I’ve been a huge fan of football management games for many years. Football here means The Beautiful Game, or soccer if you must. Football Manager has been the clear leader in this category on the desktop for a number of years – and a couple years ago it came to the iPad as Football Manager Handheld 2011.
Football Manager Handheld 2013 is the third generation of this game on the iPad and iPhone. I played the heck out of and reviewed the two previous generations. I installed this year’s version the day it hit the App Store and have spent numerous hours playing it too – and it’s about time for a review of it.
The game lets you take the reins as manager of any club from a choice of the top leagues in 14 countries. The countries list has expanded this year and now includes Australia, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Wales. You’re in charge of player transfers, training, tactics, and managing the team during matches.
Here are details on features that are new in the 2013 edition of the game:
Making their full debut this year in FMH13 are in-app purchases. These optional extras are available in both game modes and allow you the opportunity to instantly do things such as expanding your stadium or attract a wealthy ‘Sugar Daddy’ chairman for a small fee. You can also purchase fresh new challenges in Challenge Mode.
Please note that the In-App Purchases ‘Expand Stadium’ and ‘Build Youth Academy’ can only be bought once you have started a game and are only usable in that game.
Other new features:
• Fully up-to-date league/player/competition data to football season 2012/13.
• Player photos now included for licensed leagues.
• New playable leagues – Northern Ireland / Republic of Ireland.
• Player comparison & form updates.
• Media / news / match improvements.
The 14 countries with playable leagues in Football Manager Handheld are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Northern Ireland, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Wales.
The game can be played in four languages; English, French, Italian and Spanish.
The game can be played in two modes: Career and Challenge. In Career mode you’re in it for the long haul; while the Challenge mode lets you test out your managerial skills in a number of tough short-term scenarios.
The app is priced at $9.99 and offers 4 free challenges in that mode along with 3 new ones that are unlockable via In-App purchase at 99 cents each. The Sugar Daddy rich chairman upgrade costs nearly as much as the game itself at $8.99.
— The game’s interface is excellent for all the management tasks it offers you. Managing your squad, searching for new players, comparing players, and setting and adjusting your team tactics are all easy and intuitive to do. I love the ability to not just choose from a wide array of formations, but also to customize and save your own.
— The Career and Challenge modes provide good variety, and are both tough to get great results in. I particularly like the ‘Austerity Measures’ challenge, where you need to cut the wage bill by 25% while maintaining a good league position. The range of challenges available is good too – though I’m sure there’s plenty of room for expansion in future versions.
— When I first played Football Manager Handheld I missed a lot of the depth of the desktop game as well as some of the additional manager actions available. I still miss some of this, but I’ve come to hugely appreciate how much faster and more easily playable the iPad game is. I just don’t have the time / obsession level to get immersed in the desktop game anymore – and it really does take a much different level of immersion to do well at the desktop version of the game. On the iPad I can play through a full season in a fraction of the time it would take on the desktop.
— Information is presented very well in the game, making good use of the iPad screen size. Player profile pages are much improved in this year’s version. I especially like how their attributes are now color-coded – green for their strongest ratings, blue for their medium ratings, and brown for their lower ratings.
— It’s a game you can spend a quick 5 minutes with when you’re killing time between things, or happily devote hours too if work and life allow.
— If you’re willing to pony up the $8.99 for the Sugar Daddy upgrade, it’s a lot of fun playing with a shedload of money at your disposal.
— This has always been a game that is as bare bones as it gets when it comes to graphics and visual bells and whistles when showing matches being played. And that’s fine – but it feels as if this aspect of the game could do with at least a little refresh or improvement by now. I don’t have any wish at all for fancy graphics or effects, but I would love to see the garish, painful strobe-light type flashing effect when a goal is scored be killed off – just as one quick suggestion.
— My biggest disappointment with the game is that the AI just doesn’t seem great in a few places – and is downright bizarre in some places. On the bizarre front, I see a number of occasions where during a match it will have a player fouling himself, sometimes even getting carded for it. It’s pretty comical when you see it announce that ‘Arshavin goes in hard on Arshavin’.
I know team owners can be fickle and unpredictable, but the AI leans towards the ridiculous too much for my liking in this area. Some examples of this:
In my first full season with Arsenal I won the League Cup, finished 3rd in the Premier League, and went out in the semi-finals of the Champions League. When friendlies were staring for the 2nd season the board said they thought I should be performing better in my role. Seems more than a little harsh given where Arsenal have been the last few seasons.
In my second full season, I finished 2nd in the Premier League and made the final of the Champions League, losing a close match to Barcelona. Again in the off-season the board felt I should be performing better. At that point I’d spent an aggregate 43 million in the transfer market in 2 seasons, won a cup, finished 2nd and 3rd in the league, and nearly won the Champions League.
Another AI feature that seems dodgy is the number of occasions where the board seem to be deeply concerned about harmony among the players when there’s no call for them to be. In one season I was 2nd in the Premier League, running neck and neck with Chelsea, in the final few weeks of the league season and had *one* player (Sagna) who was unhappy because he didn’t get into the starting 11 very often. And the board said they were pleased with me but “particularly concerned at the negative atmosphere emanating from the club”. Nonsense. I checked and every other first time player had good morale or better, all seemed happy, and several listed me as their favored person.
On another occasion the team had a 20 match unbeaten run in all competitions, won the Premier League, won the FA Cup, the whole first team was happy with many listing me as their favored person and signing new contracts, but 2 or 3 players in the reserves were unhappy. And the board said they were pleased but also unhappy with the lack of harmony in the squad. Seriously?
Football Manager Handheld is still a great iPad game if you enjoy football management games; but I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with the 2013 edition. There are some nice improvements, but a number of them are paid for extras. It seems to me that a game with such basic level graphics should be able to excel when it comes to AI – and it just doesn’t feel like it is doing so.
Here’s an App Store link for Football Manager Handheld 2013; it’s priced at $9.99 with In-App purchases as mentioned above.
Disclosure: This app was independently purchased by the post author; for information on our review policies please see our About page.