Opening Franchise Hockey Manager 5 was like going to an old friend’s house I haven’t been to since high school, but once you walk through the door it is like you never left. Before I get into my review of Out of the Park Developments’ latest hockey management simulator, I feel my past with this game may help.
Franchise Hockey Manager 2 was my first jump into management simulation games and I fell head over heels in love with everything I could do. As of this review, I’ve put over 130 hours into FHM 2 with my last playthrough being on July 2018. Despite putting time into Franchise Hockey Manager 3 and 4, FHM 2 will always be my baby.
New to Franchise Hockey Manager is online leagues. Online leagues allow you to play the same type of franchise, but with friends. Setting up a league is incredibly easy. You can create a link that you can share online. You can customize your league as well. FHM allows for custom league and team logos so running a sim league should be incredibly easy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to invite friends as I don’t have any with Franchise Hockey Manager 5.
The idea of playing a league with friends is definitely intriguing. Being able to scout and then draft the same guys my friend is gunning for is such a wonderful troll job.
When you’re in your online league, it takes the same approach as an offline one which means no hand-holding. You can take the Winnipeg Jets approach where you meticulously trade, scout and draft young talent that will develop in a couple years to a Stanley Cup caliber type of team or you can throw your money year after year at the best free agents because your owner wants you to win now.
Your actions don’t stop with the high-level General Manager-type duties. Franchise Hockey Manager allows you to dive into the minutia of hockey coaching as well. When you create your lines, you’ll notice that under the player’s name is a spot for their role. Their role will define how they are used when you’re playing or simming games. There are 21 forward roles and 14 defenseman roles broken up into various player categories.
Some of my role assignments were pretty easy. In my Boston Bruins playthrough, I assigned Patrice Bergeron as a “Setup Man” in the playmaker category while Brad Marchand was a “Sniper” in the offensive forward category. It gets trickier once you get further into the lineup or you’re trying to assign roles for players you’re not familiar with. Luckily, there’s a role explanation next to whichever role you choose.
You’ll also be in charge of your team’s tactics. Your tactics will shape the way your players play on the ice. It is possible to be pretty hands-off when it comes to tactics and you’ll be okay, but knowing the ins and outs of hockey will surely give you an advantage.
The Good Things
Franchise Hockey Manager 5 allows you to live out your dream as a professional hockey General Manager, Head Coach, and Scout. This gives you full immersion when it comes to your hockey team playing the way you’d like them to, regardless of how their real-life counterpart plays.
Do you think giving Zdeno Chara 25+ minutes a night is crazy? Bump him down to the second pairing and max his timeout at 18 minutes. Do you think that Tuukka Rask is no longer the guy between the pipes? Put him on the trade block.
Menus have been tweaked a bit from Franchise Hockey Manager 4, but nothing drastic that will widen your eyes upon starting a game. While not greatly improved from FHM 4, there seems to be a better flow to where submenus sit.
Transitions from one league to another (NHL to AHL for example) are seamless with one click and FHM has a plethora of leagues available for you to choose from. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they added any league licenses, but with the number of leagues available, I don’t think it will detract from your enjoyment.
Another positive is the depth of scouting that Franchise Hockey Manager has brought since the first version. While some could look at this as a negative, the depth in which you have to assign your scouts is incredible. For those who have never played FHM before, you can choose a region (Western Canada, Western USA, Europe, Rest of the World, etc), a certain league (NHL, AHL, KHL, NCAA, DEL, etc) or a certain team within the league. You’re also able to assign how long the assignment is (one week to permanent) and when you want to receive reports from your scout.
Your scout is also graded in two areas: ability and potential. The ratings will vary from bad to excellent and you’ll be able to choose which area your scout will focus on when he’s on assignment.
Honestly, I don’t have many bad things to say about Franchise Hockey Manager 5. I enjoyed my time with it, but there were some quirks.
One of the biggest issues I ran into was GM AI. I wanted to test how good (or bad) the AI was and as the Boston Bruins I offered the Columbus Blue Jackets a 2019 second round pick and David Backes for Artemi Panarin. For those who aren’t in the know, David Backes is a 34 year old power forward who hasn’t had 50+ since 2014-2015. Meanwhile, Artemi Panarin is 26 and coming off of an 80+ season in 2017-2018.
Another bug I ran into was while offering contracts. Stud defenseman Charlie McAvoy asked for a 3 year, $1.30M per year contract. I offered a 3 year, $1.28M per year contract but the offer was rejected. When I was notified by my manager messages, it stated that he was offered a 1 year, $0 contract. This happened multiple times with different free agents.
Franchise Hockey Manager 5 feels like a tighter version of FHM 4. If you’ve logged a lot of hours into FHM 4, I wouldn’t recommend jumping over to FHM 5. There isn’t enough added that you should feel like you’re missing out, unless you really want to get an online league going. If you’re coming from 2 or 3, it will be worth your purchase.
With that said, I loved my time with FHM 5. If the idea of being a General Manager and/or Head Coach with an incredible smorgasbord of options and features to run a team, you’ll want this simulator.
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If the idea of being a General Manager and/or Head Coach with an incredible smorgasbord of options and features to run a team, you’ll want this simulator.