Imagine winning the Premier League a year after narrowly avoiding relegation like Ranieri masterminded at Leicester City. Envisage taking over the England national team and guiding them to a Euro final, akin to what Soutgate did. Dream of becoming the next Sir Alex or Guardiola by dominating almost every competition your squad participates in every campaign. Actually, there’s no need to fantasise about any of these situations because Football Manager 2023 Console edition is here to allow you to try and live out your dreams.
Indeed, another instalment of Football Manager has arrived like clockwork with an up-to-date database, but one has to wonder whether Football Manager 2023 Console actually brings any interesting features or improvements to the table which will entice you to ditch the previous offering.
Football Manager 2023 Console continues the trend of being a ported and slightly trimmed version of the popular football management sim on PC. That doesn’t mean it’s bereft of notable content however, with a respectable number of game modes at your fingertips. For those playing solo, you can work your way through a selection of typical scenarios in Challenges, where riding the storm using an injury hit squad or preserving an unbeaten record during the latter stages of a season is the order of the day. Challenges are fine for a quick fix, but they’re in dire need of a refresh by introducing some more creative situations.
Create-A-Club and Career are the real meaty parts of the offline modes, if that’s what you’re after. Create-A-Club lets you replace an existing team with your own made up one and even allows you to draft in players to fill up the squad. It didn’t seem very fair on the rest of the Premier League though when I appeared from nowhere with superstars like Neymar Jr and Haaland. It’s all too tempting to form a squad full of elite players, which removes the realism and some of the difficulties associated with management.
Thankfully, Career is the purest kind of football management as you take on a job where the task is to work with the finances, staff, squad and general structure of the club already in place. Given the vast amount of teams in the database, the choice is incredible whether you wish to go for glory as PSG or instead try to survive the English football leagues as Morecambe. Heck, there’s even the 3F Superliga (Denmark), K League (South Korea), Canadian Premier League (Canada), Cymru Premier (Wales) and tons more present from around the globe.
All of the above are licensed, which really adds to the authenticity. The slight disappointment comes from the lack of official kits and badges in some of the biggest leagues including the English Premier League, but at least the names are legit – with the exception of Man UFC, whoever those frauds are. That said, it’s good to see the newly acquired licences for the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Europa Conference League. Hearing the official music as the teams walk out onto the pitch helps create more immersion and you almost feel like putting on a suit for the occasion.
Once you’re in the position of manager, the real hard graft begins as every aspect is under your control. Deciding on tactical plans and formations to suit the players at hand will be the first task, but then there are training regimes to organise and set piece routines to conjure up too. Should you find weak areas of the squad then recruiting extra bodies and sifting through the scouting team’s recommendations is necessary. You mustn’t overspend though, ensuring every move you make is financially sound; splurging the entire transfer budget on a back-up isn’t very savvy.
The amount of influence you possess in these areas means you can be quite hands-on, however for those who prefer not to dabble in everything, well they can delegate most jobs to the backroom staff. Having such options is welcoming, especially for the inexperienced folk. Sometimes it’s best to handle things yourself, if only to keep the squad harmony high by ensuring everyone gets a run out, while not giving them heavy workloads that could increase injury risks.
Players are temperamental, hence your decisions make a difference to how they feel; none more so than on matchday where a new feature is introduced. At half-time and full-time, a selection of five stances from angry to delighted come to the fore, with the aim being to motivate the players. It’s a nice idea and does seem to affect morale, but I believe the option to offer reactions to each individual would be more beneficial. After all, certain players need a bit of coddling and others a kick up the backside to turn their performance around.
Another addition, that comes to the forefront mainly during pre-match preparations and mid-match alterations, is the radial menu. It’s supposed to make changes easier to perform on console, and it does, but I have to say the overall navigation of the UI is confusing and unintuitive. Constantly swapping between D-pad and the analog stick, with occasional button presses, just never feels natural. This has potential to be a real hindrance, however the options do allow you to switch to using a cursor which is far better and easier to get to grips with.
In regards to the actual matchdays, the match engine ensures matches are as exciting as ever. Expect magical runs from deep, long-range power shots, two-footed tackles and calamitous defending – and that’s just Harry Maguire’s highlights. It’s great to be able to visualise what’s happening in the game, without merely relying on text commentary like the olden days. The engine is still quite dated and won’t give PES or FIFA any sleepless nights, but I don’t think it’s a major problem in the grand scheme of things.
I mean, it’s the least of your worries. There’s just so much to do to keep everything in order and cement your legacy for years to come. It’s hugely satisfying to mastermind each and every success, finding those wonderkids (most of which are hiding out in Southampton), and steadying the ship when a crisis hits your team. An unimaginable amount of hours can be spent in Career for sure, with even more game time to garner from the online modes.
There’s the Versus mode for a quick one-off battle against someone, using your Career team to earn bragging rights. For something with more substance, the Fantasy Draft lets you take turns drafting a team from a pool of players, before competing in a league or cup competition. And if your mates are as obsessed with Football Manager as you, the Online Career is a must. There’s nothing quite like it and memories will be made as it’s one hell of a commitment.
Ultimately then, Football Manager 2023 Console has the depth to allow you to sink hours and hours into it, with opportunities to be meticulous in every area of being a football manager. It doesn’t offer too much in terms of new ideas, but the features introduced are decent enough alongside the incredibly well-researched database of teams and players already at your disposal. The only sticking points are in regards to how navigation still isn’t intuitive without switching on the trusty cursor and the Challenge mode is in need of a freshen up.
There’s room for improvement in Football Manager 2023 Console, but it’s still a brilliantly addictive experience. Unless you have a gaming PC, this version is a must for any football fan.
Football Manager 2023 Console is out now on the Xbox Store
pathetic game. Shit match engine and completely basic. £31.99 for half a years worth of a game. Bullshit