Classic and Challenge modes are joined by a wide selection of significant and welcome improvements to the main, full-fat game. In a neat juxtaposition to the streamlining demonstrated by Classic mode, the main Football Manager 2013 experience is meatier and more sophisticated than it has ever been.
Matches are more interactive and feature many more options for you to alter the course of a game than in the 2012 version. Throughout each encounter your assistant provides tactical hints in the form of Twitter-like messages in a new sidebar. These messages range from observations about which opposing players are looking dangerous to notes about which of your own players are looking tired and whether or not your long ball strategy is working. How you react to this information is completely up to you--you can ignore it and have faith that things will work out in the end, act on it directly by making a sub, or act on it less directly by changing up your tactics.
The assistant manager notifications are especially helpful for those who opt to play games in commentary-only mode, or at least observe only key highlights or goal replays. No longer does it feel that not watching the game live by way of the 3D match engine--which is now smoother and more varied--means that you miss out on useful information that could aid your progress up the league. The hints not only add further realism to your job as manager, but are a real time saver.
Assistant manager comments come bundled with another match-day feature that allows you to react more quickly than before, and with minimal effort. New pulldown menus let you make quick substitutions and team mentality changes (from defensive to all-out attack and everything in between) without having to resort to the data-heavy tactical screen. There's now less excuse than ever for not reacting quickly enough to the mountain of data being churned under Football Manager 2013's hood.
Still, there are a couple of areas that would benefit from further refinement. During interactions with the media, you now have the option of speaking in the same range of tones available to you during team talks. This means you can answer questions in a passive, calm, aggressive, or other manner during press conferences, the idea being that your tone goes on to affect your players, the media's perception of you, and how you're viewed by your peers.
In reality, the tone has little noticeable impact aside from news reports noting how you reacted to certain questions. It's one of those cases where the feature is fun for a while, but eventually you give up using it because your time could be better spent focusing on something that really matters.
By contrast, different tones in team talks can change a player's morale drastically. Having two similar systems that result in such different outcomes can, at times, make things feel inconsistent and unpredictable--then again, that unpredictability could well be a design feature implemented to more closely simulate the prima-donna players who have infiltrated today's game.
Despite the negatives, Football Manager 2013 is still the best example of the series yet. Classic mode is arguably the biggest single addition the series has ever seen, and it speaks volumes about the self-awareness and skill of the game's designers that it works as well as it does on this first iteration. Whether you buy into the idea of a more streamlined Football Manager ultimately depends on how hardcore of a player you see yourself. Whatever the case, the mere fact that there's a legitimate entry level for newcomers can only be a good thing and will surely lead to even more armchair managers in the years to come.