of the changes made to the recruitment.
It’s not just Forest Green Rovers who are looking to go green, Sports Interactive are too. It might finally be time to stop using that notepad you have stashed in your desk drawer filled with lists of potential signings and formations, as FM23 will have a whole squad planner section dedicated to you and your staff. The squad planner, pictured below, can bring several different benefits to you as a manager.
Described by Sports Interactive as “a secret book”, the squad planner is completely private from your squad, meaning it has no bearing on your players’ happiness or morale. With the ability to add and remove players at the click of a button, the squad planner is the new place to tinker, discover the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and visualise the impact a new signing will have on your squad depth.
There are three different tabs shown, labelled; current season, next season, and season after. Now I know it’s quite unrealistic in the modern-day era to even be at a club for three seasons, but the squad planner is a key tool that can help both your short-term and long-term recruitment.
Following the revamp to the recruitment process, FM23 will see scouting assignments replaced with recruitment focuses. The concept is the same, but some minor improvements have been incorporated.
As you can see from the screenshot above, there are several different parameters that you can use to scout players. You have the basics like position, player role, and age, but you also now have the opportunity to select the priority. Have you ever set up a scouting assignment specifically for the transfer window you’re in, only to have the scouts present several options after deadline day? If the answer is yes, which I am certain it will be, then the priority parameter will be extremely beneficial to you.
Another slight change they’ve made is to the wording used to identify the knowledge level of the player. Previous FMs have used a percentage to visualise how much knowledge the scouts have of a player, however, in FM23, the percentages will be replaced by scouting stages. The four stages are indicated as none, minimal, reasonable, and extensive.
Sports Interactive have also done away with the annoying list of players that pops up when you click on the scouting tab, instead showing an overview of the recruitment focuses you have set up. A change that I certainly welcome, as it will save lots of time skipping through the hundreds of unrealistic signings touted to your club by agents, which leads me on to the next section quite nicely.
Love them or hate them, football agents aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Sports Interactive have recognised this and given them a larger role in FM23. In previous FM editions, you had limited options when interacting with a player’s agent, pretty much only being able to ask about their client’s availability.
However, on FM23, you have the potential to interact with agents in a more advanced way. As shown in the screenshot, you are now able to contest the players’ demands, giving the interaction a more push-pull feeling that resembles a real-life negotiation.
On previous FMs, an agent was only useful in the recruitment process, but on FM23 the agent also plays a crucial role in player retention. You can discuss new contracts with your player’s agent, who can give you an indication of what salary the player would be expecting without having anything set in stone.
And finally, you can leave your poor captain alone when trying to solve players’ morale issues. It annoys you, it annoys the captain, and nine times out of ten all it does is anger the player in question even further. To reflect the close relationship that a player has with their agent, you can use the agent as the middleman to smooth out conflicts.
Match AI and Animation
The second segment of the FM23 feature reveal was all related to the Match AI and animation. In an area which sees a continuous change in all versions of Football Manager, here are the FM23-specific changes.
FM23 will be harder than ever, with the AI managers bearing more of a resemblance to their non-virtual selves. Sports Interactive claim that they have spent “the majority of the cycle” working on it, so it must have been a priority.
When you come up against a Sean Dyche team in real life, you know what you are going to get. However, virtual Dyche on my FM22 save decided to channel his inner Pep Guardiola and deployed a tiki-taka style of play. Luckily, none of the Burnley players are that highly rated at passing, but this should never have happened in the first place. If Dyche plays Brexit football in real life, then the same tactics should be used by the AI on FM.
AI managers are now both more responsive and more reactionary on FM23. Leading the game 1-0, the AI is more likely to throw an extra body forward in search of an equaliser. Losing the game 2-1 in the 80th minute, the AI is more likely to park the bus. It will make the game more difficult for sure, but it also makes it far more realistic.
It’s not just the managers that have had their AI upgraded, but also the players. They are now better at decision-making, have more realistic first touch control, and also the improved ability to win tackles and interceptions. This suggests to me that the decisions and anticipation attributes will play an extremely important role in FM23.
We all love to score goals, but as Sir Alex famously said, “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. In the past, it would be fair to say that the FM match engine has gravitated towards high-pressing aggressive football, but FM23 looks set to be a bit more neutral.
New defensive tactical instructions have been added, whilst a change in terminology regarding the line of engagement has also been implemented. The new terms: low-block, mid-block, and high press are all easier for FM managers to understand. They have also simplified some of the other parameters on the out-of-tactics possession tab to make it easier for FM players to create defensive tactics.
For example, you are now able to select whether you want to stop crosses or invite crosses. If you have centre-backs who have good jumping reach, marking, and heading, then you are probably more likely to invite crosses into the box and block off the central spaces, and vice versa.
Music to the ears of all the lower league managers, who don’t have the luxury of 30 goals a season striker. Instead, they can opt to be hard to beat without being punished by the match engine. Will we see counter-attacking tactics become the new trend on FM23?
It might finally be time to ditch the 2D classic view on matchdays, as Sports Interactive have made a significant improvement to the player animations. I can’t lie, playing Football Manager in 3D has annoyed me in previous versions. The movement of the players has either been extremely stiff, or as unrealistic as one of them bend and flex toys that kids play with. The goalkeeper is only able to dive a specific way, and players are only seemingly able to kick the ball with their laces.
