Gareth Campesinos! Reviews: FM 2011

By RPS on November 29th, 2010 at 6:13 pm.

I heard there's a sport called Basking Balls, too.
The RPS Hivemind does not know this “foot-to-ball”, nor the management thereof. It has therefore called in an expert – Los Campesinos! singer, Gareth Campesinos! – to review Football Manager 2011 on its behalf. Other websites get the work experience kid to do it, we turn to pop stars. A lesson, there.

Is it wrong to think that Rock, Paper, Shotgun‘s readership would be anything like those who steer the ship? Other than intelligent and attractive, I specifically mean completely bemused by the concept of “foot-to-ball”. Perhaps more bemused that this popular series of Football Management Sims offer no control as such, and is perhaps as visually stimulating as a GNVQ IT student’s final project on Microsoft Access. Present me your heartstrings…

I received my first personal copy of Football Manager (or, Championship Manager as it was known then) for my twelfth birthday (I was also gifted a copy of The Beautiful South’s ‘Blue Is The Colour’ by my parents on this anniversary. With hindsight, this was probably the most important day of my life). The date coincided with a Christmas Disco at my school. The first party of note of my senior education years. I remember leaving the dancing early so that I could recommence with the more pressing issue of guiding Fulham to promotion to the Premier League. And so began a routine that continued over the next year or so, whereby I would go to bed as early as my body allowed (as parents could police how long I spent on the computer in the evening) so that I could get up at 4am the next morning to continue my season, while they were still sleeping.

Whilst overthinking, it becomes apparent that the Football Manager series is a massive constant in my life. A safety rail running parallel with an icy slope. Some of the moments that have most shaped my life were played out while I was more concerned about how I could tweak my Southampton side’s preferred formation while star winger and provider Youssef Hersi was undergoing ligament surgery. At the age of 13, as the news of my parent’s separation was broken to me in the kitchen of the house I grew up in, I sat, eyes transfixed on Championship Manager 3, the blow of trailing 3-1 at home to Wimbledon in the League Cup more real, and more immediately troubling than the break-up of everything I’d known before.

My middle teenage years were spent flitting between the “Tactics and Training Tips” and “Off Topic” forums on the Sports Interactive message boards, while I simultaneously discussed the best way to play with two holding midfielders, and bragged about my first sexual experiences. Real heavy stuff. A couple of years later, that relationship petered out as we sat on her single bed, she chain watching Sex And The City boxsets, and me wishing she was more like Jeremie Aliadiere. To be fair, she’d probably have wished the same if she’d known.

All this tumultuous Football Manager related emotional history makes it no wonder that I’m late submitting this review due to the past week and a half having been spent escorting my current girlfriend in and out of A+E, and gently stroking my keyboard, and her forehead, in a darkened room, trying my hardest to be quiet and not wake her, sending her into migraine hell once more. And more so, trying not to seem too chuffed with myself at guiding Birmingham to Champions League qualification in my first season as boss, in case my joy made me seem insensitive of her plight.

I know I can rely on you Football Manager.

And that’s what this instalment of Football Manager is, really. Reliable. Every couple of years sees a reasonably massive overhaul of the game’s general interface and set up. In the past this has seen the game evolve from subtitle-esque text commentary, to top down Battleship style 2D view, and most recently a (for my needs, pretty redundant) basic 3D match engine. But Football Manager doesn’t need to revolutionise its gameplay every year, because its main attraction lies in geeking out on its huge depth of knowledge, and for this reason, FM2011 is largely a data update with some neat, timely additions.

FM’s always done a marvellous job of keeping up with football’s most pressing contemporary issues, and this means the club you want to manage this year is mired in millions of pounds of debt and the board’s not letting you buy any new players ’cause they’re trying to flog their shares and don’t want any more of your useless acquisitions making your club an even less attractive proposition on the stock exchange. But honestly, this is what makes it so much fun. People looking for cheap kicks play FIFA or Pro Evo, whereas Football Manager addicts enjoy the torture and the struggle as much as the glory.

