Nearing the end of the 2013/14 season, Football Manager Classic 2014 has been released for the PlayStation Vita, boasting the ability to load up your games from your Steam account and play them on the go. Football Manager Classic 2014 looks and feels pretty much like the PC version, but with just too many flaws to make it as enjoyable as its fully-fledged counterpart.
The game has been scaled down to run on the Vita and this is noticeable in almost all departments, the graphics and animations are substandard compared with those on the PC and the frame rate drops frequently. Additionally, it constantly seems to judder and feel as though the game is about to crash; this occurs almost all the time, from playing a match to sorting out a transfer; Football Manager Classic 14 just doesn’t feel like the finished article.
Whilst the FMC14 isn’t as aesthetically pleasing, the core game-play mechanics are absolutely spot-on. As a manager of nearly any football club, you have to make decisions and lead your team to victory game after game, whilst dealing with financial issues, the press, the boardroom and the bane of any manager’s life; injuries.
My season as Arsenal manager was scuppered just before Christmas with a series of injuries that left me helpless against most oppositions [Ed – extremely realistic then]. Seeing as FMC14 is a scaled down version, a lot of media, financial and tactical decisions are left down to the assistants, leaving you to focus on actually managing your team. This works well on the Vita as it means you can get through seasons much quicker and you don’t have to spend as long looking at the tiny writing on the Vita’s screen.
Apart from the main Classic mode there is Challenge mode where you join a team halfway through the season with the task of getting them out of the relegation zone or trying to compete for a title race. This game mode is exceptionally fun if you can handle the pressure of a deadline and difficult opponents in a short space of time, but it is still the main campaign that steals the show.
As manager, you can find youth “wonderkids” and loan them out to give them experience then take all of the credit when they become the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Alternatively, you can purchase known superstars and form a strong squad on a tight budget, the great thing about Football Manager is that you have the choice to be whatever type of manager you want to be.
The joy of Football Manager comes with making difficult decisions that will help see you out until the end of the season and to keep your job when going against the odds. However, you are incredibly limited on the Vita when it comes to making important decisions on and off the pitch, not because there isn’t the choice to do so, but because it is so difficult to navigate through all the menus and work out how to utilise the vast array of options there are using a touch screen.
Too many times did I miss out on winning a game because I couldn’t make substitutions or change-up tactics on the fly and this was all due to the touch screen not responding to my choices or there being a glitch that wouldn’t allow me to confirm my substitutions. In a high pressure, must-win game this is incredibly infuriating to the point of rage-quitting, all because Football Manager Classic 14 just isn’t responsive enough when it needs to be.
Back in the boardroom where most of the tactical decisions are made is where the game is most jarring to play. The right shoulder button brings down the menu bar where you can attempt to navigate through your team to transfers or upcoming fixtures, but more often than not you will be scrolling down using your finger or analogue stick and press the wrong button to take you to the wrong area in the game. After a while it just isn’t worth the effort to go and find anything, like the training schedule, which means that your team will suffer as a result of this.
Despite all of this, the Football Manager Classic 14 is still massively enjoyable to play. That is until you get to a match and the game crashes, meaning that you’ve lost save data and a lot of work up to that point. This is inexcusable and has happened too many times to me during important cup matches. No-one likes winning 3-0 and then having to restart to lose 2-1.
Football Manager 14 on the PC is a great game to play and you can spend hours and hours making your team the best it can be, but the fun doesn’t translate well on to the Vita; too much lag and too many glitches can make an already difficult to navigate game very frustrating to play.
It is useful if you want to utilise the cross-save ability and load up your campaign from Steam on the fly, but you are in for a challenge if you want to get the full Football Manager 14 experience on the handheld. Nonetheless, like any Football Manager game, you will quickly become addicted and almost forget the many flaws of this handheld iteration.