Football Manager Classic 2014: review

Football Manager Classic 2014 is the first in the series to appear on the Vita, after Sports Interactive had great success on the Vita’s predecessor, the PSP. This latest release is a total revamp of the PSP edition, which lacked a lot of the PC version’s features, and is the complete ‘Classic’ mode from the PC edition, which includes 3D match highlights. But can this complex simulation hope to run well on the Vita’s lowly handheld architecture?

The simple answer is that Football Manager Classic 2014 runs pretty well on the Vita. It can’t hope to match a PC with plenty of RAM in the speed stakes, and it can slow down if you are running a lot of leagues at once, but you certainly won’t be stuck watching a dull progress bar for the whole of your train journey. It’s a lot more in-depth than the tablet and smartphone versions of the game, but isn’t as bloated as the full PC version. We found we could march through a season fairly quickly if we wanted, but the game has a lot of little options that add an extra layer to the game, and you can spend hours just tweaking your tactics or searching for the next hot prospect.

The match engine works really well on the Vita.

The new match engine works well, and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your new signing scoring a screamer on his debut. It’s not going to give the FIFA series a run for its money graphically, but it serves its purpose well, and is a lot more engrossing than following little dots across the screen, or reading ticker tape match updates. There were a few times the game chose a dodgy camera angle which made following the action nigh-on impossible, but for the main part it does the job well. During the highlights you can call up a menu with a press of R1 that lets you shout instructions at your players, change your tactics, or see if other results in the league are going your way. This quick menu option is also utilised between games, and lets you quickly get from choosing your squad and training regime, to trying to sign that star player who will make the difference in the league run-in.

You can play the game how you like, and only deal with certain aspects of football management, and leave the less interesting things like training schedules etc to your backroom staff, which is a great way to speed up the game and keep beginners interested. Your assistant manager also gives you tips during matches if things aren’t quite going to plan. You can then do as he says, or make your own changes however you see fit. The changes you make to formation, set pieces or your playing staff really can make the difference between a crucial win or a devastating defeat, and trying to get the blend just right within your team can be mightily addictive.

The player stats are all present from the PC version, as is Rooney’s new thatch!

For those looking for a less time-consuming challenge than the Career mode, you can instead opt to play the Challenge mode, which uses several scenarios to test your managerial prowess. From winning the league with an injury ravaged squad, to trying to beat relegation, and going a whole season unbeaten. These little challenges are a great fit for the Vita, and let you play the game in different ways, which is the perfect test bed for when you want to try the full Career.

One downside of the game is that some of the text is really quite small, and some people may struggle to read it on the Vita’s five inch screen. This small text also causes other problems in that because it’s so tiny, some of the clickable options can be hard to interact with if you have large digits, and sometimes you can click on the wrong thing, for example during media interviews – where if you choose the wrong response you could have a very unhappy player on your hands. We can’t help but feel that some of the menus should have been redesigned with the Vita’s smaller screen in mind, but this is a pretty minor nitpick in what is an otherwise quite impressive programming achievement.

There are quite a few instructions that you can bark at your players from the sidelines.

Football Manager Classic 2014 is as addictive as its bigger brother, and hours just disappear as you hone your squad for an assault on your league of choice. If you’ve been hankering after a handheld football management game then this Vita version is the best of the lot, and is packed with features that make the other handheld versions feel quite bland in comparison. The added bonus of being able to take your PC game away on holiday with you, thanks to the cross save feature, is a clever addition, and if you think you can do a better job than a certain Mr Moyes, here is your ideal opportunity to show him where he went wrong at Man Utd. Just be aware that the tactical battles, man management and financial juggling of Football Manager can be an obsession, that is as addictive as it ever was. So WAGs (wives and girlfriends) beware!

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Written by Kevin M

I've been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70's. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I've faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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