I've been playing the series since Championship Manager 2 released in 1995. Twenty years later (I'm now 32) and I've been playing these games by SI for the best part of my life.
There are some really great memories to look back on. For me personally, it's usually the regens/newgens that stick out. Dean Clarke and Scott Rimmer were the best English strikers of all time for me on CM2. How I miss Enrico Caceres, the flamboyant striker of my CM3 playing days. John Dawson played in every league from the Conference to the Premier League on FM07 and then Enrico Muratore came along to fire my St Albans team into the Premier League for the first time in my CM/FM playing career. And then there is the legendary Michel Vermeer, the prolific Dutch striker, who broke records for my St Albans team on FM10. Finally, Davide Vangi the Trequartista pushed my Hellas Verona team into Serie A and also into Europe on FM12. Happy memories! They might not mean much to you but these are treasured memories for me and I think any long-term CM/FM player knows what I'm talking about!
I had a blast with so many of these games. My favourites probably being CM2, CM01/02, CM03/04, FM07 and FM10. Such amazing times as I played huge careers out on these games.
The last time I had pure enjoyment from the game was probably FM12. I felt that version was continuing to head in the right direction for me personally.
Since then, I have played a bit of FM13, which I thought was going okay although I did suffer from an unfortunate save killing bug that put me off the game. I can't really give a proper and fair judgement on it because I was so annoyed at losing my save at the time.
I played FM14 and felt really disappointed by the removal of the tactics sliders and what I perceived as a very poor attempt to offer the tactics creator as a replacement for the old system. I put a small amount of time in but felt so frustrated by that and also by the user interface that I quickly put it to one side.
Recently, a friend got me a copy of FM15 and I have to say that I was really surprised. The UI is way better and the game seems to have improved quite a bit since FM14 (which I felt dissatisfied with). Having said that, there are still some issues for me and I'm not really enjoying it in quite the same way as the 'glory days' of CM03/04, FM07 or FM10.
I have had to accept that the game has changed and so I have moved on to play other games such as the grand strategy genre of games produced by Paradox.
Ultimately, what I used to love about football management games was the squad building, player buying, tactics selection and team picking. These days, as others have said, there is a whole layer of player interaction to deal with too and I have found it frustrating and tedious.
Today, for example, I had a session on FM15 that drove me crazy. Players were complaining about not getting first-team football all over the place. The issue was that these players were making ridiculous complaints. An under 21 youth player, for example, who was nowhere near the first-team. Or, the most ludicrous example, a player with 'backup' status who had literally just played 90 minutes of league football complaining about his lack of chances in the first-team (he had alreadymade about 11 appearances in half a season)! Then I have to chat to the player, talk to the press and so on and so forth. I mean, I'm managing non-league St Albans City for goodness sake! It's crazy! And I get one or two of these every week despite having a small squad with clear player status set for each squad member.
I'm really not a fan of the new tactics system either. I thought FM10 to FM13 had a good synergy of the tactics creator and the ability to alter the sliders too. Now that we just have roles, duties, team instructions etc., I feel frustrated. I've always wanted to tell my players what to do. I really hate selecting a role instead of giving some instructions. I think it is the single worst change to the series since I have been playing it. It removes a lot of the fun for me anyway.
Having said all of this, FM15 has been fun for me for a while and I think the UI is way better than many of its predecessors. Overall, I've had about the same success as I've had on previous versions. I've played for about 100 hours and eventually managed to get a couple of promotions under my belt as well as a couple of league titles too. I've never claimed to be great at the game but I've usually managed to get there in the end when it comes to winning the odd trophy.
It's not the same game for me though and thanks to having a wife and two kids, I have to say that I'm way more picky these days about the games that I spend a lot of time with. I suspect I probably spent around 1,000 hours on each of FM07, FM10 and FM12. It's very unlikely that I'll put much more time into FM15 as it just tends to make me frustrated. It's not a rewarding experience for me personally these days.
I really should give FM Classic a try. Maybe it will scratch the itch for that classic CM/FM gameplay. I haven't really given it a fair chance before as I've always been put off by the feeling that it has gone too far the other way. Plus, I just hate the idea of the unlockables which have no appeal to me at all.
I'll always love the idea of an FM game but it seems that maybe the game has changed and it's not what I want these days. I think CM2, CM01/02 and CM03/04 were the glory days from the CM series. FM07 to FM12 were probably the glory days of the FM series. That's for me personally, of course. So many happy memories!