Football Manager 2024 is the 20th installment in the Sports Interactive’s soccer series, and the developer promised it would be “the most complete edition to date.” Unfortunately, it’s fallen short of this promise.
FM24 became increasingly disappointing the more I played and poked around. Unlike last year, when I was frustrated with FM23’s new features as a whole, this time, I was looking forward to seeing smarter AI squad building, a new set piece system, better player interactions, more options for selling players, and the best 3D match engine the series has ever seen. Unfortunately, none of these features do much to impress.
Starting off well
Football Manager 2024 couldn’t have made a better first impression. The option to load an FM23 save is a welcome backwards compatibility feature that allows you to pick up where you left off. There are no lengthy loading screens and I didn’t notice any major FM24 features missing from my loaded FM23 games, so all good on that front.
If you opt to start a new game instead, you go through a character creation that’s rather basic by today’s gaming standards. You have the option to generate a 3D model based off a photo, but don’t expect RPG levels of customization. You can also choose between Original, Real World, and Your World options at the start of a career. These refer to transfers and what portion of real-life transactions are applied to your career and when. It’s not a game changer, but it’s a small variety setting that can only be a net positive.
The series’ trademark managerial simulation is integrated as well as you’d expect. As usual, you have a full overview of the club you’ve chosen to manage and can pick and choose which aspects of running it you want to handle yourself and which you wish to delegate to other staff members. One of my favorite traits of Football Manager games, which often remains understated, is the freedom to engage with the ins and outs of being a manager just as much as you please, and that’s never been more true than it is in FM24.
I’d love to continue praising FM24, but the truth is that once you engage in the finer details presented as new features, Football Manager 24 slowly but surely begins to fall apart.
Isn’t AI supposed to be smart?
The fact my two favorite new features both appear before you actually start managing is indicative of how quickly the quality of the FM24 experience drops off. The promise of smarter AI squad building, that would deal with senseless transfers and make way for young prospects to challenge for starting spots, amounts to nothing.
Big clubs are still prone to stacking young talent, sending them out on loan season after season, until the club eventually sells or the player’s contract runs out. They’re still buying players for exorbitant transfer fees, then glueing them to the bench because the club already has a star player at the same position. Starting 11s on AI teams are so rigid that they don’t impede just youngsters from breaking through but established stars, too. This frustrating coding leads to many players playing 25-30 league games, all as substitutes, never starting a single game.
The future is even more grim for yet unproven youngsters. Football Manager 2024 was meant to put an end to the AI logic that current ability is all that matters, but the AI apparently didn’t get the memo. I tried to convince myself that the new system is realistic and it’s normal for teams like Man City or Chelsea to not play many youngsters in their first team.
My self-gaslighting ceased when I saw that talent breeding clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen are not only not playing their young prospects, they occasionally shut down youngsters who had already broken into the first team in real life before the start of the game. So much for smart AI squad building.
No goals, no cry
Thankfully, the match engine AI is much better. I’m confident in saying Football Manager 2024 has the most realistic 3D match simulation in the series to date. Player animations are as life-like as they can be, given the presentation, and it’s clear the developer put effort into improving that part of the experience.
Even so, there are glaring issues here, too. I couldn’t help but be annoyed at how world class players often struggled to control a simple pass, dribble more than two feet without losing the ball, or find a teammate consistently. This applies to user controlled teams and CPU opponents and leaves the impression that Lionel Messi is the same caliber of player as Jonny Smith from Sunday League.
Another problem I’ve found with match simulation is that no team in Football Manager 2024 is capable of scoring goals. Games routinely end with a goal or two scored at most, regardless of the potential gulf in quality between teams. In six seasons, not one Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, or Ligue 1 team scored 80 goals. Real Madrid, who totally dominates La Liga, was the only exception to the rule. This extends to the match engine and doubles down as both immersion breaking and really dull when you have to sit through 0.44 vs. 0.35 xG matches all the time.
Too bad you can’t set a target for your players to not get injured
Neither the freshly introduced TransferRoom and transfer intermediary, nor the individual player targets blew me away. The former are yet another tool to get rid of unwanted players, which I find redundant, because I never thought selling players is much of an issue to begin with. I’ve always found that aspect of Football Manager to be quite fair, with teams showing more interest toward your better players and not drooling over your leftovers.
Individual player targets are a decent attempt at enhancing manager-player interactions. You can suggest progression pathways to new signings, set goals to players you’re sending out on loan, or try to incentivize your own players with a set performance target. There were a couple questionable interactions where a player would act as if he’s emotionally scarred by me asking for a 7.00 average rating during his loan spell in the third tier, but in general, individual targets are a net positive, just not a game changer.
What’s most definitely not a game changer is the “new” set piece creator that I can’t even count as a separate feature. The new system is, at best, a cosmetic overhaul and, at worst, a tool that could maybe save you a few seconds every now and again.
Outside of lackluster new features, Football Manager 2024 managed to surprise me with a completely unexpected problem that made playing a true hassle. Don’t you just love it when half your starters are injured at all times? Well, I don’t, and there was plenty of that, regardless of team or save. Players just kept going down and out for several weeks, which gave me FM13 flashbacks—a game notorious for how overtuned injuries were at launch.
Having reviewed FM23 and FM24 back-to-back, I realized something—it’s worse to have high expectations shattered than to not have any expectations at all. I expected to dislike FM23’s new features because I don’t appreciate a squad planner being a main attraction for a full-priced game.
Football Manager 2024, however, promised much more. It promised better AI, better match engine, better set pieces, better everything, but delivered a big bag of nothing disguised as something.
Football Manager 2024
- Backwards compatibility
- Ability to customize the start of a career
- Individual player targets add to player-manager dynamics
- 3D match engine animations are as realistic as ever
- AI squad building is atrocious
- Players feel underpowered in 3D match engine
- Simulated match results are unrealistic
- Players get injured way too often
- Lackluster implementation of new features
A copy of this game was provided by Sega for review. Reviewed on PC.