Release Date: December 6th, 2018 (Nintendo Switch, PC)
Genre: Sports, Simulation
Developer: Sports Interactive
As a soccer/football fan (Everton supporter here!) and a gamer that grew up on sport games, I have my fair share of opinions and time spent in the games related to the sport. Generally, it boils down to avoiding Pro Evolution Soccer while FIFA was the better game with a lot of noticeable flaws. I had always heard good things about Football Manager, but was never a big PC gamer, nor felt it would be a good tablet-based game when the touch version was brought about. Then Sega brought Football Manager 2018 Touch to the Nintendo Switch before continuing this year with Football Manager 2019 Touch. The time felt right to give this silently praised franchise its chance, especially with the developers having a year under their belt with feedback and being hands-on with the hardware. Is this game one for the ages or destined to be known for deceiving the ref?
One of my biggest gripes about the FIFA games is that in career, simulating a match gives the player no control of in game tactics, substitutes, or the ability to join the match if the player desires. While Football Manager is not the sort of game to fulfill the latter gripe, the first two is the bread and butter of the series. The player during matches is watching commentary, an always updating stat box, and the occasional highlight if the player has that option turned on. They are able to change the tactics during the match if they notice something – i.e., needing to push for goals, needing to park the bus (ultra-defending the goal), or that possession is heavily leaning one way or another. The player also has full control of the substitutes and the system the team will be playing. The game even makes it easy on the player by suggesting changes and including a button that will implement the suggestion if they wish.
Staying with the match simulation highlights, the player can view the 2D simulation (just dots on the screen, but with a full view of the twenty-two players) or the full 3D output of the simulation data (more detailed but a more limited view of the players). The issue with the latter is that the player models are unrealistic and wooden. While this could lead to some humorous moments, it is clearly the weak link in the gameplay segment of the game. It also leads to the biggest disorientation a gamer can go through. There is absolutely no background music or any type of sounds in the game except during the matches when there is steady crowd noise. It is confusing and disorienting, making the player wonder why they decided to do the sound, or lack thereof, in this fashion. Another confusing thing is the fact the trademark and legal mumbo-jumbo before the title screen is in a 4:3 aspect ratio before the actual rest of the game is in 16:9 aspect ratio.
All of that aside, the most prominent mode in the game is Career Mode. As such, it is where the player will spend the most of their time in the game. The secondary mode is a set of distinct challenges the player will have to step into and meet to complete. These are a fun diversion, but will only be looked at when a break is needed from the Career Mode. The feature I personally enjoyed the most as a first-time player was that when a career is setup there is an option for inexperienced mangers. This player onboarding/tutorial goes more in depth than one would expect, and I felt almost fully knowledgeable on how to play the game after finishing each one. There are some issues, though, with this process that caused me to take some early missteps. It is not fully explained how you can start a transfer from a non-recommended scouted player and the solution I found does not feel the most streamlined.
The other disconnect was that the game did not explain how to fully traverse the vast and confusing menu system in the game. While the game features touch support, which makes various commands a lot easier, and uses a controller for this version, the user interface is still rooted in the franchise’s PC roots. The player will be moving a mouse cursor around to do most actions in the game that cannot be done by touch, including getting to the hidden menus. While it is appreciated they have stuck to their roots in hopes of giving players as complete an experience as possible, the Nintendo Switch ports need more optimization to make the experience more enjoyable. Even if this means adding a button to tap or click on to show the menu, that is better than what players have currently and will improve the quality of life.
As my first experience into the franchise, the Nintendo Switch port of Football Manager 2019 Touch has generally left me with a pleasurable experience. It will not topple the full match playing experience of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions of the FIFA franchise, but it is the best match simulator on the market. It also topples the half-hearted FIFA ports EA has released to the Nintendo Switch the past two years. Add on the fact that it is a portable version that allows the use of a controller, and it is the best choice for when on the go. While there are some hiccups, and the licenses of some countries sees deep leagues licensed while the top flight unlicensed due to the competitors on the market, those are mostly overcome by the entire package. It is clear why this franchise has been beloved by fans of the sport looking for a deep simulation game. (Ryan Williford; Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by Sega.