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Football Manager 2021 is out now, reflecting some of the pandemic's effects on footie

It's not the full pandemic experience

Sports Interactive today released Football Manager 2021, their latest digital adaptation of your dad shouting at the telly. You too can have all the answers to lead a team to glory in leagues and competitions around the world. It's been a strange year for football (and for everything) so FM2021 does reflect some of the pandemic's effects on the beautiful game. However, the devs want to offer escapism so your seasons shouldn't be interrupted by e.g. matches getting postponed after Aberdeen players break the rules to go on the lash then catch the virus, the chuffing idiots.

Another year, another sequel: the same basic game with a few changes and new features. This year, these include gestures for when you talk, AI improvements, more stats to scrutinise, and an end-of-season presentation to revel in your successes. The devs got a fan to explain more in a video:

As for the Covid-19 pandemic, Sports Interactive are a little more hesitant than when they added Brexit a few years back. Studio boss Miles Jacobson explained in an October blog post that they had been asked about patching the virus and its effects into last year's game, when it became clear how much football would be disrupted, but decided not to.

"Of course, we couldn't stop people who 'mod' our games from including Covid-19 in FM20, but we really dislike what their work did to our game – and from what I've seen on social media, so did most of the people who downloaded and used those mods," Jacobson said. "FM is meant to be an escape from reality, and having a squad ravaged with an illness has the opposite effect."

They're not quite pretending the pandemic never happened, mind. Calendars are adjusted, you will start with finances in a worse state than usual, and the transfer market will be weird, reflecting some of the consequences. But matches will have fans attending, calendars and finances will return to a 'normal' state over time, and no, players cannot contract Covid. And while they had considered replacing handshakes with elbow bump substitutes, they put it to a public vote which came down against that idea. It's interesting to see where they've drawn the line.

Football Manager 2021 is out now for Windows and Mac on Steam and the Epic Games Store, priced at £40/€55/$50. The streamlined FM21 Touch is included, or will be sold separately from December 1st. Versions of Touch for Switch, Xbox, iOS, and Android are coming too.

An FM21 demo is available from the Steam and Epic pages, offering six in-game months. That's about 10 hours of play, they estimate, and you can carry demo progress over into the full game.

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