Sports Interactive’s highly addictive PC football management sim rarely fails to appease its core audience with its special blend of ultra-statistical, divorce provoking gameplay. With a few previous attempts at handheld and cut down mobile versions, SI have taken their excellent classic mode from the full game and translated it to the PlayStation Vita with much of the title still fully intact. Is this a victorious away day for the management sim, or one that leaves us wishing we’d stayed at home? Read on to find out.
Game: Football Manager Classic 2014
Developer: Sports Interactive
Football Manager Classic is essentially a streamlined version of the main PC game. It’s reminiscent to earlier titles in the series that forgoes a lot of the modern depth in favour of a more accessible experience for those with less time on their hands. It’s also great news for everyone concerned that the developers have managed to cram the entire mode onto the Vita system with little to no compromises at all, complete with cross-save compatibility meaning you can pick up where you’ve left off on your PC via the Steam save game cloud.
Whilst this mode is cut down, it’s far from merely being a shell of the full game that lacks any substance. Depth and addictiveness is still here in spades, it just means menial tasks such as finances, media questions and a good portion of the team micro-managing is left to your assistants to deal with. What you’re left with is the core parts of the football management experience such as dealing with tactics, transfers and, of course, the matchday. Sports Interactive should be highly commended on bringing the mode to the Vita; a package that makes other mobile management games pale in comparison.
The biggest trump card may be the 3D match engine itself. Whilst it’s never really set the world a light from graphical standpoint on PC counterparts, it perhaps feels more relevant and acceptable on the handheld system than it ever has. Whilst the engine still feels like it has a way to go before we settle in for 90 minutes and analyse every kick of that erratic white pixel, there’s definitely an appeal that transcends the awkward movements and odd happenings the engine provides. That’s simply because it’s in your hands and not on a monitor – it’s an odd notion, but it does somehow encourage match viewing and in-turn immerses you in the matchday experience more than it would do otherwise.
Regarding depth and detail in the Football Manager series, there’s no need to retread too much ground. The long and short of it is that the heavy statistical nature and deep simulation of the series is unparalleled with any other football management game; this version, at the core of its gameplay, is no exception. Unfortunately when porting to console, handheld or otherwise, new problems rear their ugly heads in regards to control schemes and user interface interaction. Football Manager Classic 2014 on the Vita tries its hardest, but struggles whilst attempting to balance the heavy load of on screen information with an intuitive control set.
Screen fonts aren’t unreadable, but they are small. A squad training information screen, for example, will have fitness information, happiness, notable performances, training focus and facility information all crammed underneath a top touch-screen menu that’s brought down with a press of the right shoulder button. On that drop down you’ll find touch-only selectable tabs that are equally small. As you can imagine, trying to press these with fingers is pretty tough going at times, often resulting in selecting the wrong menu, or even nothing registering at all which is equally frustrating.
Similar problems arise with player selection in the tactics area. It’s possible to drag a player into position by holding the left shoulder button or opening a drop down menu by the player’s name. Both feel awkward and you’ll constantly be repeating the same request trying to get it to do your bidding, all the while selecting wrong players, wrong positions, entering information screens by accident – I could go on. I literally shudder to think how painful it might be trying to play this in a moving vehicle such as a bus or train. I then begin to wonder if David Moyes has similar problems with his team selections on match day, in which case he’s a manager of whom I have a newly found deep sympathy for.
Apart from the main Career mode you can also delve into the Challenge mode which finds its way across from the PC version, too. The mode works excellently on the handheld offering the gamer a chance to complete quick-fire tasks such as saving a team’s season at the bottom of the table or attempting to remain unbeaten at the top. It certainly adds value to the game and as stated, seems to fit gaming on-the-move quite well, especially if you just need a quick fix.
Football Manager Classic 2014 is an achievement for handheld management sims despite the Vita feeling a little uncomfortable for it as a platform, at least in its current form. If you can get past the unresponsive and difficult interface, then you’ll find the most deep and rewarding game of it’s type on any mobile system that joyfully includes cross-save compatibility, two entertaining modes and hours upon hours of addictive gameplay. It’s far from perfect and there’s certainly work to be done, but it’s yet another iteration of a genre-leading title that Sports Interactive can be decidedly proud of.