Football Manager is in it's own world and has absolutely no competition. You get to be the man in the dugout of any football team from any league of any corner of the world you want, and the 2014 edition is nothing short of great.
The vast, unending databases of players, teams and countries ensure a totally complete footballing experience. Spending an hour on this game will be enough to glue you to the screen, and your friends will be wondering why you ditched FIFA Career Mode.
There is two experiences which make up Football manager. The first one (being the majority of the experience) is the Menu based 'Office' like interface where everything is sorted into categories. Under ones like 'Club' You can access the team tactics, the squad lineups, staff members etc. You can also go on 'Search' and look at everything from the top Vietnamese youth teams to who the Luton Town's Chief Scout's favorite team is. It is endless, expansive and truly gem-like.
The second thing in this game is the Matchday, in-stadium Live experience. Yes, this is where your hard work and efforts are shown. Remember, this is NOT FIFA. So even though you may be heavy favorites to win a game, it doesn't mean that the other team can't end up getting lucky and stealing all three points on the day. (It happens every week in RL). In FIFA, losing is bad and thats in. In Football Manager, losing is a vital method of tactical appraisal. Without accepting the odd loss, learning from it and getting on with the game, you will be massively under experienced later on in the game when you challenge for higher leagues (Assuming you aren't 'That Guy' who starts as Man United or Barcelona).
There are definitely some issues with the Match Engine, however.
I mean, everyone loses games. But when it's nil-nil all game and you get that vital headed goal in the 88th minute to give your side a lucky lead late on, you somehow stll concede in the one minute of stoppage time despite parking the bus. I always get something like that. In a game where, despite both sides being poor at finishing that game, a 5.3 performance rated player with an 7/20 Freekick skill scores an immaculately struck freekick 35 yards out in under a minute after your goal. If that happened once in a blue moon, then fair enough; But it happens to me nearly every game where I'm leading by a goal in the last minute.
If your team scores a goal late on and you want to 'Park the Bus' or 'Shut up Shop' it is unfortunately very unlikely it would work. Slowing down the play, clotting the defense together and playing deeply and defensively may be your chosen response to hold onto that precious lead, but it doesn't mean your team will actually follow those orders. Again, fair enough if they were properly defending and the opposition persisted and just nicked a lucky goal, but when you have all the aforementioned orders selected, but on the pitch your 28 year old, experienced defensive full backs are so high up the pitch as far as the Winger position, its ludicrous and deeply troubling. There should be a mental attribute which covers how well a player listens to your tactics.
The game engine usually get chopped and changed every edition of Football Manager, but one year they'll fix a problem, then the next year that problem would be back and worse than before, whilst they've seemed to channel all their concentration into adding in buildings and shops around the stadium for purely cosmetic effect.
All in all, I'd give Football Manager 2014:
Presentation: 8/10 - Amazing, but frustrating lack of many higher club's licenses, all around the world.
Gameplay: 6/10 - Even though it's hard to stop playing, it doesn't mean it doesnt get frustrating or even boring at times.
Target Audience: 10/10 - Perfectly captures and hooks anyone with even the slightest affection for football.