Also On: PC
Developer: Sports Interactive
I love the idea of Football Manager Classic 2014. As I wrote a few weeks ago about OOTP Baseball 15, the concept of a sports management sim you can bring anywhere is incredibly appealing. Any time I get a sports game, regardless of what sport it is, I always sink hours and hours into building up my team, scouting prospects and setting line-ups and doing all that fun/nerdy stuff. The ability to take that with me on the go, rather than have it strictly restricted to my couch, is pretty enticing.
When it comes to the actual execution of FMC 2014, however, I have to admit that my love remains more in the theoretical realm than reality. Or, to be more blunt: great concept, not-so-great execution.
To some extent, I'll admit, the fact I don't love FMC 2014 can be blamed partly on my own ignorance of soccer. This is a game aimed squarely at people who understand every aspect of the beautiful game on an international level, and who don't need their hands held to get up to speed. I couldn't tell you the first thing of how transfer rules or loans work, and this game makes no effort to tell you. It mentions that things need to be done in passing, and then you're mostly on your own in figuring out how to do those things. The in-game manual doesn't tell you much, and there aren't any tutorials for new players. For the most part, it's all trial-and-error, with a heavy emphasis on the error. For someone whose primary experience with soccer has come through the FIFA series, FMC is sort of like jumping from a first-year university class straight into a doctoral program.
Even if you're going into FMC 2014 with your eyes wide open as to how the game works, however, I suspect that you won't get as much out of the handheld version as you do out of the PC one. This comes down almost entirely to an unwieldy UI; FMC is a game with a tonne of text and a whole lot of options, and navigating around from one screen to the next is a lot harder with touch controls and limited space than it is on a computer manager. To go back to that OOTP comparison, it's unfortunate that FMC couldn't have looked at how those developers shrank their game down to fit on iDevices for iOOTP, and adjusted things accordingly.
That said, I hate to fault Sports Interactive for being too ambitious. They promised users that they'd bring the full FMC experience to the Vita, and even without having played the game on PC, I get the sense they delivered on this promise. As I said before, I don't know much about soccer, but I was still impressed by the depth this game offers, and at a time when most games seem to guide you every step of the way, it's kind of fun — albeit in a very nerdy way — to be thrown into the deep end and left to your own devices.
If nothing else, Football Manager Classic 2014 has me excited for future iterations of the series on the PS Vita. There's a lot of potential here, and even if I'm not the target demographic of "European footie fan that's lost days on end to the game", I can definitely see how people get hooked on it. For now, it's probably a pass for all but the most devoted players, but if you like sports sims, it's something you'll want to keep an eye on.