Only three months ago I purchased Football Manager 2018 for Switch. It has been a time consuming pastime and, like all good football manager instalments, has been both frustrating and exhilarating in equal measure. When I got the chance to review the latest instalment I jumped at the chance. Despite having played these games since the 2007/8 season I have always waited a year or two to update my version, this would be the first time that I could see the updates and changes in real time.
First off I should comment on the control system. The game is marketed as a touch version however I have found it more intuitive to play using the joystick and cursor system in part due to the small icons necessary to fit on the Switch screen and the necessity to use the shoulder buttons to bring up relevant menus and progress gameplay smoothly. This system does make the game feel what it is, a port of the PC version, but that does not detract from its addictive nature.
I began, as always, with my club. Following the recent tragedy I had been determined to bring the success that Khun Vichai wanted for Leicester City and, following the somewhat harsh but necessary sacking of Claude Puel I knew I was the man to bring about a new era. Before taking the job you are required to create your avatar, the customisable options are varied and allow you to bring your own personality to the character. My only complaint, the arms are too long, I looked like a chimp in a suit!
Watch the Football Manager 2019 Touch launch trailer below:
I began by assessing my squad. Of course I know in real life where players are best suited but within the Football Manager world each player comes with a filled in circle. This circle shows where players are best suited to playing; a full bright green circle means the position and the role is perfect for the player, the redder and less filled the circle is, the worse that player will perform.
Initially I found this to be useful but became quickly frustrated with the lack of flexibility. For example, in the current Leicester squad we have Marc Albrighton, fans’ favourite and all-rounder capable of playing as a winger, wide midfielder, inside forward or wing back on either side of the field (for laymen amongst you that basically means the entirety of both sides of the pitch), when assessing this player I found that the only role that suited him perfectly according to the game was a wide midfielder on support duty, this limited my tactical scope and ultimately meant that one of the club’s best and most reliable players barely got any game time as I was forced to use players with worse stats to play in the manner required. This was not an isolated example and was something I had hoped would have been sorted between versions.
The tactical system is excellent and there are new additions this year which enable you to have further control over the way in which your team performs. Where normally I would have gone with a tried and tested 4-4-1-1 formation with a deep back line, this time I experimented and, as a result of the players at my disposal, brought back a formation from the late 1920s; the WM. This brought considerable success, not least I suspect because nobody expects a team to line up in a formation not seen for almost 100 years. The actual implementation of the system was aided greatly by FM 2019’s intuitive and easily customisable team and individual instructions capability allied with the ability to ensure individual training regimes as well as overall team focus. After a shaky start we were soon motoring up the league and by Christmas found ourselves firmly in third place.
Then came the January transfer window. I should say here that in my view, it is imperative that the game’s default of allowing the Director of Football to conduct transfer negotiations is overridden and you take direct control of all of these facets of club management. That also necessarily involves you completing contract negotiations and budgetary adjustments. All of this is relatively straightforward but I have found that in general, the Director of Football will either overpay or simply fail to secure transfer targets. In the January window I lost two players to offers I could not turn down and, though I was able to replace them with similar quality I found it necessary to change the team training focus to ‘Team Cohesion’ to bed in our new stars. The negotiation system has not changed much from the previous version and follows a routine pattern; you make an offer, they accept if it is suitable, the player makes their demands, you cut them down and you meet them somewhere in the middle. It is relatively rare that you will fail in the contract negotiations unless it is because of your own budgets or simply that the player is not willing to come to your club. Throughout this whole process of scouting, bidding, negotiating and signing the control system is fluid and the menus work well.
It is not just players however that you will be in charge of bringing to the club, there is also the matter of the backroom staff including scouts, assistant managers and coaches. Whilst it is tempting to go for a name this is not always the best option as I discovered to my cost with Sol Campbell (good luck Macclesfield). The main duties of the assistant are to do with training and pre-match instructions. It is with the latter that you most notice the difference. Before each game you have the option to add in specific instructions for the opposition players such as which foot to show them onto, how aggressively to tackle them and how often to close them down. These are vital to stifling the opponent. Instead of always doing this yourself manually you have the option to allow the assistant manager to make these decisions, once I had a better assistant in, this turned out to be extremely useful and insightful often making suggestions that I had not considered. With the wrong assistant this was terrible. I mean, come on, I know I should have checked but why were we closing down Vincent Kompany but not David Silva? I only realised that this was the issue when the 5th goal rolled in…
The matches themselves look excellent, it really feels as though you are watching the match live, long gone are the days of watching some circles bounce around a smaller circle. You are able to make changes tactically throughout and this makes it vital that you are able to see the events unfold properly. I also loved the addition of Hawkeye for goal-line decisions. That was an unexpected surprise! I will say that I am actually not too sure how much difference all the tinkering in games makes. I had an issue where, following a 3-1 home victory over Arsenal the game crashed and I was forced to play the game again. I sat and watched as the exact same match played out once more, the highlights were identical, the goals were the same and at the same time. If I’d have been less involved in the season itself and more involved in the reviewing I would, upon realising this, have substituted my third goal scorer to see whether anything would have changed. As it happens I didn’t think to do this as I was still too pleased to see that I would win the game but it did take the shine off the experience for me as I began to suspect that perhaps I wasn’t the genius I had come to believe.
View some Football Manager 2019 Touch screenshots in our gallery:
The season drew to a close, my league cup journey had ended in early November at the hands of Shrewsbury Town but I had had a fortunate run in the FA Cup culminating in the end of season showcase at Wembley. Thanks to a late penalty we won the famous old trophy in my first season, this allied with a 4th place finish meant a tremendously successful first season in charge, one which was rewarded with a new and improved contract. I haven’t dared to continue this journey in case I taint my near perfect record, but I’m sure I will return to the King Power hot seat very soon.
Overall, Football Manager 2019 Touch for the Switch is a valiant effort and a great addition to the series. I have had experience with other handheld ports of football management simulations and none has come close to this one for depth and quality. The touch element is perhaps superfluous but the overall feel of the game does justice to the franchise. There are issues with some of the more complex aspects of the game such as transfers and player-role suitability but overall this does not detract from the experience. If you like these games and you want something portable and enjoyable, you can do a lot worse than this one.
Football Manager 2019 Touch was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: SEGA Europe Developer: Sports Interactive Release Date: November 27th, 2018 Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch