It's here (kind of)! It's here (kind of)! It's...anyway, that's enough of that.
The beta version of the new Football Manager game launched on Thursday evening, which obviously meant the complete sacking off of all weekend plans in favour of booting up the newest version of everyone's favourite pastime.
After that first weekend, here's a few of the main things that pop out!
**Reminder: This is the BETA version, and the game will undergo a series of changes before full release. This is a 'first impressions', not a review!**
1. Players Have New Ways to Hate You
New FM, new features, new things to be terrible at. And Jesus bloody lord, my players do not like me. Or respect me. Or pay attention to a single word I say. When 90min heads down to the launch next week, I plan to make it very clear that games like this are to get away from the problems of my real life, not double down on them.
Personal issues aside though, it's an interesting new feature to play around with - and it brings to the foreground something we'd all kind of assumed was important in the past.
Squad harmony is something you can carefully manage now; bringing people in who'll fit the squad dynamics (it's on the scouting reports too) and looking at the relationships and issues. It takes a bunch of the guesswork out, and now it's tactical. And that's nice.
2. Revamped Tactics Tab
One that links into the new player/team dynamics tab; you can now base your team formation around the interactions between your players on the pitch, with those who have been teammates for a while naturally developing better partnerships. Y'know, just like real life.
No word (yet) on whether they start doing choreographed goal celebrations.
There's also a neat little grid layout which, colour-wise shows you the areas on the pitch where you're best and worst covered. It's fairly straightforward, but...grids are nice?
3. The Ball Is Really Hard to See?
There's not really much to add to this, like. From the Data Analyst camera view, it's actually pretty hard to see the ball in motion. The amount of time spent squinting and trying to figure out where the long ball over the top's gone based solely off where the players are running has never been this high.
It's not fatal, it's not anything near game-breaking, but it's a bit annoying. I put my glasses on, and everything. Didn't work.
4. Injury Risk Reports
Another feature which works to clarify something which had always felt a bit wishy-washy and mysterious in the past, your sports science department (you have a sports science department!!) can and will give you 'injury risk reports'.
They pretty much do what they say on the tin - letting you know which of your players are being run to the edge of their physical ability by a mixture of training levels and how many games they've been playing of late; with a slice of the player's natural inclination for injury.
It's not just extra info to panic over, although there is an element of that, as it gives you the chance to give your knackered workhorses a couple of days off from training to get back down to levels.
5. Gay Regens
This has been reasonably well covered all over the shop by various outlets, and I feel a bit cheap putting it in because it's not my first impression (I'm nowhere near deep enough to get a relatively rare regen event), but yes. Football Manager 18 will feature gay footballers.
It's good. It's well-handled, obviously been very deeply thought through by Miles and the team at SI, and...well, yeah. This is a thing now. Props.
6. I'm Really Bad at This
I...look, there's no sugar-coating this. I'm really, really bad at FM18. I'm 11 games into the League Two season with Carlisle - a team with aspirations between the top half and the playoffs - and we're sat 21st. We've lost two from two in the Checkatrade Trophy (which is fine, because it's pointless), and out of the Carabao Cup in extra time in the first round.
Three clean sheets in 14 games. My players - as you can see - are not my biggest fans. I poured hours into corner routines, coaching team revamps and scouting, and we've got the best backroom staff in the league. Some great little loan additions, deep analysis of upcoming opponents and the needful tactical tweaks...but nothing.
I think I need more time. I'm going into the cave, see you in a few days.