Football Manager Touch 2018 Nintendo Switch Preliminary Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Sports Interactive
Release Date: April 13th 2018
Price as of Article: £29.99 GBP
Football Manager Touch 2018 is a phenomenon within a certain subset of gamers. Nobody ever really talks about the series end of year lists or about their favourite games ever, but there’s a huge market of millions of Football Manager addicts out there keeping quietly to themselves, probably because they’re too busy trawling through some random Moldovan youth team to get that inexplicable euphoria of finding the next Ronaldo or Messi.
Believe it or not, Football Manager is easily one of SEGA’s biggest franchises which is an amazing feat considering the series has often trodden far too carefully when venturing from the PC market on to consoles. The last Football Manager game to appear on a home console was over 10 years ago and, aside from the occasional watered-down handheld version, console owners have been waiting a long time for a new one. And many a prayer has been answered with Football Manager Touch 2018, a surprise release on the Nintendo Switch.
Now, first things first, I would never consider this to be a full in-depth review of this game. It’s only just been released and, as a veteran FM player, I would need at least 100 hours before I could tell you my 100% true feelings about this game. Think of this as a preliminary review or first impressions, as such. There are so many ways to play this game that it’s almost impossible to do a full review that will please everybody. So in that regard, I’m not going to give it a score out of 10 because that would be a little unfair and jumping the gun somewhat.
I’m mostly going to talk about the port and what I think of the interface, how intuitive it is and so on. I feel explaining the game of Football Manager would be incredibly dry and superfluous for you guys.
So this is the Touch version of Football Manager. What does that mean? Well, there are three different versions of each yearly release: The full-fat Football Manager, Football Manager Touch and Football Manager Mobile. Touch fits somewhere very nicely between the two other options. It’s not a watered-down experience for quick mobile play, nor is it bloated with unnecessary fat and fluff found in the big version.
For all intents and purposes, the Touch version is what you would probably have found in the main game about 10 years ago. It lacks team talks, press conferences, dealing with agents and the overly micromanagement extras found today. Aside from that, it’s still the big game experience. And that’s why for me, it’s the perfect version.
First let’s start with the less important aspects: Visually the game is fine, obviously it’s mostly just text and numbers but there is a bit of modernised flair here and there. The match engine is in 3D and, of course it doesn’t look great by something like FIFA’s standards, but it does the job to visualise the action well enough. I don’t play Football Manager for how it looks.
The screen layout is important though and I think this one has got it right. All the actions and inputs are where you’d think they’d be and it’s all nicely intuitive to navigate as a long time fan of the series. New people will probably get hopelessly lost, but that’s all part of the learning curve for the game.
The sound has always been a bit of an issue for me with the series, there’s practically no sound throughout the game aside from one piece of music on the main menu. There’s the poor match day noises too, but I instantly turn them off. It really could have done with a nice selection of licensed music playing in the background like you’d find in any sports game worth its salt. So why not this one? Football Manager is the kind of game you listen to your own music, or put a podcast on in the background, or if you’re awesome: a Switch Watch review playlist!
Now let’s talk about the game in action. What’s immediately obviously after playing this version for a good few hours already is that it’s far better suited to handheld mode where you can utilise the touchscreen. In docked you’re stuck with using the analogue stick to painfully move the cursor around the screen in a sluggish fashion. It’s usable but not ideal. I don’t know if using a mouse with the Switch is feasible yet, but if so, that would make it much better.
Either in docked or handheld mode, the Joy Cons are seemingly integral to the experience. I find that a little bit of a downer since, even though they are really handy, just holding the Switch’s light, Joy Con-less screen and using my fingers would have been great. As it is, it’s just a bit bulkier than I’d imagined. I’m not sure why they couldn’t have implemented some sort of swipe function to replace the use of the shoulder buttons to bring up the menus.
The controls take a lot of getting used to. You’ll make plenty of mistakes fiddling around with the menus, pressing the wrong buttons, accidentally progressing the game while you were in the middle of looking something up and so on. You will get used to it eventually though and mixing and matching between Joy Con inputs and your own finger inputs will become second nature in an hour or two.
I found the touchscreen to be most useful if a little inaccurate at times. Dragging players and scrolling up and down didn’t really sit well and a little more calibration and polishing could have gone a long way. I’m hoping there will be a patch in the future to smooth this out, it’s not the end of the world though since, like I said, using a combination of the Joy Cons and touch make things fairly pain-free. Not a touch on mouse and keyboard, but it’s a sacrifice I will take to have Football Manager on the Switch.
There are also some glitchy artefacts here and there like menu’s not appearing when they should or you’ll click on one player, but it’ll bring up another. These things only happened a couple of times. I haven’t bumped into anything major so far though, no game-breaking bugs just yet, but it is Football Manager so who knows what the future may hold. I’m pretty happy with the port in all honesty. Obviously, it could do with a bit of polish but so could any game, and it’s their first try for the series on the Switch.
As for the gameplay, well there are so many ways you can play this game. I’m the kind of Football Manager player that starts right at the bottom with one of the worst teams in the world and brings them right to the top. I love it. In previous iterations I’ve won the Champions League with Dover Athletic and Truro City, that’s the kind of FM gamer I am. Some people like to play as their favourite team, some prefer to play in the most random league in the world, others like to choose one of the richest teams and splash the cash. It’s all fair game and it’s one of the reasons why I love Football Manager.
It may be worth noting that you can create your own team, which as you may have seen, is what I did for my first save. You basically replace an existing team and completely change everything about them, even with no players if you so choose. This is unusual for me, but I actually did this replacing a team with my very own Sheffield Renegades working my way from the bottom to the top. Let’s see how that goes!
There are also the challenge scenarios which plonk you down into the middle of some sort of crisis or situation that you have to manage. Whether it be most of your team is injured or having a team full of kids, it’s a fun little side thing for players as a challenge. I’ve tried it in previous iterations but I don’t see myself trying them again to be honest.
At a high £29.99, Football Manager Touch 2018 commands a high price, but in all honesty if you’re a fan of Football Manager, that’s almost nothing for the amount of hours you will be pouring into this game. Obviously many people will think that’s extortionate and a case of the dreaded Switch tax, but let’s be clear, the Steam version is about the same price. As long as it’s still smooth sailing down the line I’ll be happy to claim it as good value for money.
Overall, if you’re a Switch owning FM addict like me then you’ll have no doubt purchased this already. Those on the fence not sure about what it can offer in comparison to the PC or iPad versions, you have nothing to worry about. You’re still going to get the same great experience, just with slightly different controls that will take getting used to. As for the long term game, well it’s difficult to say right now. I’d have to get back to you in a months time with that one. But it’s looking good and I’m quietly confident to call this a success despite some little niggles here and there. As I stated, I’m not going to give this a score since it’s way too early for that. I just wanted to give you some first impressions.