For many of us, pulling on some virtual studs seems like an entirely sensible option when it comes to soccer. If you can swing a mythical sword in video games, then leading your favorite team to cup glory seems even more reasonable. The Football Manager franchise allows aspiring managers to fulfil fantasies of tactic greatness and when Football Manager Touch 2018 landed on my Nintendo Switch I had an opportunity to return to a game I’d abandoned long ago.
My history with football games is largely one of neglect now. I’m a lapsed member on the field of play and my fondest memories were of Championship Manager, so the tactile iteration of Sports Interactive’s Football Manager 2018 seems like a great place to get back into things. Also available on Android and iOS, this game allows players to take control of their favorite team and try not to get fired in the first few months. While this is nothing new to veterans of the mouse and keyboard, this is only the third title to bear the touch branding and as my experience seems to bear that out.
On launching FMT 2018, players are subject to a fairly typical serenade. The upbeat jingle meant to motivate the newest members of Switch FC plays across the first glimpse of green and while. Yet, no matter how inspirational the opening, it does not save FMT 2018 from a rough first half.
Opening the game presents players with a start screen and three distinct game types, quick, advanced, and custom. While Sports Interactive has attempted some variation with the custom season system, creating specific scenarios that managers handle, the core gameplay is essentially unchanged since last time I loaded up Championship Manager. This isn’t anything unique to FMT 2018, even PUBG is a variation on a theme. However, it does mean if you’re not already a football fanatic, it is not going to do anything new to entice you in. As I ventured into a quick season that became even more evident.
While tooltips and hints do exist, it is abundantly clear that players are expected to have at least some level of familiarity with the FMT franchise from the off. While adventurers thrown into a battle arena can expect a tutorial on the game’s core mechanics, FMT 2018 appears to completely eschew that idea. A quick guide to the basic controls exists but it has no context. The lack of a tutorial is an unnecessary barrier to entry for rookie managers and although I have heard more experienced gaffers praise the game’s tool tips system, this is scant help to the uninitiated.
Bound the first set of hurdles in the game and it seems there are other tough problems to tackle. While FMT 2018 wears the touch branding of this simulator experience, it feels far more like a port of the PC version than a cousin of the iOS game. The first hints of this are the white mouse cursor that hangs in the corner of the screen. Players can utilize the JoyCon’s analog sticks to slowly persuade the cursor to across the screen. This is accompanied by some utterly ineffectual touchscreen controls, and a very mixed user interface.
While the Nintendo Switch has a great touch screen, the team at Sports Interactive seem to struggle to use it effectively. Some areas of the game make sense, with team selection and match day tactical layouts easily accessible. The drag and drop function here feels very intuitive. However, other elements are unusable. Tiny buttons squirreled away in the corner of the screen, menu systems that seem to require an inconsistent mix of controls to operate, and user interface elements that even a child’s fingers could not activate mean that the only consistent way to manage your team is using the cursor. While this would not have been an issue several years ago, touch-screen gaming is commonplace and this just does not feel optimized for the Switch. Without digging too far into the numerous example that left me repeatedly prodding the screen, this is one of the most confusing UI experiences I have encountered in some time.
Thankfully, as you progress through your season and learn how to efficiently operate the layers of menus, things do get easier. The second half of FMT 2018 starts to introduce tooltips and the game begins to reveal some much more appealing features. While it does not become any less irritating to use, the game does have an incredible depth to it. Players kicking off a season with football manager have the opportunity to choose from a bewildering array of around 130 leagues, from across the globe. Players from the depths of St Johnston through to the latest Ballon d’Or nominees are present, in a huge roster. It seems that Sports Interactive has done everything they can to provide as much detailed player information as possible. Football stars can be individually micromanaged, right down to their training regime and general attitude. Player feedback including general health, stamina, and playing stats are all present and easy to understand. Even for the layman, managing players feels quite straight forward and is supported by an assistant coach function that automates many of the more intricate day to day decisions. With a whole team of players at your fingertips, arranging a training regimen for each soccer star alone could take hours.
This is also true of managing players off the pitch. A comprehensive medical center system provides an avenue to manage injuries, which you will see a lot of, and a very impressive scouting system adds a new element of depth to the transfer window. Scouts are able to include promises to players to entice them to sign for your club. Backroom support and customization options are a surprisingly helpful touch and an example of the effort that Sports Interactive has gone to, in an effort to flesh out the overall experience.
As things finally come down to match day, FMT 2018 starts to become significantly more comprehensible. For uninitiated players, the team at Sports Interactive have included a series of automatic options and advice from the coaching assistant, guiding new managers through the obvious choices they will need to make. The game’s formation system, in particular, is well laid out and gives great feedback. Football stars can be dragged around the pitch, custom modes can be assigned, the team’s attitude and playstyle can be adjusted, and subs easily managed. The tactical setup makes great sense, and once again allows for a deep level of personal customization if you are already invested in the franchise.
As the teams kick off, most managers will opt to watch the game’s highlights. The graphics here have come on some way since the 2015 PS Vita equivalent and the action moves along quite swiftly. While you can simply request an instant result, watching a match is the optimal way to play. This allows managers to control match tactics on the pitch as events unfold, modifying formations and reorganizing your approach. The ability to change formation, sub players, and watch the flow of play is extremely beneficial and FMT 2018 provides a ton of statistical feedback to support this decision, allowing you to turn a really bad day around.
Note: A copy was provided by PR for review.