Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 is a very detailed text-based Hockey management simulator game from Out of the Park Developments, best known for their Baseball simulator games, ‘Out of the Park Baseball‘. The game provides a massive 19 leagues to choose from across several different countries, from the world wide known NHL to the comparably minor league of English Hockey. If you’ve ever played a sports management game and enjoyed it, this is certainly a game you should check out. Hockey fan or not.
The game has a very clean and user-friendly interface, very similar to that of their Baseball simulators for those who may be familiar with them. This is an absolutely key detail in any sports management game, and thankfully OOTPD nailed it with this one. With the amount of detail in FHM’14, such as drafts, tactical decisions and financial management, it would be an absolute ordeal if the menus weren’t as clean and easy to navigate as they are. As someone with a relatively limited experience with Hockey at this level, it is still a somewhat overwhelming experience to try and get to grips with all the functionality and mechanics of the game at times, but thankfully the ability to delegate tasks out to an assistant member of staff certainly takes away some of the sting of this process and allows you to focus mainly on the areas you’d prefer.
OOTPD have certainly put in a lot of hours to create a very immersive and detailed world that even allows you to edit players and financial stats in the ‘commissioner mode’ of the game. This level of customisation is always appreciated in any game, particularly something like this. The game also includes support to include your own player images, team logos and league logos to really add another level of customisation and immersion.
The ‘historical’ game mode in FHM’14 is something I really have to give OOTPD credit for. This gives you the ability to track back decades into the past and remedy any defeats your team suffered back in the day – within reason of course. It’s a very impressive game mode, and it’ll certainly be greatly appreciated by the older Hockey fans as they try to grab their team that play-off victory they truly deserved.
FHM’14′s game simulation engine gives great text-based feedback as to what is going on in the game, allowing you to change tactics or players as you see fit throughout the match. It would have been nice to see a little more spacing going on in the text-feed however, as it gets pretty busy pretty fast. Some of you may be disappointed that the matches are simulated and described via a text-feed rather than graphically rendered as some of you Football Manager aficionados may have come accustomed to. However, FHM’14 does maintain the kind of tension you get in a graphic simulation, as you desperately hope that your team manage to succeed in their late comeback. This really shows the level of immersion you get in this game – regardless of it’s text-based nature.
However, I do have a couple of criticisms for the game. Mainly, the loading and general stability of the game seem a little shaky at times. Occasionally I had to wonder whether or not the game was still processing due to a few flashes of “Not Responding” appearing on the top of my screen, this came accompanied with a few instances of buttons not working properly and some small errors in the text-feed in matches that resulted in team names being completely dropped from the feed for a short time. All things that I’m sure will be resolved in a patch eventually.
Secondly, and this is only by comparison, but I can’t help but feel that this game is distinctly less polished than OOTPD’s Baseball series of simulators. Maybe this is due to them wanting to keep their primary focus on Out of the Park Baseball, but I can’t deny I’m a little disappointed and it does make me question their confidence in FHM. Although this comparison between the two franchises from the developer wouldn’t even be being made if I didn’t already know just how good their Baseball management game was.
The bottom line is, OOTPD have produced yet another great sports management game. Whether you’re a die hard hockey fan or not, I’d certainly recommend this as a game you should check out if you’ve ever enjoyed a sports management game. I’d certainly say you’re going to really appreciate this a lot more if you ARE a fan of Hockey, but if you’re not, you should certainly consider checking it out.