Football Manager 2018 Review: The most realistic and most difficult FM yet

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The video game simulation is back for another instalment, with this year's version set to give gamers a much improved long-term experience

In October, Oxford United fan Seb Keenan was confirmed as the world record holder for the longest game of Football Manager, playing over 170 seasons of the video game over the course of eight real life years.

Keenan started playing while at university, winning the Champions League with Huddersfield, QPR and Real Madrid before moving to Barcelona where he averaged five trophies a season and then won six Champions Leagues in a row with Oxford.

Although his game is far longer than every other Football Manager addict, the story is similar to one that every gamer has: after a few seasons, success comes all too easy and each save would have a habit of becoming monotonous. 

In Football Manager 2018, Sports Interactive have made significant changes to give more variety to longer saves, making the game more realistic and also more difficult in the process. Initial success is probably no harder to achieve than it was previously, but now managers will end up with highs and lows in a long career like the trophy droughts suffered by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

The most important change is the introduction of team dynamics, where each team has tiers of influential players as well as social groups created by bonds between similar players. In previous FMs, you could simply sell on players whenever they finished being useful on the pitch, but now if you decide to offload popular veterans, their team-mates can turn against you and the dressing room can split.

Another significant difference in the latest instalment of FM is a new approach to tactics and game planning. This is now done on a game-by-game basis, with sports scientists and data analysts giving you advice on how your team is performing and making suggestions about how you should set up to better an individual opponent. These tactical tweaks are also carried into the matches themselves, with stats and info helping power your in-game decisions.

Antoine Griezmann Football Manager 01072016

The tactics screen is now less cluttered and easier to navigate, becoming more realistic and also showing exactly how the new team dynamics can influence your gameplay with bonds developing between players on and off the field. The match engine has improved once again, but the best thing about this year's matches is the new overlay which puts many of the major tactical tweaks and shouts just one click away, allowing the game to carry on as you make your changes.

Scouting has been overhauled in the new game, but seems a bit confusing at first and will take you a while to get to grips with. It is closer to how scouting and recruitment works in reality, but after playing FM for many years, is less intuitive than it has been in previous versions of the game. Initially, it seems like a step backwards for the franchise, but could end up proving popular in the long run.

Overall, this is the same Football Manager you have been playing for the past few decades, but the new features, tweaks and updates mean that it is now more likely to keep you gripped for many, many seasons. Maybe not 170, but until you can get Huddersfield to finally win the Champions League.

World record holder Keenan said that when he finished his FM2010 game, he'd never play again. But if he wants a real challenge, he should give FM2018 a go!

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