Football Manager Classic 2014
The Football Manager series has something uncannily special about it. For the best part of the last 20 years the series has been entrancing football-loving gamers despite its plaing menu and statistic-heavy appearance.
Sports Interactive has managed to produce a very strategic game that allows football fans to get as close to becoming Jose Mourinho or Sir Alex Ferguson as they every could be and they've done it without the flash and pomp of 3D graphics and massive scripted set-pieces.
After losing it's way a little in the search of a more accurate and authentic management experience the series came back in 2012 with the new Classic mode which recaputured the elegance of it's late nineties incarnation as Championship Manager with simpler menus and some of the deeper elements of the main game trimmed down or handed off to computer-controlled assistants and it was glorious.
This year they've managed to take this Classic mode one step further by building it into a complete game for the PS Vita – a version that also allows players to share their savegames with the Classic mode of teh PC version.
Football Manager Classic 2014 is quite possibly the most ambitious game that Sports Interactive has ever built and for the most part they have managed to bring a complete PC-style experience over to the PS Vita including the match highlights shown in their entertaining 3D match engine.
Naturally it's an experience which is a perfect fit for the Vita's HD touchscreen and it doesn't disappoint. The menus and options are all clear and crisp and SI has opened up the visuals by placing all of primary menu bar across the top of the screen in as a toggleable feature that drops in from the top of the screen at the press of the right shoulder button.
The entire game is touchscreen controlled. Most lists in the game can be scrolled using either thumbstick and the left shoulder button enables the drag and drop features of the PC version handily when held down.
In fact, everything works almost exactly as it does on the PC version and seasoned Football Manager veterans will be picking their next winning strategy in no time. It's quite staggering just how much of the PC original that they've managed to adapt to the PS Vita.
Of course, this being the first incarnation of Football Manager to grace the PS Vita means it's not without teething troubles.
The menus are all very as finely and simply detailed as the are on the PC but this does create a slight issue when selecting some items. Loading up a player's stats by tapping on their name on the team sheet can require a few attempts before the game responds which is a tad frustrating.
There's also some lag after selecting an action which again prompts some frustration. This lag also exists when trying to use the left-shoulder-button-powered drag and drop. It only works if you make sure that you button is properly depressed before you touch the screen at all. If you're accidentally touching the edge of the screen it can mean that you'll need several tries to drag and drop your players into a new formation.
Another issue is the placement of the 'back' function. It lives in the main drop-down menu on the left-hand side. This means to come back out of a player's stats screen for instance requires you to press the right shoulder button and then tap the back button on the screen and wait for the lag between tapping the button and the game responding.
The final major issue that I had with FMC 2014 is in the 'quick' substitution menu. It's laid out with the players on the pitch down the left and the bench player on the right. There's a distinct lack of information here though especially the players condition level and performance rating which are necessary factors in deciding what players to substitute.
It feels a bit redundant when all of this information, and the ability to effect subtitutions and formation alterations are available from the in-match tactics screen. This screen is also much better laid out as it follows the PC game's conventions of players names and stats down the left and a pitch positional map fo your chosen 11 on the right.
I've laid into the game quite a bit here but it's more from a sense that I can see that it's a great game hindered by a few clumsy design choices and hardware optimization issues rather than it being a bad game.
It's not the perfect introduction to the Football Manager series that Vita gamers could have hoped for but in it are the seeds of a game which will be insanely addictive in future and possibly even a compelling reason for folks that may not have otherwise bought the PS Vita to consider it. Still it's not bad for a first effort.
Football Manager Classic 2014 is out now on PS Vita. The full version of Football Manager 2014 is also available now on PC, Mac and Linux.
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