Format: Playstation Vita
Developer: Sports Interactive
Be warned, Football Manager Classic 2014 (FMC) is a grower. It’s not as easy to love as the excellent Football Manager Handheld (FMH) series, which has offered wannabe managers the chance to tinker with tactics and shout obscenities at a tiny screen on the commute for a number of years now.
But FMC does offer something more than FMH, which has stagnated in the past few years, offering incremental updates instead of true innovation. It’s just that, like all good relationships, takes a while to get to know and you’ll need to accept and understand its faults and quirks before you can truly appreciate it.
While FMH is a specially developed game for handheld devices, FMC is a port of the ‘classic’ mode that has been included in recent PC versions of FM.
It’s intended to be a streamlined version of the full experience for those who want a football management simulation but don’t have the time to devote to micromanaging training, scouting and coaching, or those who have been alienated by the increasing complexity of the full game.
It still has the legendary database and game engine that make FM so appealing, but many tasks have been automated, allowing users to focus on transfers, tactics and matches. It features a similar interface and full 3D match engine too, making it a significant upgrade from FMH.
The advantage of a port rather than a new game is that saves on the Vita version will also work on the PC version, and vice versa, but the downside is that this port doesn’t take advantage of the unique hardware and results in inevitable compromises.
Tap, tap, tap
Text and menus look squashed on the smaller screen and it’s difficult to follow the ball during matches. Touchscreen controls are frustratingly imprecise and unresponsive, making it easy to tap the incorrect answer during a media interview or choose the wrong amount during a transfer negotiation and cycling through menus can be a real chore.
There are some novel physical controls – the R button hides and shows menus, the left button goes to the previous screen and x advances the game – but more could have been done. The PSP version of FMH relied entirely on physical controls and used every button and analogue stick – why doesn’t the Vita version do the same?
You do eventually adjust to the nuances of the touch controls, but all but the most dedicated of players might be put off long before they get to that point.
The other major issue is the pace. A fully fledged PC management simulation is geared towards long sessions at home, not quick plays on the bus. The typical FMC player isn’t going to want the rapid, quickfire nature of FMH, but long loading screens and slow matches, aren’t ideal either.
If you get to know me
There are some other minor omissions – you can’t assign your assistant to manage friendly matches for example – but FMC does ultimately succeed in creating a ‘third way’ of playing FM, even if a degree of perseverance is required to get to the point where it’s enjoyable.
It’s too fiddly, slow and unresponsive to attract the casual player, although seasoned players are going to love having a near PC experience and cross-platform saves. It’s a more substantial game than FMH and the biggest evolution in the portable management genre since the original FMH in 2006.
The challenge and achievement of porting a PC game to Vita shouldn’t be underestimated but it’s hard to escape a sense of disappointment when you consider it’s unlikely there will be an updated version for the coming season.
FMC comes recommended, but only if you feel you have the patience to match your perceived tactical genius.