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Franchise Hockey Manager 3 Review

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New York Rangers v Dallas Stars Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Using a review copy provided by Franchise Hockey Manager, Blueshirt Banter has reviewed the product -- which might be a great gift idea this time of year!

From the creators of the flagship OOTP Baseball, we have Franchise Hockey Manager 3. For those of you who have played the series before, this version shows a remarkable jump from where things have been in the past — mainly due to the fact that it’s officially licensed by the NHL — but it’s also far more in depth. I’ll try to break down the important aspects of things in groups.

Starting Up:

Games like this are always akin to climbing a mountain. At the very beginning you’re standing at the base of it and it’s a remarkably daunting task. There’s about a hundred different options, menus and things you can do and you have to do all of them before playing your first preseason game.

FHM3 is no different, and part of the allure of a game like this is just how much control you have over things. Still, for those people who want to pick this up and jump right in, there’s a good chunk of time that has to be invested at the start of things to get started. For example: You need set lines, tactics and rosters from scratch. I think a big thing that would have helped would be for FHM3 to have automated a starting point ala the NHL series on consoles.

There the game automates what they think your lines should be. In FHM3 EVERYTHING is blank from the get-go. It’s a clear slate you get to work with, and while that’s an awesome level of customization, it’s tedious to dress every player you want to dress, adding them into all the different lineup formations and setting each player’s roles from scratch. It took me 20 minutes to find my way into my first pre-season game because Henrik Lundqvist was at the Worlds and I didn’t have enough players dressed. (Note, apparently you can ask the game to make a suggestion for you to do this but I never found it.)

Like I said: Very realistic, but it would have helped to get something more than vague you’re under the required number of players dressed.

After you’ve dressed everyone, set the lines for even strength, the power play and the penalty kill you have to give roles to your players. This is another area that comes across as a good idea, but the execution is lacking: Take Jimmy Vesey for example. Put Vesey on the first line and you get your typical options from “sniper to dangler to playmaker.” But move Vesey to the third line and those options turn into “counterattack forward, shadow and defensive forward.”

Those are very out-dated terms to force onto players. The Rangers were running four lines of skill until they got blasted with injuries. Limiting bottom six players to a defensive role is exactly what a game like this shouldn’t be doing. And while it’s a minor gripe, I do want to simulate out Vesey in a defensive role and an offensive role to see how much of a difference there is.

Still, the level of customization on this is both insane and admirable. Being able to put together both where you want a player to play and how you want him to play.

In Depth Options:

In FHM3 you control everything. Literally everything. You want to look at the team’s prospects up and down the lineup? Done. You want to examine Calgary’s prospects playing in Sweden? Done. You want to take a look at who might be the top pick of next year’s draft (assuming you’re playing as a bottom feeder)? Done. Done. Done.

It’s almost overwhelming just how much player information they have, and how much information is involved with each player. You have contract status, current salary cap, a grading system based on how well they’re playing and so much more. You have to keep your players happy, your management happy, the team under the cap, the AHL team compliant and basically everything in between.

Once you get into the game of course, it’s one of the best simulations out there. The game itself has so much information you get to play with that you might forget you actually have a job ... to coach a hockey team.

This is where things get fun. Once you’ve laid the base to your roster, you get to actually tinker with things. Is Michael Grabner not scoring 400 goals for you on your team? Do you need to swap his role? You can.

In-game you get to control everything from ice time, to which group goes out on the power play to who is in the shootout. The game comes down to numbers, of course, but there is a very realistic randomness to things.

Take, for example, my 5-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Rick Nash had a hat trick, Henrik Lundqvist had a shutout and Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and three assists. Normal, right? Well Carolina had 55 shots to my 12.

Later in the year I lost a game 3-2 and outshot an opponent 47 to 15. The moments are notably frustrating because you’re doing everything right and the puck isn’t going into the back of the net. Random? Yes. But also very real.

Events happen within FHM3 that make you feel like a real coach. One day you’re winning and things are going great. The next you’ve lose a few close games, Nash is pissed off and your owner isn’t pleased.

There’s actual stress to the game that can’t be replicated in a game like NHL 17 because you have no control over what happens on the ice. In NHL 17 you can control your player and put the team on your back to take them to the promise land. There is no personal touch on this in game -- you put the pieces on the table and let them fall as they may.

If you elect to change those things, you have the option to. Trades, in particular, work well, but sometimes leave you with vague descriptions.

Trade Attempt: Dan Girardi for Hampus Lindholm

Anaheim Response: “That’s not a fair offer, don’t bother me with talks like that.”

Adding a fourth round pick didn’t do much to help. But adding a second round pick and Nicklas Jensen was just enough to get the job done. The game values Girardi very highly, it should be noted — but a team like Anaheim that’s stocked with defense shouldn’t be very keen on taking any defenders.

Managing contracts, negotiations and players can be tedious because of how much clicking you have to do, but FHM does a really good job of laying everything out so that you can easily see what you’re working with.

Some bugs:

The game is pretty realistic, as I put above, but there’s always nitpicky things that can be adjusted.

The players comments sometimes cause some issues. For example, when trying to sign a draft pick I was told he was waiting until he heard from other teams. Uh, alright, but since I drafted you don’t expect too many offers!

In another instance I offered Brent Burns -- how he was allowed to become a UFA I don’t know -- a seven-year, $8-million per year deal. He told me he wanted to see what other teams said (alright) then agreed to a deal worth $6.5-million with the Sabres.

Most negotiations go smoothly, though. It’s also worth noting that FHM3 forcing you to wait a few days to re-adjust offers makes it more realistic. I’d like to have seen cleaner conversations with draft picks and RFAs, but they might be developing it into some updated.

Overview:

This is an amazingly in depth game. If you have any interest at all in hockey simulations this version blows FHM 2 out of the water. It’s got a couple of bugs, but it’s totally worth it for your friends who might want to jump into the hockey simulation world, wants to try their blog ideas in “real life” or even just wants to sit down and have some fun.

Pros:

  • Unreal amount of customization .
  • Level of detail unseen in competitive games like this.
  • The ability to jump into most any league, look at any player and to get information on all of them.
  • The most in-depth game on the market in terms of hockey simulation.

Cons:

  • The comments from the players can be cleaned up to be more realistic.
  • Player rankings are off (which is an issue for every game, to be fair).
  • Almost too much detail at the start, especially when you’re starting from scratch.