A review of OOTP’s Franchise Hockey Manager ’14
Full disclosure: I was asked by a member of the OOTP team to write this review. No, I was not paid for it. Yes, I was given a free copy. No one with OOTP saw or edited this review before it was published.
I am a huge fan of the Out of the Park baseball series released by OOTP developments. For an armchair general manager, given the mind-blowing level of details, it is the best sports simulation game ever created. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited when OOTP released their franchise hockey sim, Franchise Hockey Manager ’14. I was actually so excited about it that I didn’t allow myself to purchase it when it was released because I was in Graduate school and didn’t want to flunk out. Now that I’ve graduated and played the game, I’m glad I waited until after graduation, otherwise graduation day may never have come.
If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about being the General Manager of a hockey team, this is the game for you. The detail and and control this game gives you is great. You can take control of teams in about 20 leagues, including the NHL, AHL, KHL, OHL and WHL. You can also take control of any and every NHL season dating back to 1947. I didn’t play any of the historical seasons, as the depth of the game play starting in the present was plenty to keep my attention. However, if, as a Caps fans, you’re interested in seeing the 2009-10 season play out differently, this mode is for you. Or perhaps you often wish the 1998 season had ended differently. Well, here’s your chance to replay that season and trade Esa Tikkanen before he misses a wide open net in the Stanley Cup finals.
Like I said above, I found myself starting with the 2013-14 season and playing as the Caps GM. You have a lot of control that you can customize, a hallmark of the baseball sim series. One thing I really liked was the ability to assign ice time percentages when creating your lines. You have a lot of control over your scouting staff as well, so much that the detail of their reports can be overwhelming at times. The game gives you control over contracts, trade, promotions, etc that allows you to pull off all those moves you’ve been wishing your favorite team could make. For those of you, like me, who like advanced stats, the game tracks individual player Corsi and Fenwick, as well as Corsi Rel and Fenwick Rel. That was a really cool surprise!
This is a new franchise, so I came into this experience expecting for it to be a bit of a work in progress. Certainly, there are things that can be improved (luckily, the OOTP releases frequent patches and listens to feedback on their message boards). For one, the trade engine needs some work. As the Caps GM, I was able to acquire Claude Giroux, Jamie Benn and Jack Johnson without giving up Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Alzner, Carlson or Holtby. With some tricky moves, I was able to stay under the salary cap. I then let the computer control the team so I could simulate a ways forward without interuptions to get a feel for how the game plays out as you move into future seasons. I was completely shocked to find the computer put Ovechkin and Benn on waivers for no apparent reason. Obviously, this wouldn’t happen if you stay in control of all roster moves, but that’s certainly something that should be fixed.
If you are the kind of sports fan that likes to think about the game from the perspective of a GM, this game is for you. My only word of warning is that there will be some small annoyances, as this is a new franchise and it is not yet as deeply developed as OOTP’s baseball sim. However, if the OOTP baseball sim is any indication, Franchise Hockey Manager is only going to get better from the strong foundation provided by FHM ’14.
For more info on the game or to pick up your own copy, visit the FHM website here