I should say first that this is my first attempt at the Football Manager series; I’m normally a Champ Man…erm, man. The only problem is that Championship Manager 2010 asks just a little too much of my laptop so I decided to pick up the handheld version of FM 2013 to get my football fix. A couple of important things to know about this review before I get going; I’m one of those ever-so-slightly tactically naïve managers who’s more interested in buying in youth players and carefully developing them than setting up complex team tactics and set piece routines. In fact, this is one of things that’s turned me off from more recent CM/FM editions – they’re just a little too in depth for me to maintain interest. Also, I’m playing it on an HTC One X; with its quad core processor it’s no slouch but depending what you’re playing it on will probably affect how it runs (a friend of mine showed me his game on his iPad and it was at least twice as quick as mine).
As you start up you can immediately tell that this is designed from the ground up for handheld devices. The navigation buttons are nice and big, there are lots of scrolling options for dates/values rather than typing in numbers and the swipe action to move from screen to screen is nice and smooth. It is of course very similar to the previous FMH version; comparing them side by side however you can see that SEGA have made an effort to make it all seem that little bit prettier. There are leagues from 14 countries to choose from (as well as international teams of course), each with several tiers to give plenty of choice. The career mode is limited to 30 years which may be an issue for some, although to be honest I’ve only played beyond 30 years on two occasions (my record was 78 years with Lyon in CM2005, and I wept for days when the game corrupted and I lost it all). I of course immediately jump in with my hometown club Billericay Town FC, currently knocking around in Blue Square South, the seventh tier of English football. What is immediately pleasing is that in most areas, compared to some of the more recent PC offerings, it has an almost basic feel to it. It all feels a little bit like playing an updated version of CM 01/02, which is the version that most will recognise as the greatest of them all. That’s not to say it feels dated in any way, it’s more like the game puts a fatherly hand on your shoulder and guides you through the world of management. ‘Here’s the training menu; don’t worry about the detail just tell me if you want him trained as a striker, defender or just general and I’ll sort it out for you’. ‘How do you want to play? Attacking? got it covered for you’.
As I said earlier, I’ve been playing for the past few years on a laptop and, based on its lack of processing power, I’ve really not enjoyed the live match engines. They’ve always been slow and clunky for me, and I’ve not really been able to take any benefit from them. In FMH 2013 they are still available, but they are in the scaled back ‘highlights only’ mode showing shots and set pieces only. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I do find myself reacting with substitutions as I watch my attacking midfielder missing yet another open goal. Alternatively, you can have it in the classic ‘commentary only’ mode, which is like listening to a CD you bought when you were 13; that warm retro feeling which is so difficult to emulate.
There are also challenge modes; a new addition for those who’ve grown tired of the Career mode. There are tasks such as avoiding relegation with certain clubs, calming an unsettled dressing room and managing an Arensal-esque injury ravaged squad. I haven’t got round to trying any of these yet, but they offer a refreshing alternative to the day in day out of the club you love.
Having now played a season and a half in career mode, there are a couple of flaws that become apparent as you get into the swing of things. The historical problem with Football Manager is still there; transfer offers are extremely aggressive and generally non-negotiable. I bid the £2000 valuation for a player in the same league (better value than Torres tbf), and was immediately rejected and told that a bid of £850,000 might change their mind. I bet it bloody would! Similarly, I was offered nothing (nothing! zero pounds!) for my 35 goal star striker, and I was laughed at for stupidly asking for them to at least meet his listed valuation.
Secondly (and this may be because of the device it’s played on), when I’m picking my team, I often find that when I tap a player to choose him as a striker, it swaps two other players’ positions at the same time. This is genuinely annoying if you don’t notice until you’re three nil down 15 minutes in before you spot that you’ve got your right back playing in goal. This is of course easily addressed by checking the formation screen before kick-off, but it’s still an unnecessary irritation which has cost me a few points now.
Lastly, this is an app. Because it’s an app, there are downloadable extras you can pay for such as buying in a super-rich owner or buying immunity from getting sacked. It’s a personal bug bear of mine as I resent paying for extras when I’ve paid for the app in first place, although mercifully they are tucked away so there’s no risk of accidentally paying for something.
I have to say though; these really are only minor faults. They’re irritations with something that is thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable. I’m not one of these people who go as far as wearing a suit on cup final day or riding around town on the top deck of a bus when I’ve won the world cup, but I’d like to think of myself as someone who gets immersed in CM/FM games. I’ve broken the mouse in frustration on a few occasions, run a lap of honour around the house after winning the libertadores and, one time, got caught giving an imaginary press conference in the kitchen by my wife. This game ticks all the boxes and is well worth the £6.99 asking price.
PS – for those who played the last version and were aware of a certain cheat – yes it’s still there