Plenty of Shots, But Just Wide of the Post
Football sims fall into two categories: Football Manager and everything else that has fallen by the wayside. Sports Interactive (SI) has dominated the football sim genre for well over two decades and I still remember getting a hold of an unofficial copy of Championship Manager 3 back in 1996, via the university computer lab. From that point on, I was obsessed with the series for about eight years before finally falling off the series as my PC started to buckle under the increased load that newer editions and expanded databases put on it.
Over the years, I have bought newer editions, the last being Football Manager 2019. The game has become packed with detail and newer systems aimed to provide an increasingly more realistic simulation. This increasing push for realism and simulation has left older, lapsed players and newer players by the wayside – the game has become increasingly impenetrable for the casual player. I know I am not alone in this belief as you only need to search social media and Twitch feeds to find many streamers still playing CM 03/04 rather than the newer games.
This leaves space for a competitor or, rather, a less serious game to emerge. EA tried it with the FIFA Manager series but the last one in that franchise released in 2013/2014. For whatever reason – probably low sales compared to their norm – they stopped producing these and incorporated some elements into the mainline FIFA game. Now, THQ Nordic are publishing the latest attempt from developer Winning Streak Games. For a first attempt it is admirable and shows promise.
First off, if you are a hardcore sim fan, this isn’t the game or you. It is immediately apparent that the game has no licenses. This is no surprise as obtaining licenses is expensive and difficult, with even SI struggling at times to secure the licenses from FIFA and the various players organisations, due to the cost and the fact that EA has a multi-year license for their enormously profitable FIFA series. Luckily, just like the FM series or at least the ones I used to play, the developers have included an editor that has allowed fans to create patches and, as expected, they have used it to patch in real player and club names as well as official badges and stadiums.
Making the game more accessible to less invested players is the relative dearth of player stats. Whereas FM has well over 30 attributes per player, visible and hidden, detailing a player’s abilities at a granular level, this game makes do with six, all of which are visible. This makes recruitment far, far simpler and less than a gamble as you may find that player who is potentially a Lionel Messi competitor, only to get surprised by his weak bones or poor attitude. This allows you to get into the game quicker and to build that multi-decade dominating team almost immediately. Is it unrealistic, of course, but it is a lot more fun.
This is not to say the game is overly simplistic. Training routines can be micromanaged to suit your particular philosophy. And teams do have different expectations and philosophies that you are expected to do your best to meet. The game goes beyond FM at times, in that you have control over club finances and staff management beyond simple budget management, leaving you to hire and fire your back room staff. This takes focus away from your core job, and is an element I do not quite enjoy or see a reason to include, but it does give the player more systems to play with.
Where the game sadly lets itself down is the game engine. The team tactics and logic are infuriating at times, with players ignoring a simple headed tap into the net, instead passing it back to the edge of the box for another player to attempt a long shot. Another example is your tallest players taking the setpiece instead of positioning themselves in the box for an attempted header. Even the match commentary and visualisation is something out of the 90s, with simple descriptions of what is happening. The visual display of the match action tends to be simplistic, just showing the player on the ball. For tactical analysis it is useless as you cannot see where other players are positioned to understand what opportunities are available or being missed.
That said, We Are Football is a good first attempt. Given where SI started so many years ago, if Winning Streak Games can stick with it we may get a true FM competitor in the years to come.
A review code for We Are Football was provided to Gameblur by the publisher
Ease of Play8/10 Very Good
- More forgiving management
- Easier to get into
- Game editor allows for fans to patch in real clubs and players
- Game engine needs work
- Game can take your focus off the team management aspect with the club management aspects