This is something that Sports Interactive have addressed, and the enhancements to the visual animations now actually somewhat resemble a real-life match. The goalkeeper animations have been overhauled completely, with changes to the way a keeper approaches, saves and distributes the ball.
Sports Interactive have even animated the nets differently, making that last-minute winner look ten times better, until VAR rules it out. However, for me, the biggest improvement regarding animations is the amount of storage they take up. In FM23, animations have allegedly been reduced to just one-tenth of the disk space, meaning that your laptop will no longer sound like it’s taking off the runway when you watch a game in 3D.
Ah, them European nights have just got a whole lot better. Sports Interactive have recently acquired new licenses for FM23, which allows them to include UEFA’s most iconic club football competitions in the game for the first time. Not only will the names change from European Champions Cup to the UEFA Champions League and so on, but there will also be UEFA-specific displays.
As shown by the screenshot above, pre-match line-ups and scoreboards will look just like they do on BT Sport. Your players will even walk out to the iconic Champions League music, which I must say is a nice added detail. Players’ shirts will have dynamic sleeve patches that change depending on what UEFA competition they are competing in, and stadiums will feature the official UEFA logos.
This one won’t impact you if you’re managing Tottenham, but each competition has bespoke podiums for the trophy presentations, tying it closer to the real-life experience of watching your team celebrate their European triumph.
By far my favourite feature to come off the UEFA agreement is this snazzy new group draw screen shown above. Often skipped by FM managers in the past, the draw is now a full-screen event, creating a much bigger sense of occasion and anticipation that the event would harbour in real life. With the UEFA branding in the background, live reactions at the bottom, and the lovely new group and pot graphics centre stage, I certainly can’t wait to watch my UEFA draw. That is of course until I get FMed.
The 12th man are finally having more of an influence on proceedings in the upcoming Football Manager. Fans are a massive part of football, from the top divisions down to grassroots, and without the fans, the beautiful game would not be as big of a phenomenon. Other than the annoying keyboard warriors in the social feed that want you executed after subbing their favourite player, the role of fans on previous Football Manager’s is fairly minimal. In recognition of the influence that fans have on proceedings, Sports Interactive have announced supporter confidence as one of their headline features on FM23.
Now, not only will the board be on your back for a run of poor results, but now fans will also have their voices heard. In the supporter confidence screen, you can now see the supporter’s profile, expectations, and influence on the board. There are six different profiles, which are:
- Hardcore: The most loyal and passionate section of the fanbase
- Core: Representing the average football fan
- Family: These supporters tend to be temperate and patient
- Fair Weather: Fans who are especially impatient for success
- Corporate: Most interested in the stadium’s facilities and club marketability.
- Casual: Less passionate and loyal than the average fan
Now the exciting thing about this is that every save will have different fan profiles. If you compared the profile of Dortmund supporters and compared them to a lower league team, say Shrewsbury Town as an example, then the Bundesliga side are likely going to have a higher number of ‘Fair Weather’ fans, as they are used to competing for titles.
Like the role of a football manager in real life, you will have to try and juggle both the fans’ expectations and the board’s expectations, which are bound to differ slightly. Supporters will provide feedback on your match performance, transfer activity, tactics, and the squad itself. You will be probed in press conferences if you’re performing badly or praised by the journalists when you are doing well. It feels like people pleasing is going to be a big part of FM23.
We’ve all been guilty in the past of picking a team to manage and completely skipping over the club philosophies and history, but with the impatient modern-day fanbases now implemented in the game, maybe it’s time to change up the approach.
Dynamic Manager Timeline
We all love nostalgia when it comes to football, but we love bragging about our FM successes even more. Whether you’ve won the treble with your beloved Arsenal or taken your local non-league side to the brink of Premier League football, we all love to talk about our greatest achievements in the game. Managing on Football Manager is like writing your own story, and the new dynamic manager timeline helps to define your story.
A visual addition more than anything, the dynamic timeline will feature all the highs and lows that make football great. Sports Interactive claim that there are “more than 50 game events” that can feature on the timeline, ranging from individual successes like manager of the month to team successes like winning your Europa League group. You will be presented with your timeline at the end of the domestic season, where you can sit back, put your feet up, and gloat about all the successful moments you’ve had.
Although, like with all FM releases, there are various bugs and glitches to iron out at the start of the game, and I think I’ve found one in the screenshot above. There’s no way that a Watford manager has lasted an entire year in the job, just ask Rob Edwards.
Overall, I quite like the direction that Sports Interactive have taken the new game. Yes, your saves will probably be more difficult, and yes, the supporters are bound to get on your last nerve at some point throughout the cycle, but that is the real-life dilemma of a football manager. At the end of the day, Football Manager is a simulation game, and by definition, a simulator should mirror real-world activities, which I think FM23 will do more accurately than ever before.
I’m slightly disappointed that international football hasn’t been given an overhaul, especially with the highly controversial World Cup looming. As a big fan of the WSL and seeing the growth that women’s football is exhibiting at the moment, I am surprised that some of the top women’s leagues and national teams haven’t been implemented into the game. Although I understand that the main obstacle is likely to be the league licenses, launching the WSL as a playable league off the back of the Lionesses’ success would have surely brought a lot of the growing ‘woso’ population onto the game.