90 Minute Fever – First Impressions Review

As an avid football and gaming fan, I was distraught when Sports Interactive decided to shut the doors on their football MMO, Football Manager Live. It left a massive gap in the market which up until now has remained unfilled. It’s been a long time coming, but after nearly half a decade since FML closed a worthy replacement is now in sight. Sure, we’ve had browser and mobile football management games, but the replacement I’m talking about is 90 Minute Fever which is being developed and published by indie studio Isokron.

90 Minute Fever is a game which looks to reinvigorate the much forgotten sports MMO genre, and the early signs are promising. You’d have thought that the most popular sport in the world, played and watched by billions of people across the globe, would provide the perfect audience and incentive to produce a football MMO. Unlike most though who have opted against the idea, Isokron are looking to capitalise on the sports popularity and have gone about creating a living and breathing world where each player must create their very own club from scratch and compete against other real-life managers for glory and success.

It’s a simple formula and one that 90 Minute Fever has got down to a tee. There’s something special about going head-to-head with another human manager and coming out victorious, it’s the kind of satisfaction which is absent from offline singleplayer games such as Football Manager. Defeat, while sometimes leaving a sour taste in the mouth, often spurs the “one more game” mentality in the hope you’ll rectify the loss. It makes the game extremely addictive. Not even taking Wealdstone from the National League South into the Premiership within a few seasons can match the feeling of winning games in a live world, let alone winning promotion or a league title.

If there’s one thing I have missed since Football Manager Live shut down, it’s that human interaction, both competitively and away from the pitch. In 90 Minute Fever, you feel like you are part of a community, a dynamic and living world where every day is different. There are a range of options available to communicate, whether that be through the private mail system which allows you send in-game emails to other players such as when trying to negotiate transfer bids, or you can simply chill in the public chat lounge, advertise your players, or discuss tactics. If you favour limited human interaction though, don’t be put off by the focus on the online community aspect as 90 Minute Fever is flexible enough to allow you to have as much or as little interaction with other managers as you’d like.

When you first load up 90 Minute Fever, you are taken to the club creation screen which allows you to create your very own football team, starting off with naming your newly inherited club. The choice is yours for what you want to name it, from the jokey and funny names such as Boogie Nights to the more serious ones like AFC Southampton. It’s your own team and it gives you a chance to create your very own identity which can be furthered in the kit designer screen that allows you to choose your team colours for your home, away, and third kit. You can also upload your very own club logo if you wish. You’re given a default one, but for the more creative managers out there there’s nothing better than creating your own emblem for your newly founded club.

A football management MMO should be pretty self-explanatory, but for those unsure, some of the things you do in-game include setting up your tactics with a number of different formations and options available allowing you to create tactics unique to you (more options will be added), signing players through the transfer market and auctions, playing league and cup matches against other users, and developing youth players. All of the above are currently in-game and function superbly for an Early Access game. There can sometimes be a second or two of input delay in the tactics or transfer screens, but that has already been reduced since beta testing started and will no doubt be eradicated completely before too long. Another nice touch is that the GUI is completely customisable, meaning that you can choose how your home screen looks and what widgets you want displayed where.

Most of the core features you would expect from a football management game are already in place heading into Early Access, meaning that if you do decide to jump in, there will already be lots of content for you to enjoy for your monthly subscription. However, Isokron have big plans for the game with the additions of stadiums, staff, manager profiles, and 2D match commentary being just some of the things you can expect to be added over the course of the game’s development.

90 Minute Fever is by no means complete, but that is why the game is releasing in Early Access. Compared to browser and mobile games currently on the market, however, I feel that the game offers a lot more content and enjoyment than anything else currently out there with more to come. The emphasis is on competing against other real managers in a living, breathing, evolving game world. You’re getting a well rounded football management MMO at present, but you’ll get an even more feature rich, detailed, and realistic game at the end of Early Access, and that’s the beautiful part.

If you’re looking to be able to add the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to your squads though, you won’t find any real-life players here. However, the fantasy players that are generated in 90 Minute Fever are all believable with names that match their nationality. Not only that, but they each have their own unique stats and playstyles.

The game does, however, have one completely unique feature and that is the ‘Time Portal: Players Through History’. At the start of each new season, a number of youth players will be released into the game world, replacing those players who are retiring and keeping the game world fresh. Isokron has developed a feature which will add a number of real but retired footballers who will enter the game world as youth players. That means that as well as your normal fantasy youth players, you’ll also see the likes of Matthew Le Tissier, Patrick Viera, Paolo Di Canio, and Jay-Jay Okocha enter the world as youth players from the age of 16. Anyone can sign these players, and they will be transferred to the team who is willing to pay the most. While you can expect the most famous players to be well sought-after, there are literally hundreds of former players whom you will be able to try and sign, meaning that you’ll more than likely be able to grab at least one of your top targets. To make things fair, not all of the players will enter the game world in the same season with their releases being spread evenly.

Updates so far have been rolled out on a regular and consistent basis since beta testing started at the end of 2015. Each update brings with it a lot of fixes, improvements, and more often than not, new features. The in-game match commentary is currently undergoing a massive overhaul which will help add to the immersion. If you’re a fan of the Championship Manager games from back in the day, there’s a good chance you’ll feel at home in 90 Minute Fever.

Overall, 90 Minute Fever is looking to be a very promising game and will fill the gap that FML left for many of its users when that game shut down in 2011. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a direct clone of Football Manager Live, because it isn’t. While there will undoubtedly be similarities, Isokron have enough of their own fresh ideas to make 90 Minute Fever unique in its own way. Not only that, but they have clear plans on how to combat some of the issues which FML faced and which unfortunately brought around its demise.

Anyone looking for a detailed and competitive football management game must check out 90 Minute Fever. The community so far is extremely friendly and welcoming, especially to newcomers. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges in places, but the core structure is in place allowing for hours of playtime, and after all, it’s Early Access. Don’t let that put you off though, as 90 Minute Fever is more complete than most games that launch on the platform.

You’ll definitely be getting your money’s worth if you decide to jump into 90 Minute Fever. You won’t be disappointed, and with even more to come in the future, I expect 90 Minute Fever to reinvigorate a new genre and set the benchmark of what a sports MMO could and ultimately should be.

Check out the 90 Minute Fever website for more information here.

Purchase 90 Minute Fever on Steam here.

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Stephen is Gaming Respawn's Editor-in-Chief and takes care of the day-to-day running of the site. You're most likely to see him chilling in the news section where he happens to spend most of his time covering the latest news.