One of the immediately obvious supplements to the game play is the new “have private chat” function. This allows you to call players to your fictional office and either massage your star man’s ego or give them the ‘hairdryer treatment’. Sadly, though in theory these advances are entertaining, they can become rather formulaic. I know the public perception deems that footballers are meant to be unintelligent and personality free, but the rather limited directions that conversations can go in (this criticism also applies to most of the press conference and media interactions) reinforces this and can cause this aspect of the game to become a little dull, leading me to often delegate such interaction to my fictional assistant manager, while I hit space bar to carry me through to the cut and thrust of transfer negotiations and match day dramatics.

If you care about Football Manager (and really, it’s the sort of series you do /care/ about) I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know (except for that sad stuff about my parents breaking up). The truth is, I could say this game was rubbish and it’d make little difference. Your relationship has probably already been cemented, like mine, and even this revelation that you’re sharing your soul-mate isn’t gonna make you think any less of her. She’ll never give you any trouble. Love you, Football Manager.

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72 Comments »

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  1. NecktieGrins says:

    I have the same affinity for “football” that I have for any other sweatyman sport games, which is: little.

    But I’ve been eyeballing Football Manager for the past couple years. Not just discrete glances, though.

    I’m talking long, come-hither, I’m-Fucking-You-Slowly-With-My-Eyeballs-Sweetheart-Just-Come-Talk-To-Me-God-I’m-So-Lonely stares.

    • NecktieGrins says:

      Also, first?

    • strange headache says:

      I’m-Fucking-You-Slowly-With-My-Eyeballs-Sweetheart-Just-Come-Talk-To-Me-God-I’m-So-Lonely stare

      That’s currently the stare I’m sporting at discos and pubs.

    • NecktieGrins says:

      Same! I just can’t figure out what restraining order signifies.

      That’s like, 3rd base, right?

    • Guernican says:

      A little contrary of you to have no interest in the game, but be turned on by the relentless grind of reliving it one spreadsheet at a time.

      There’s a learned article here, methinks, although whether it’s about the intrinsic bumptiousness of the PC gamer or the fundamental soullessness of modern football, I have no idea.

  2. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Once a place has had a Gillen in it, you can never fully get rid of him.

  3. Lewie Procter says:

    True story: I bought a girl a Los Campesinos! album for her birthday once, and less than 24 hours later she was my girlfriend.

    I recommend you all try the same.

    • leeder krenon says:

      it’s more something i would do if i was looking to split up with a girl.

    • Nick says:

      True Story:

      I bought 3 copies of Los Campesinos!’s Romance is Boring earlier this year, gave one to my ailing grandfather, one to my ex-girlfriend and one for myself. Only minutes later I hear my grandfather is bike riding, his blood pressure is back to normal, and his cancer is gone. I was suddenly meeting the advances of numerous attractive girls at my university and had superhuman strength. That evening I returned to my dorm room only to see an email from my ex-girlfriend, she asked me if I wanted to hang out this weekend and apologized for breaking my heart.

      Later that week we met at 2:00 PM on a Saturday afternoon, we chatted for awhile but something was bothering me, why was it that she was suddenly interested in me? So as I searched through my messenger bag for my wallet, I pulled out Romance is Boring, now available at record stores near you, by Los Campesinos!, she suddenly leaned forward and kissed me, as our mouths parted, she asked me if we could get back together with tears in her eyes. Realizing my good fortune I paused for a minute to consider what’d just happened. It was in this instant I delivered a Rock Bottom to my ex through the diner table. I fear police intervention as two officers sat across the diner enjoying coffee on their break, but to my suprise they began to cheer, patrons were standing from their tables applauding and without so much as another moment of hesitation I ran side to side before dropping The People Elbow on my already incapacitated ex-girlfriend. As I left the dinner to screams of approval and delight, I looked through my cell phone messages to text back to one of my various conquests from earlier that week that “Yes, I would like to fuck her again this week” and that “Yes, my cock is still as enormous as last time.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Dear Nick

      My mind is blown

      Your Sincerely

      SanguineAngel

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      Rinox says:

      I say. I shall buy 10 copies and pray the same happens to me!

