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Football Manager 2024 hands-on preview: one last match before Project Dragonfly

Ahead of a major overhaul for the series, FM 2024 is doing its best not to look like a mere roster update
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Sports Interactive's new offices in East London stand in an area repurposed from the 2012 Olympics, and finally opened to the general public after the pandemic. This particular building, quite tellingly named the Broadcast Centre, is where the event was operated.

At the office, employees all have soccer club jerseys on their chairs - some have Tottenham Hotspur kits, some Arsenal FC's, and on and on for a variety of clubs from around the world of football. These are not random jerseys, as they're from their favorite teams, and specifically from the year they joined the studio.

Getting in the wing we can freely visit, the mood around is very relaxed. That's partially due to the fact the Football Manager 2024 build we're about to play is almost final, complete with multiple language options, and all the refinements you'd usually expect from a full release.

FM24 key art

A short briefing before the hands-on session details how important this year's game is to the team led by Miles Jacobson. Football Manager 2024 is "the most complete version," and feels like "closing a chapter" before Project Dragonfly opens another next year.

The team went to great lengths to make sure it was more than just a roster update.

Last year's game saves compatibility is being introduced for the first time, and on the licensing side, J-League is coming to the game to oil the series' debut in the Japanese market - that's ironic, if you consider Sports Interactive is owned by arguably one of the biggest Japanese game companies, Sonic Superstars publisher Sega.

FM24 comes with a variety of tweaks large and small. Smarter transfers, intermediaries, market platform Transfer Room support, individual targets for players, positional play, and set-piece coaches are among the biggest. But there's more.

Football Manager 2024 screenshot of a stadium during a game.

Players now have three different options when it comes to the starting database - Original, Real World, and Your World. Original makes your season start with new season's transfers already completed, with all the due consequences on your team's budget. Real World kicks off with last season's rosters, and transfers occur on the same days as in the real world. Finally, Your World makes it so the newest transfers don't happen at all, and you can still interfere in any negotiation.

For this to be a transitional Football Manager game, there's definitely no shortage of new features, but that's on paper. What about the pitch?

As we spent a few hours with the game, the introduction feels very similar to the previous Football Manager games. You have a whole sequence of meetings, whether it's with your staff or the press, which you can skip at your own expense.

FM24 Tactics screen

Set-piece coaches are a new small variable in the first few gameplay beats, and one that could potentially have an interesting impact. 

Back when it was revealed, we feared it'd be an overly elaborate process, maybe some obscure setting hidden in the heart of tactics.

However, Sports Interactive put it upfront, making sure you can't miss it as you start a new season. It's a six-step guided path that feels simple and intuitive, allowing you to choose between zonal marking, player marking or hybrid, assigning players roles such as box threat and recovery defender, and more. You can even dictate how your team should handle throw-ins, now.

FM24 screenshot of the Training screen

FM24 is also introducing intermediaries. These are designed exclusively to help you sell players, not pitching new talent. At your request, they can try and sell players on your squad, in case you want to get rid of them but don't manage to do so.

Before hiring an intermediary, you still need to ask if that player has some interest in leaving your club. If that's not the case, you won't even be able to reach an intermediary to start negotiations.

There's a variety of intermediaries you can get in touch with, and each of them has their own fame and a specific percentage on that deal they require to work with you. The more you're supposed to earn, the bigger their percentage.

In our case, we tried to sell Giacomo Raspadori from SSC Napoli (or better, "Parthenope," as it's called in the game for licensing reasons), but he wasn't willing to leave.

As we wanted to cut our forwards roster, we had to settle for Giovanni Simeone, but only for a loan. That's telling how you're not granted good offers, even if you ask for help from intermediaries.

FM24 Club Info screen

Some say Football Manager never changes, and that appears to be the case with injuries and transfer market prices.

While we'll need more time to look into both, we were asked $87 million for Scalvini, while he was reportedly moving from Atalanta to Napoli for just 50 million, and we ended up buying Benfica's CB Antonio Silva for 65 million - in four installments, but for a player who still has to prove himself.

Moving to injuries, after only four friendlies, our team lost Mario Rui, Anguissa, Osimhen, and Politano. It could easily be a coincidence, and some might say it's part of the job when you're a manager, but it's certainly frustrating to see just minutes into a season.

FM24 key image showing a soccer player performing a corner kick

The game comes with new pre-match animations, and you can clearly see players dictate where the ball is going with their first touch. Ball physics themselves are more polished and realistic than ever, and lighting appears more nuanced in response to the time of day.

Project Dragonfly is set to be the major overhaul FM fans have been eagerly waiting for years, but, in the meantime, Football Manager 2024 is doing its best not to look like a mere roster update.

As for if it'll be enough to make this another necessary entry for series' fans, we'll be able to tell you in more detail in our full review.