Review: Football Manager 2019 Touch21 Nov 2018 0
Review: Football Manager 2019 Touch
Released 02 Nov 2018
Living in the south of England, just outside London, I’m naturally a Manchester United fan. Supporting this Red Devils in the post-Fergie era is not easy. The current manager is world-class, they’ve got plenty of high-calibre international players at the club and at times they still play some excellent football, but at the same time their style of play can be very frustrating to watch, their form is inconsistent and they keep failing to seriously challenge for the major honours again. It hasn’t yet started getting any better from one season to the next.
Football Manager Touch has followed a similar pattern in the few years that it’s been around. Like with watching Man United these days, Sports Interactive’s sports simulation for tablets has a lot of quality running through it and is truly great at times but it leaves you feeling slightly underwhelmed and wanting more. This year’s edition, FM19 Touch, leaves the same impression.
I’ll return to this later for my conclusion – but for now, let’s go over some basics and some positives.
Football Manager Touch is the more advanced, and expensive at £20, of the two handheld versions of the premier football management sim. It’s somewhere in-between the streamlined Mobile game and the full-blooded PC game. This is the fifth tablet instalment of FM Touch, which started in 2015 as FM Classic in reference to how it offered a retro-inspired, stripped-back and speedier experience compared to the desktop game while still offering a good amount of the depth and complexity.
I’m not going to go all the way back to the beginning and explain what type of game Football Manager is because I’m going to assume you know already. If you are here reading this and don’t know what it’s all about then that’s weirder than Paul Pogba’s penalty run-ups. Suffice to say, in the main career mode you take charge of a real-world football club and then manage them through seasons as you pick the team, sign new players, choose tactics for matches and hopefully lead them to glory rather than get the sack from your virtual employer.
FM Touch is designed to give wannabe bosses who are 'bursting with ambition but short on time' an on-the-go management experience that dispenses of distractions like the 'media circus' and offers instant results on match days to help blast through fixtures. It’s a streamlined format with less micro-managing compared to the bigger, bulkier main title but it still provides a weighty, immersive and addictive game.
Sports Interactive has settled into a routine of annual releases of its three Football Manager, including Touch. Like with other franchises, players are expected to pay out again for the ‘new’ game which is basically the same as the previous year save for updated rules and rosters along with a few tweaks and added features.
One change for this year is the presentation has been given a bit of a revamp, with a fresher and brighter new look. Like when your team unveils a new kit, this doesn’t make much difference to how the game plays but it looks nice. The user interface and screen layout are much the same as before, being intuitive and easy to use for the most part. It can occasionally be slightly fiddly to tap on the correct part of the screen and there’s a minor new annoyance this time in how information in certain text boxes is cut short.
A more significant addition for FM19 is tactical styles which put another layer on top of the already immense range of option for setting up your team. You can now choose from a selection of pre-set systems such as high-intensity gegenpress, the Spanish-flavoured tiki-taka or the more rudimentary route one, which serve as the overall philosophy for how your team plays. There is a vast amount of customisations for each of these structures as you put plans in place across the three phases of possession, transition and not-in-possession. Then on top of this you can choose from numerous formations, or create your own, while also assigning roles and detailed instructions to individual players.
The tactical possibilities are insane and overwhelming, but they are also a big part of the game’s appeal. One small gripe is there is sometimes a lack of information easily available in the game to explain what all the options mean. The new inductions (tutorials on certain parts of the job) are useful, but having a more easily accessible glossary at your fingertip on particular screens would be handy.
As well as enhancements to the tactical side of the game, training has also been given something of a revamp. You now get a rating of 1 to 10 for each player showing well are they performing in training, and you can also set several aspects of each player’s training routine. You can dictate which position, role and duty each player trains on, which areas they will have additional focus on, such as strength or speed, and what intensity they will train at. Beyond this, you can encourage certain traits in players across various categories including movement, passing and technique.
I suspect most people will still leave the training to their in-game assistant manager because it does remain one of drier more number-driven parts of the game, but it does provide plenty of scope to get hands-on with the development of your squad should you want to. The rest of the game remains much the same as last year, and the year before. Further changes are either unnoticeable or insignificant.
I called the 2018 version of FM Touch a “magnificent game in many ways” and the 2019 edition is every bit as worthy of this description. There is still so much to like about it and it continues to be a huge, absorbing and generally enjoyable game, with the new features I’ve described only adding to its authenticity and complexity. But … there has to be a but as I swing back around to my opening when I compared FM Touch to Man United and said it can leave you feeling slightly underwhelmed and wanting more.
Another thing I said in my review of last year’s game was that it needed to deliver more next time to stop the series going stale. Sadly, it hasn’t really delivered more, and the series is starting to go stale. The game hasn’t evolved very far from when it first arrived in 2015. There have been improvements around the edges, including this year’s tactics and training alterations, but none of these have been very big steps forward.
Whether through picking a new coach and plotting a different direction or signing players who bring extra quality, football teams are constantly looking to better themselves - at least those teams that want to get to the top or stay there. This is what Sports Interactive should be doing with FM Touch; always looking to make each new game distinct and distinctly superior to the previous one. But they don’t seem to do that - each new game is at best an incremental improvement on the previous year.
Whether it’s a lack of ambition (perhaps evidenced by the addition of the German league being one of the main new features this year - big whoop), a lack of resource or just not prioritising this version, it feels like the effort is rather half-hearted. The two big things I’ve been calling for are media work such as press conferences and staff interactions such as being able to talk to your players. Both of these features are again absent in FM19 Touch, and that’s to the game’s detriment. It means there is no opportunity to show any personality or stamp your identity on anything.
Sports Interactive continues to boast that its games “skips the pre-match proceedings and media circus to focus your attention on the best bits – squad building and match day”. I respectfully disagree with them about these being the best bits and about leaving out the other bits. I don’t want the Touch game to become as bloated and time-consuming as the PC version, but there needs to be something better than a few adjustments to justify charging people £20 (a massive amount in mobile game terms) for essentially the same game again next year.
For now, FM19 Touch is easily top of the league because there are no other similar games that even come close to it - but, like my Old Trafford outfit, you feel it could and possibly should be doing better.