  4. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    This could be an excellent recurring column. Imagine Mark E. Smith grappling with minecraft (not inferring any similarities there G). On a slight tangent, Slavoj Zizek’s apparently very into Total War. Now that could be an interesting Wot I Think.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Odd, my philosophy tutor was a Total War head too.

    • NecktieGrins says:

      Didn’t know that about Zizek. Man, that’d be a HORRIFYING WIT.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      My business studies teacher always used to talk about Rome: Total War with us.

    • Xercies says:

      Why can’t I have any cool tutors like that?

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      AndrewC says:

      Eet Itsh not so musch that de AI ish baahd at battlesshh, inshtead, I prefer to shay, battleshh are baahd for de AI.

    • realmenhuntinpacks says:

      I’d love to see how a Zizek game of civ would turn out…

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Eet can be shaid that, in a weey, Ghandi ish more violent than the Germansh, in that he effectsh a greater soshhhial schange, and alsho becaushe he’sh a right bashtard to me in the UN votesh.

    • Premium User Badge

      James G says:

      Had an A-level biology teacher who recounted his progress in Baldur’s Gate II. Didn’t play it myself until a fe years later, but recalled enough of his exploits to work out he must have been romancing Jahiera.

    • Fraser Allison says:

      Last year I told my New Media tutor that I was choosing to write about computer games for an assignment, and he furrowed his brow, paused, and said “You mean like… Pac-Man?”

    • Dozer says:

      Dear RPS commentors:

      I love all of you.

  5. EALouise says:

    RPS, sign him up, RPS, RPS, sign him up.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    Los Campesinos + Football Manager = only on RPS

    • Pockets says:

      Oddly enough, I know that I first heard of Los Campesinos while at university, after reading a few student paper reviews. However the reason I can place roughly when it was I actually heard any of their music is solely through the fact that I know it was having just started a game as Chesterfield on Football Manager 2007, which places it towards the end of 2006.

      The thing I love the most about FM is soldiering on and recovering from past mistakes. Kind of makes sense that when I reminisce about university, its mostly about music, football, failure, being horrendously single, and Football Manager, then.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Pretty sure that was my university experience, not yours.

  7. Tevin says:

    Three very different things I like: this publication, Los Campesinos! and football … all coming together is a bizarre, and frankly, startling way to start the week.

    I’m not complaining, I’m just in awe that this article exists.

    Thank you, Gareth, and thank you RPS for making this happen.

  8. Joe Galway says:

    I’ve known 2 proper Football manager addicts in my life, one of them a friend who disapeared for a month or so every few years, the other a college room mate in my first year, I started in september 2008, he was still playing fma 98 and to my knowledge still hasn’t stopped.

    p.s
    Is this guest appearance the work of Quinns?

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      At least one LC! song quotes Phonogram, and they’re featured in Singles Club, so I’d say probably the Gillen.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Gareth was saying on twitter something along the lines of this being the first time he wouldn’t have FM on the day of release. I said we’d get it for him if he reviewed it for us. The rest is history.

      KG

  9. Jason Moyer says:

    Whilst overthinking, it becomes apparent that the Football Manager series is a massive constant in my life.

    Being a Yank I find myself bewildered by this football thing (I kid, although over here I think it’s more of a participant sport than a spectator one), but I’ve had similar experiences with my own love, Out Of The Park Baseball. I was an adult by the time the first version was released, but having a league or two going at all times is the one constant in my gaming world, regardless of whatever else I’m into at the moment (or whether I’m gaming at all, really).

    • Gepetto says:

      Baseball?

      I think you mean rounders, Sir.

    • datom says:

      Ditto on the OOTP addiction – Jason Moyer, I remember you from the heady old days of OT (I was the token Scottish poster back then). For those interested, OOTP6.5 is what CM97/98 is to football management. Never bettered, even if I buy the new versions every year. I think OOTP2008 is freeware now for those wanting a taste, OOTP 5 freeware for years too if I’m not mistaken.

  10. Skusey says:

    The idea of managing a football team really excites me, but I have such a short attention span that I can’t get very far into a FM season. After three games I’ve decided on my favourite formation and I’m just angry that I don’t have any money to change things up.

    I find playing through a Fifa season on whatever stupid word they use instead of very hard is the best way for me to get involved in a team for any length of time. It lets me choose rudimentary tactics, allows me to have plenty of say in how my team plays, stops me from getting distracted and trying to catch my shadow, and playing on a difficulty I’m not competent enough to win at means that it’s unfair and punishing.

  11. Bob Bobson says:

    The glorious thing about FM and it’s ilk is the lack of direct control and the lack of winning by default. In most computer games my character is pitted against a series of tough challenges, often with my their death being the price of failure. As such when I try and fail I reload, I must reload for my character is dead. In the version of history where I don’t reload it’s because I’ve passed the challenge. As such the story is always that of someone overcoming massive odds to a background of whatever the game’s plot is.

    In FM when I fail a challenge I have 3 fewer points than I wanted. I don’t reload, really I couldn’t. I might have lost that match because my new players aren’t gelling, or because I failed to sign a winger last month or whatever. If I constantly reloaded I could get that win eventually but I wouldn’t even though I reload all the time in most games when I’ve failed. FM players just don’t.

    As such the story that builds is not one of constant success (generally). When there is a lot of success it’s sweeter for it, when there isn’t it’s still an interesting story. A story of the kind rarely told in computer games but frequently told in the real world. That, and getting a jammy last minute winner in a playoff final against a friend when you’ve been playing hotseat on and off for months, is what makes FM and so special and different.

  12. Hunkzilla says:

    Football Manager 2009: 289 hours played
    Football Manager 2010: 309 hours played
    Football Manager 2011: 43 hours logged (so far!)

    Football Manager 2011 is the best game ever made!

    • aldo_14 says:

      Weakling… I have 1463 hours on FM 2009.

      I probably need an intervention.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      Thank you! Can I use this as evidence to show my girlfriend that my 174 hours on FM2010 isn’t that bad? And she should lighten up.

      It’s frightening to think how may FM hours we clocked up before Steam started counting every single one

    • Nimic says:

      1463?! Crap. I was just about to brag (as it were) about my 903 hours played on FM09. Only 581 hours played on FM10, and a paltry 88 hours played on FM11 so far, which to be fair came out in the middle of exam season for me.

  13. Lack_26 says:

    I often scoff about this Foot-to-the-ball Manager, but I’ve always been interested when watching my flat-mate play it. I figures and go ‘ooohhh!’, of course I don’t really know what they mean but he gets some good stories out of it and I can appreciate any story as long as it’s told with gusto and passion. I have a disk with the demo on it, I’ll probably try it out.

    It’s also been my general experience that good stuff happens when LC! is related. The “wab, wad” badges on my bag are often a good point of conversation. The amount of people that have gone, “Oh Hi, I keep seeing those badges on your bag, and I really want to know, what do they mean?”, made some good friends from that actually.

  14. Freud says:

    Will buy and obsess when, and these things happen to coincide, it is fully patched and on sale.

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    dartt says:

    Kieron, can you get Joanna Newsom to review Bulletstorm?

  16. Pijama says:

    Football Manager is the Dwarf Fortress of the casuals.

    When your club manages to foster a wonderkid to it’s full potential, the joy of beating a monster such as Man Utd with a League One side, and so on and on…

    FM is simply glorious.

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      Rinox says:

      More like conference ;-) Vauxhall Motors for Premiership!

