It’s a match made in heaven, on paper: the irredeemably, irretrievably addictive qualities of Football Manager, brought to the commute- and bed-friendly Playstation Vita with all its power and functionality. Sports Interactive promised a full-fat Football Manager Classic on the portable device, a particularly inviting proposition for those longing to be unshackled from the desk, and yet wanting a more detailed experience than that available on smartphones and tablets.
It’s with no small amount of sadness that I find Football Manager Classic 2014 on PS Vita to be a real disappointment. On the most fundamental level, it’s a PC version of FMC shrunk down to fit on the Vita screen. However, very little attempt has been made to customise the user interface to compensate for the lack of mouse control. As expected, the game makes use of Vita’s touchscreen, but the input response is simply horrific. Scrolling through lists is laggy, tapping on players requires at least three tries if you’re lucky, and trying to swap positions on the tactics board is borderline impossible. FMC’s touchscreen controls actively conspire against a legacy player’s attempts to play it naturally and with reasonable speed. I was driven to wishing for an on-screen mouse that I could move around with the analogue stick, but even such a lacklustre compromise isn’t afforded here. It would have made sense for the front-facing buttons to be utilised for selection, but other than the X-button pressing Continue wherever you are and the analogue sticks used for (slow) scrolling, all inputs are idle. It’s all the frustrating since Vita has more control options than god intended, and it wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out that giving more options to the player would have made FMC a much more pleasant experience. As it is, the game is an absolute nightmare to navigate through. The content is fine: there’s no dumbing down of features and the match engine is impressively accomplished. But the thoughtless way the game has to chosen to implement player manipulation of that content makes it extremely hard to enjoy, or indeed recommend. ‘Playing’ FMC on Vita is like trying to use Windows tablets from the pre-iOS days – an anachronistic, aggravating experience best left to the most committed enthusiasts.