Sports Interactive have tried on several occassions to shift their hugely popular and ridiculously addictive Football Manager titles to systems other than the PC. They’ve seen some success in adapting the system to iDevices in recent years and now its the turn of Sony’s PlayStation Vita. On the surface it really does seem like a great match, the system is respectably powered and features touch screen controls. The systems sizable screen should also lend itself well to the interactivity of the series, plus the ability to play where ever you want means addicts never have to leave their game ever again (especially if they also own Football Manager 2014 and play the Classic mode on that as you can switch your save file between the two almost seamlessly).
And to be fair, they’ve done a really great job of cramming the entire Football Manager experience onto the system, okay those of you who like to have dozens of leagues on the go and be able to scout the furthest reaches of the globe to gather talent for your teams may feel a tinge of disappointment at the number of leagues you can have running, but I’d say its a small sacrifice to pay for the portability of Football Manager Classic 2014.
Sports Interactive have built the entire game around the Classic Mode that they introduced with Football Manager 2013, here its titled Career Mode and is the core focus of the game, those of you who know the series will know what to expect, for those of you who haven’t played Football Manager before, well, you take over a team of your choice and try to lead them to glory by playing around with formations, buying or loaning players and generally operating as you’d kind of expect a football manager to do. It’s incredibly compulsive and I personally have been known to have notebooks and spreadsheet documents full of formations, squad line ups and all sorts of other things. Hell, at one point, with Football Manager 2009, I kept a blog of a rather topsy turvy career as manager of the French Ligue 1 team Bordeaux. It’s pretty much every football fans dream, after all, we all know better than the man who is actually hired to run the football elements of the clubs we watch week in and week out every season.
The amount of detail and the number of options available in this handheld version of the game are absolutely astounding, and its very very difficult to find any differences between this and its “bigger” PC relative. The differences do start to emerge though, and its most noticeable in the games user interface. You see, Football Manager has a bit of a reputation for having menu’s within menu’s within menu’s, its rather SRPG in its nature, you can change exactly where you want a player to start a game, but also give them tailored instructions for how much you want them to press, if you want them to play as (for example) a winger, inside forward, wide play maker or any number of different things, with additional inputs available for how much you want them to push forward, mark another player, the tempo of their passing the list goes on.
This all works great on PC, its ridiculously easy, even on the stripped back “Classic Mode” (the PC version full fat mode goes into further tactical depth), however, here, crammed onto the Vita’s screen and with Sports Interactive seemingly neglecting to include the option of using the face controls as well as the touch screen, literally limiting you to the latter, filling the screen with tiny icons, text links and buttons with sluggish response times, well it all feels like a let down and turns an incredibly compulsive and addictive experience.
The thing is, this is Football Manager, to watch the game being played it looks like it should and everything is in there to make it into the experience it should be, but purely because of the design of the games various screens and interactivity options, plus the way the developer has neglected to take proper advantage of the controls on offer (one suggestion being to make the left analogue stick into a controller for a mouse pointer like the PSP releases) makes Football Manager Classic 2014 into a rather frustrating (for all the wrong reasons) experience, even if it is still as addictive as ever.