Football Manager 2020 introduces big changes that will drastically change long-term playthroughs, with some quality of life improvements as well.
The Football Manager series is back, and its latest iteration caters to the franchise's more hardcore fans. The newest version of the popular football management simulation introduces some significant changes to an already-layered game, adding even more depth to one of the most intricate sporting simulators out there. At a glance, Football Manager 2020 represents the 16th iteration of the franchise, doing it justice with the aforementioned new high-impact features and several nice quality of life improvements, too.
It makes sense that with Football Manager 19 focusing on a lot of the core mechanics, the next annual release of the title would shift focus elsewhere. In Football Manager 2020, this main focus is almost certainly on the sustainability and challenge of long-term playthroughs, the length of which can often be the stuff of legend. Whether one leads a non-league club on a hundred-year journey to the top or simply wants to out-trophy Sir Alex Ferguson, this year's changes will throw gamers a few fun, realistic curveballs.
The most significant change that Football Manager 2020 introduces is the new Club Vision system, which has a drastic influence on how long-term games play out. When players sign on with a club, they'll now need to negotiation on club philosophies: the board may want them to only sign players of a certain age, achieve certain league positions in a number of years, or even adapt to a certain style of play. Players who choose to ignore these objectives and instill their own brand of football - successful or not - may get the sack. Club Vision instills realistic objectives that force players to adapt to unique situations based on the identity of each club. For those who pour countless hours into the game, this is one of the biggest-ever changes to how Football Manager players out. Simply put, forcing players to adjust to new tactical philosophies will spark a brand new level of challenge and depth that the franchise hasn't offered players before.
Sports Interactive has also put a lot of effort into refreshing the development of players, which is another improvement that will only really pay dividends in longer playthroughs. By condensing a lot of youth intake and reserve squad information under one umbrella - called the Development Centre - it's a lot easier for gamers to check out their prospects, see loan recommendations, check in on how on-loan players are performing, and keep tabs on hot prospects who may be ready for the first team. As any Football Manager veteran can attest to, there's no greater feeling than producing a golden generation of players, and the Development Centre presents itself as a wide canvass to help veteran players draw the next generation of club talent a bit more easily.
Of course, a big part of both youth development and club culture lies in scouting, and there's a big update there, too: scouts can now be assigned to multiple regions, which is a change that has huge ramifications for clubs that may not be able to afford to cast a large net of individual scouts around the globe. Similarly, contract negotiations have been updated too, now allowing players to negotiate 'pathways' that allow players to agree on expected playing time on a year-by-year within existing contracts. This greatly helps with the happiness of players who gradually progress towards the first team, allowing for a more cohesive squad and, ultimately, a much less rigid experience when it comes to negotiations.
There are some changes that make things easier for less hardcore Football Manager fans too, like improved tactics tools and more-thorough team selection advice from coaching staff. This helps fans see the logic behind day-to-day decisions, which in turn also helps them adjust to the steep learning curve that comes with a title designed to realistically simulate an entire sporting world. When one sees why AI coaches make the decisions they do, they understand a bit more about what goes into matchday decisions.
Players will find that the 3D match engine still feels stiff, with player animations sometimes feeling clumsy and detached from the pitch. It's been a longstanding issue for Football Manager ever since the 3D match engine made its debut ten years ago, with many players still preferring to use the classic 2D birds-eye-view for games. On the plus side, Sports Interactive has massively improved the faces for computer-generated players, something which is at least a few years overdue. It's another improvement that is sure to appease long-term players, though press conferences still get repetitive fairly quickly.
At the end of the day, the large-scale changes that Football Manager 2020 introduces will make a huge difference for players who like to see their managerial careers extend far into the future. Club Vision adds a great layer of depth to a game that is already filled to the brim with tactical conundrums, and the Development Centre is a great help in presenting the pomp and circumstance of player development under one umbrella. To the casual fan, Football Manager 2020 may not appear significantly different than its predecessor, but there's a lot going on under the hood to deliver one of the best football simulation experiences of all time. Football Manager is unmatched and unrivaled when it comes to sports simulation titles, and yet it keeps getting better.
The shelf life of a title which can simulate leagues till the end of time just got a little longer.
Football Manager 2020 is available now on PC, Mac, and Stadia, with a simplified Touch Edition available on Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.