Football Manager is, and always has been, the ultimate virtual footballing experience. It leans into the simulation genre much more than the other top games on the market, such as EA FC or eFootball, as it allows you to control almost every aspect of the club, aside from the players themselves. It is so effective at judging player potential in real life, thanks to in-depth scouting data, that even real football clubs reference the property's information. And until just a few years ago, the full version of Football Manager was exclusive to PC, with FM Touch being the edition available on handheld devices.
That is still effectively the case, but in 2021, an Xbox console exclusive version launched, with a PlayStation version of FM23 landing in February this year. At first glance, this is the same experience you'll find on PC, but once you dive in deeper, there are some missing features — managerial attributes, for example. At the start of a career on PC you'll be able to choose your coaching badges and stats in a number of key areas, but this is missing from the console port. As is the ability to sell players via an intermediary, which is a brand new feature in the full game, that assists with selling players quickly, albeit with the intermediary taking a cut. You also cannot speak one-on-one with your players, there are only four team talk and shout options, and talking to the media is completely absent — though that latter point may be a positive for some players.
However, if you're a newcomer to the series as a whole, a lot of the above may seem nonsensical to you. Football Manager is a difficult game to get into for the first time; all the spreadsheets and data can be quite daunting, as can the potential depth of actually managing your club. Do you take charge of everything, from training and transfers to scouting and finances, or do you delegate some aspects of the job to your staff?
The beauty of Football Manager is that so long as you can get past that initial barrier to entry, you can take control of as much or as little as you like. Instant result — a much-loved feature from some third-party FM skins on PC — has even made its way into the console version of the game, so you can breeze through seasons fairly quickly. And there's nothing quite like the feeling of elation when you take your chosen club to the very top, whether you started at the bottom of the pyramid or took over a team who were on the fringes of success.
For those of you wondering if Football Manager 24 as a whole is worth the upgrade over 23, it's tough to say no. The match engine is improved, with player animations and lighting undergoing some slight enhancements, and there's an all-new set piece creator that gives you much greater control over how you attack and defend corners and free kicks. And don't fret if you're attached to your career from FM23, because for the first time ever, you can carry over your old save file into the new game. But, with the colossal overhaul to the match engine coming with FM25 next year, we know that'll be a much bigger leap forward — so bear that in mind if you're upgrading this year.
As you'd expect, navigating through the intricate menus and spreadsheets of Football Manager is much slower with a controller, and it comes with its fair share of inconsistencies. Using the left stick to adjust values in contract and transfer offers is ultra sensitive, so it'll take a few goes to land on the figure you want, and selecting the correct player in your lineup can often prove tricky. The game also uses the left stick and the d-pad simultaneously: the former to select a specific area on-screen, with the latter to choose individual options within that zone. And while relatively innovative, it takes some getting used to.
There are a couple of areas where the console edition does impress, though. On the pitch itself, the match engine appears smoother, and player animations are slightly more fluid. Principles are introduced, which are essentially the style of manager you're going to be — examples include dedication, resilience, perfectionism, and consistency, and don't feature in the full PC version of the game. Challenge mode is exclusive to console too, offering bite-sized scenarios to tackle when you don't fancy a fully fledged career.
However, it's tough to look past how cumbersome simply progressing through the game is. Making a substitution mid-match is a lengthy affair as you navigate to the player you want to take off, select the specific option to substitute him on a radial menu, then scroll all the way through your subs to his replacement, as opposed to a quick drag-and-drop with a mouse. Looking at the advice from your assistant mid-match is completely hidden — if you didn't know it should be a thing, you could easily play for hours without realising. At first, we didn't even think team talks were in the game, but it turns out they're just omitted from friendly matches. Interface bugs such as tooltips persisting through multiple menus, obscuring whatever is underneath, are common as well.
It cannot be understated how much of an achievement getting Football Manager on console is to begin with, but the fact of the matter is that it isn't a game suited for a controller, and the limitations around the amount of leagues you can have on console, plus seasons only running for 30 years, are more drawbacks in a long list.
Were we reviewing Football Manager 2024 on PC, we'd be looking at an especially high score. Each iteration continues to improve upon the last and while it isn't perfect — rate of goalkeeper injuries and the ability to buy back players on a free the season after they're sold are two minor flaws — it is a consistently great game each and every year, albeit without much competition in the management subgenre. But on console, it's another experience entirely — and most people will struggle to persevere with this version of the game.
While the console edition of Football Manager 2024 is admirable and certainly serviceable for those who can't play on PC, it's tough to recommend thanks to how stripped back it is by comparison. Entire features are missing, and navigating through menus is a slow, frustrating chore. This is a subpar port that's fine as a gateway experience, but it's hard to look past its flaws — especially when the grass seems so much greener across the way.