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      If only Dwarf Fortress had Assistant (Mine) Managers, then I might actually stop sucking so much

  17. NecktieGrins says:

    Also, my players keep starving because I can’t figure out how to irrigate.

  18. Arthur Barnhouse says:

    Yay! Los Campesinos!

    Broken Down like a War economy,

    Father Fuhrer don’t be mad at me. . .

  19. Dinger says:

    NGJ = giving meaning instead of assigning value.
    E.g.,
    My brother said of the LC! concert in NYC last year “too much glockenspiel”
    I say of it: it was the last show he saw.The Minutemen was the first. We played both at his memorial.

    What else can you say? Thanks for giving it meaning.

  20. medwards says:

    Damn you and your celebrity reviews. I have skipped every single article related to football games but I read this one just because of Los Campesinos! You are sly ones RPS. Sly.

  21. a says:

    And I was just about to put on Romance is Boring. I love you all.

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    Arathain says:

    Hey, this one can write. Keep him around.

  23. Pnikosis says:

    Mourinho should play a little of this.

  24. Fergus says:

    The problem I always had with FM as a series is that I found Dwarf Fortress easier to get the hang of.

    Call me crazy, but if any other game was to repeatedly say to me “You lost this, but I’m not going to tell you why, nor what you did wrong, or whether or not there’s anything you can improve on for the next time”, I would be able to justifiably dropkick the DVD into the stinking skip outside my neighbour’s house. But with this, it’s apparently acceptable because it’s a “simulation”.

    • rrrob says:

      Second this. What about the fact that if you reload the game you might change the 3 – 0 loss to a 2 – 0 win without changing anything? Makes you wonder what effect your decisions really have.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      The only reason that is possible is because of many different factors at play and their chain reactions/interactions. Upon reload, your opponent may for example have chosen a different tactic, fielded one or two different players, given them different instructions, etc. Then in the game you may concede an unlucky early goal or your opponent may get red for for a nasty foul, or one of your star players may go off injured, etc etc. All these things affect each other and make for an almost infinite set of variables (there’s also player mentality, weather effects, general fatigue, your pre- and mid-game team talks, the team’s form, the players’ form…). But as long as your team is many times better and you don’t get ridiculously bad luck, you’ll normally win (and vice versa).

      In many ways it’s the same as DF: there are so many factors that combine with each other and the environment and eventually culminate into something brilliant and amazing. There is little difference between Manchester Utd’s first team losing 1-0 against a conference team in FM and and your character decapitating a Bronze Colussus by throwing a bunny at it in DF. (ie, a freak incident caused by all the stars aligning)

      http://img28.imageshack.us/img28/9467/bronzecollossusbunnies.png (not my pic)

  25. David Jaz says:

    Aaaahhh! I was listening to We are Beautiful, We are Doomed when I saw this omg the timing, its impeccable. You write darling songs, dear.

  26. sidereal says:

    Is that a 3-4-1-2 you’re busting out up there? Hope you have a good sweeper…

  27. Fred Wester, CEO of Paradox says:

    Right.

  28. Nick says:

    Oddly enough, my friend’s sister loves Football Manager but hates Football.

  29. Doth Messar says:

    Ahh I believe that is the kind hearted lad who signed my LC! T-Shirt after my telling him I came in my pants from watching their performance in Montreal last year. Bless you RPS, for fusing two aspects of my life.

  30. JoeJoeJoe says:

    So he’s 34 then?

  31. JoeJoeJoe says:

    :O Make that 26!!

  32. Mo says:

    An unlikely pairing with most splendid results. :)
    Coincidentally, I wore my Romance Is Boring t-shirt to work today.

  33. Adam Hepton says:

    Had this been a poor review, I could have used any one of:

    I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know.
    Death to Los Campesinos!
    … And We Exhale And Roll Our Eyes In Unison

    to rubbish it. As it is, I’m left with, erm, Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks?

  34. Adam Hepton says:

    That said, as a LLaMa, I spit death on you as a user of the devil’s fora.