Love it or hate it, Football is probably the most loved sport in the UK, if not the world. Week in, week out, millions of fans descend on our nation’s towns and cities and watch grown men (and occasionally women) run around in tight shorts, pretend to fall over and get paid exorbitant amounts of money. Needless to say, I’ve never been a big fan of football, despite the fact, my grandfather used to play for Newcastle United.
Regardless, there has been a thriving market within gaming for football experiences. Whilst some are focused on individual players and scoring goals in studded shoes, others are more based on the economics of the “beautiful game”.
Enter Football Manager in 2004. The spiritual successor to the earlier Championship Manager, the game has been through countless (at least 13?) iterations and has gained a cult following among football fans. Usually found in the PC realm, SEGA has released Football Manager Touch on Switch following calls for a touch version of the game.
The premise is obvious; you play the role of a Football Manager and manage a team of footballers. There are many points of entry, but in short, you create a manager, pick a real team from one of literally hundreds and jump into the 2017/2018 season. From the off, the number of options to choose from is ludicrous. You have the ability to modify and manipulate your team’s tactics, player arrangement, and scouting as deeply as you desire, and whilst incredibly difficult to understand initially things begin to make sense after a little research.
Match days are presented as if shown on a highlights programme, moving through important moments of the match quickly. During matches, you can adjust tactics, tempo rigidity and other aspects, substitute players and modify positions. The highlights package is an interesting method of presenting matches, and whilst the ability to watch your team play is attractive, it isn’t particularly well rendered.
Between matches is where you find the actual meat of the game. Between games, you can scout for new players, deal with injuries, sign players, train players, manage contracts and negotiate with outside agencies. The scouting system can either be handled by an assistant or manually, and believe me, the system is well researched and incredibly deep. Football Manager had been used by professional scouts to find new players, as stats are well researched by FM’s army of researchers. This can lead to a large range of different player lineups, allowing you to customise every element of your team’s build and makeup. After just a little time playing it’s easy to see why millions of players enjoy Football Manager’s formula, as it’s almost addictive. Hasn’t a player been working well? Either train him or sell him. Has a player done incredibly well? Pay him more to prevent him from leaving to a bigger club. You always have options and it’s fantastically satisfying to see your little team rise from newbies to champions over hours of play.
It’s good. It was always going to be; it’s a well refined series. But there are more than a few issues.
Many were hoping that Football Manager Touch would be closer to the PC version than the inferior mobile versions. Unfortunately, many features which are taken for granted on PC are missing. For one, all media interaction has been taken out; no pre and postgame interviews. No pep talks. No scoldings. No interactions with your players outside of injuries and training. I was incredibly disappointed to find this, as I was excited to interact with this aspect of the game. One of the most interesting aspects of managing a team is working with your players in a personal capacity, yet this has been stripped. In terms of new content, the switch version’s title gives a clue; Touch. You can navigate the trawl of email and menu systems manually, but I found the joys to be arguably more effective due to my stubby meat-sticks. Whilst these controls work relatively well, I would have probably preferred to just use a mouse.
My other big issue is performance. On the Switch, it chugs drastically with very long load times and an obnoxious framerate. Even the opening ads in the game are slow, which is a serious warning sign. The game feels a little bit like it was thrown at the switch and left to work on its own, and with the high pricetag I can’t help but feel like it came out half-baked.
All in all, Football Manager Touch is a game of two halves. In the first 45 minutes, you have a wonderfully complex game made from years of development and evolution. In the second, you have a painfully underbaked port missing many of the most interesting features of recent entries, and that’s a big disappointment.
If you’re gagging for some addictive football action on the move, pick this up. If you’re happy to stay at home, then you’re better playing on PC.