When I was at school, anyone who was anyone played football. Even if you weren’t especially good at it, as long as you got stuck in, maybe with a “Toepunt Ted” pounding it up to the hogger who was actually quite good, (but never passed it) you would get a bit of kudos which as a school kid with little or no talent for football was a great thing. The next step was to gain an encyclopaedic knowledge of the teams and their players. Enter Premier Manager on the Amiga. What a great game. You could bang through a season quickly, not worrying too much about micromanaging. Fast forward 20 years and football management sims have become too complicated for the likes of me, someone with very little time to devote to tweaking all aspects of my club. All of this is a far cry from the Premier Manager days. Is Football Manager Handheld 2014 the tonic to all of this?
As the title suggests, you can choose to manage a club team (National teams are unlockable with an in app purchase, or you can apply for national manager’s jobs during a club season). You can pick any club from any of the major leagues around Europe, and also the sole international option, the Australian A-League. There are three main modes available, ‘Career’, which is a standard take over a club and manage them, ‘Challenge’, where you take charge of a club in a precarious situation, and finally ‘My Club’, where you can change the name, strip and stadium of an existing club and also create a couple of players to aid you on your way. Being a Southampton and Stallone fan, I’m currently leading ‘Cobra’ into Europe with a youthful Matt Le Tissier pulling the strings in midfield and Sly Stallone as a bruising defensive midfielder (he was a bit rubbish as a goalie in Escape to Victory). In this mode you retain the players of the club you have taken over.
Once you are installed as manager, you start off in pre-season where you can sort out contracts, signings and tactics. You can assign the friendly matches to the assistant manager so you don’t have to bother with that sort menial task (you are pretty important now you are numero uno). You have control over pretty much everything including, training regimes, interactions with the players, the press, the Board of the club and finances. The first place you will probably end up is the ‘Tactics’ part of the game. Here you can set formations, starting elevens and subs. You can give individual player instructions and also set all the normal things such as free kick takers, captains and so on.
Once you get to match day, you get live ratings and stamina levels for your players so you can see who might need replacing, who needs extra fitness work, and who is your star player. There are a huge amount of statistics available for you to look at during the match and depending on your level of involvement in the game, you can then make subs or tactical changes based on this. Once the match is over, you are put back to the email screen where there are a variety of messages waiting for you.
The game does a good job of making it feel ‘real’ with the email section as you can have messages from a variety of places, such as scouts, the assistant manager, general news items such as sackings, disgruntled players and international call ups for your players as well as communications from the board and also requests from the press for comment on your players transfer or mood status.
The user interface takes a little while to figure out, but considering the complexity of the game, the designers have done a very good job. Once you have got the hang of it then you will be swiping around with few problems. From my point of view there are few negatives. The graphics are not retina, but this does not matter as you don’t really need it. I’m sure non-retina also contributes to the speed of the game. I’ve come across no bugs or crashes. The only slight problem I found was when I was offered the England national managers job, I pressed on the email option to accept it, then wanted to consider it only to be presented with a yes or no option, rather than a cancel. This, however, is a small gripe and wouldn’t be a deal breaker in getting the game or not.
I must admit that I’m coming at this game from a very casual gamer’s perspective. I grew up playing Premier Manager and Championship Manager on my trusty old Amiga years ago, when I had the time to devote to thinking about formations, transfers and how I was going to sign Ryan Giggs. Now I’m in my 30s, have a very full time job, a family and not much time for gaming. When I bought Football Manager I was rather hoping that I could play it on a casual basis as I didn’t want to get too involved in it. I just wanted to be able to pick it up for ten minutes, have a quick blast, then put it away. I am very pleased to say that this game does just that. You can save regularly so if you only want to play one game you can. If you want to get more deeply involved in the game on a tactical basis, then this is certainly possible, but if you are like me, someone who hankers after the good old days of blasting through a management seasons fairly quickly, then pick up Football Manager. It is on the pricey side for an app, but if you enjoy football, or football management games you will get plenty of value from it.
You can download the latest version of Football Manager 2014 from the App Store here. It is priced $9.99. The most recent January transfers are included in this version.
Disclosure: I purchased Football Manager with my hard earned money.