Review: Football Manager Touch 2018

By Simon Bull 16 Aug 2018 0

Review: Football Manager Touch 2018

Released 23 Nov 2017

Developer: Sports Interactive
Genre: Simulation
Available from:
App Store
Google Play
Reviewed on: iPad 2017

August is a difficult time for football fans, what with the endless gossip pages to scrutinise, those deadline day live blogs to agonisingly refresh and the countless hours it takes to craft the perfect fantasy squad.

It’s also when many supporters come down with a strange disease known as wannabemanageritis. The main symptom is the trance-like involuntary repeating of the words ‘I could do better than {insert the surname of their club’s manager here}’ over and over again. It’s coupled with lots of tutting, and the condition can persist for nine months or so if left untreated.

The most effective cure is to switch on a PC and fire up Football Manager, the behemoth sports sim that gives players the chance to sit in the virtual hot-seat and run the club of their choice, proving they really are a Guardiola-like tactical genius or a wheeler-dealer of Redknapp proportions.

fmtouoch squad

But this remedy proves too complex and overwhelming for some people, with an injection of full-strength FM known to have the side-effect of making heads explode, but fortunately there is a slightly softer alternative which comes in tablet form for both iOS and Android.

Cue Football Manager Touch, which offers the same accuracy and depth minus some of the time-consuming micro-management that has resulted in the main game becoming so bloated and life-consuming. There have been yearly versions of it since 2015, when it was initially known as Football Manager Classic in reference to how it harks back to the good old days of the series (and Championship Manager before it) when the focus was on tactics and transfers.

fmtouch goal

Don’t be fooled though - being retro-inspired doesn’t make FM Touch simplistic. Far from it. If you do want something basic (and overly easy in my opinion) you need to try the third member of the squad, Football Manager Mobile, which is much more stripped back and faster to play.

No, FM Touch is still very much a monster of a game which, despite the instant result function that lets you see the scores without sitting through long matches, still has the power to suck up many hours of your life.

How far from being a lightweight casual game it is becomes immediately apparent after you complete the set-up phase of choosing which leagues you’ll have in the game and which club you’ll take charge of from the vast array of real-world options (you even get to, slightly bizarrely, decide what your Manager ‘character’ will look like).

fmtouch home

As you get comfortable behind your desk, figuratively speaking, you begin to explore some of the dozens, may hundreds, of pages of information contained within the game and you start to grasp the scale of the task ahead of you. Getting familiar with your playing squad and identifying improvements can turn into several hours’ work, with each player being rated on 36 separate attributes.

It should go without saying given how long-established this style of sports sim is, but it’s worth noting at this point that, in line with the main Football Manager game, FM Touch is based around spreadsheets and stats. The only action, so to speak, is watching a 3D representation of your team’s matches. The rest of the time the game is very much static, filled with menus, lists and charts. If that sounds ‘boring’ to you then 1) What are you doing here? and 2) You need to play a different type of footy game.

If you’re prepared to take a leap of faith and use your imagination to bring it alive and give it personality, this version is every bit as immersive and utterly absorbing as Football Manager has always been. There is never a shortage of things to do and decisions to make as you go through the day-to-day running of your club, dealing with contract negotiations, coach reports, training schedules and much more. You can delegate some duties to your virtual assistants but being a make-believe manager is still a big role - more involved and complex than many real-life jobs.

fmtouch tactics

A lot of your time is taken up with those two Ts - tactics and transfers. Winning matches doesn’t just happen by magic, unless you’re very lucky. It takes meticulous planning and analysing as you pick the best formation for your squad, then pick the best player for each position, then give those players detailed instructions for how you want them to play both individually and as a unit. FM Touch’s tactical options are extremely deep, giving you near-infinite possibilities for how to set your team up.

While small improvements to the game’s interface and navigation have been made in this edition which help to marginally enhance the overall experience, some of the screens are still slightly fiddly to use. You have to tap on some small precise areas to pull up the information you want without ending up on a page or pulling up a menu you didn’t want. Despite minor and occasional niggles like these, it’s still a tactician’s dream to have so much freedom to devise that perfect strategy - and of course it continues into the matches when you have to call upon all your shrewdness to achieve victory by switching formations, changing playing styles and making substitutions as needed.

fmtouoch squad2

Getting into the transfers area of the game is like diving down a rabbit hole from which you may never escape. It’s easy to lose all sense of time as you set your filters, send your scouts out and scope out the ideal additions to your squad from the game’s massive database. There’s a real buzz to be had from identifying the perfect target, having a bid accepted and then getting through tense talks before coming to a successful conclusion. A nice addition this time is getting a score out of 100 from your scouts on how suitable a signing each player might be, which makes it just that little bit easier to decide who to go for.

FM Touch is a magnificent game in many ways. One of the best things about it is being able to tuck into such a meaty slice of Football Manager anytime, anywhere whether on the daily commute or relaxing in the armchair of an evening. As a huge footy fan and long-time player of Championship/Football Manager, playing such a challenging and satisfying game is one of the very best things you can do on an iPad, or other tablet. So, why then, does this not deserve full marks?

fmtouch actions

Where the boys stop giving 110 per cent and where I feel as sick as a parrot at the end of the day Brian, is in how this version of Football Manager hasn’t changed much since its arrival in 2015. Now, like Ronaldo and Messi over the past few seasons, it’s had no equals so perhaps hasn’t needed to advance very far - but it means the complaints I had after the first edition still remain. The 3D match engine looks and works better, the tactics are a bit deeper, the game has more polish but there are still a couple of big omissions which I think stop this from going from Premier League regular to global superstar.

First is the near complete lack of any press or media work during the management journey. Sports Interactive boasts that FM Touch allows players to speed through seasons without “the pre-match build up and media fuss” - true, this makes the game quicker to play but it also sucks a lot of fun out of it. Crafting a media image and then using it to your advantage is a big part of a modern football manager’s job, like it or not, and its absence here makes the game feel less authentic.

fmtouch player

The other key thing missing is human interaction. There are very few ways to communicate with players and staff at your club, or with rival managers and players. There are no team talks, no cosy chats, no taunts. This, combined with the lack of press conferences and interviews, makes the whole thing a little too passive - like it’s all about the numbers and not the people. It’s like being locked away in your office with no contact with the outside world.

Adding these two wishes into the game would fatten up FM Touch and take away some of the reason for is existing in the first place separate to the main FM game, but they really need to be represented in some way when FM Touch 2019 comes along in November. Leaving them out yet again would be something of an own goal.

It’s another unchallenged trophy-winning season for Sports Interactive’s mini beast but I’m hoping for something just a bit more next time to stop this series getting stale. 

The best football manager game on tablet bar none, but lacks a couple of key features.

Review: Football Manager Touch 2018

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