Football Manager has long been a star performer for PC, but will it impress at its new club – the Vita, or will it fall out of favour like a certain short-lived Manchester United manager? As the name suggests, the Vita version features only the pared down classic mode. Online, instant results and some more in depth features may be missing in action but they’re not missed when playing on a handheld. Most impressive is the cross-save feature that enables you to continue your career when you’re away from the computer. The one drawback being you’ll never give up that Football Manager addiction now. Balls.
There is no specific storyline as is often the case with sports games. Instead, Football Manager Classic 2014 is rich with your own emergent squeaky bum times as you guide your team to cup finals, out of relegation zones and you take over national sides. For the less committed managers, the challenge mode has you taking on specific situations like a club amidst an injury crisis, go a season unbeaten or win silverware with a core of youth players. These are shorter, more intense affairs where you can forget about the club’s long term goals and just concentrate on the football.
Everything that is Football Manager is here, all present and correct. Careers spanning multiple years, negotiable contracts and scouts that can be deployed worldwide. About the only thing you can’t do is appear on TV as a pundit. The names of players, teams and leagues are all clickable, revealing enough stats to keep even budding Mourinhos happy. It’s an authentic Football Manager experience, but on Vita.
Manager is controlled through the touch screen with your fingers acting as the mouse pointer. In theory, this is far better than navigating with the analogue stick or D-pad. Unfortunately, like many of my own game plans, it all goes out the window as soon as the game starts. The Vita’s screen size of five inches is nowhere near as big as your PC or laptop display and the result is reminiscent of viewing full websites on a smartphone. Not good. To alleviate this, the top menu bar can be hidden with a tap of the right shoulder button but text can be smaller than the fine print on a money lender’s advert and to make things worse, you’ll need fingers smaller than the Mariners transfer budget to click them.
The on-pitch action is shown through the 3D match engine which, bar the odd drop in frame rate, makes the transfer to Vita superbly. At first glance the players may appear to be moonwalking robots simulating a game of football, yet it still provides a valuable visual reference of how your team is performing. It’s a definite improvement over the days of yore, where you’d stare into a matrix of text and numerical data. It may not look like FIFA, and it never will, but it has proved good enough for me to keep it turned on, even if limited to key events.
Football Manager games are famed for being huge time sinks where seasons pass by over days and whole careers are lived in weeks. But that simply isn’t possible on this Vita version due to excruciatingly slow load times. Instead of speeding through seasons like Gareth Bale past defenders, you bumble along like Emile Heskey, waiting minutes to load a match and many more to play them. A lot of my time was also consumed by the undo button. I constantly selected the wrong buttons I didn’t mean to press, going back and forth between menus until it finally registered my desired input. I never felt I was ever in complete control. Football Manager Classic 2014 should be a perfect fit for the Vita as you can dip in and out with ease, but the long load times and clumsy interface mean you’ll barely complete one match in a commute.