Football Manager 2019 Touch (Switch eShop) Review
I’ll be honest, sports games aren’t really my thing. Sports themselves, even less so. But I’ve always had a bit of an interest in football (aka soccer), in part because I have a few friends who play at a professional level, and in part because of the universality of the sport. So when the opportunity came up to review Football Manager 2019 Touch, I thought I’d give it a go — a management game isn’t really a sports game, so surely I couldn’t be that bad at it? Unfortunately, I was that bad at it. I was extraordinarily bad at it. But despite my absolutely terrible football management skills, I still managed to have a lot of fun, though there are some areas of the game that could do with some improvement.
Upon starting a new career from the main menu, you’re met with a character creation screen. It’s nothing special; it looks… not great, and the options are limited at best, but there are some interesting options here too. You’re able to choose from a variety of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and even management styles. After that, you’re tasked with picking a team to manage, and there’s a tonne of different teams to pick from, in all sorts of different leagues. Sadly, there’s no option to pick from any women’s teams, which is a bit unfortunate, but you’re spoiled for choice outside of that limitation. I picked my favourite team (go Brisbane Roar!) and was thrown into the game. And by game, I mean the numbers. Pages and pages and pages of numbers.
I’m not joking. Take a look at the screenshot above. Now imagine you spent 10, 20, maybe even 50 hours just… staring at those numbers, reading each one and trying to figure out what they mean and how they affect your team. Well, that’s Football Manager 19. You’ll spend days, weeks, and months staring at those numbers, trying to make sense of them and making adjustments to make your numbers better or more effective. It’s… a bit overwhelming, to say the least, but it’s something that I’m sure appeals to a certain subset of people.
That said, if you’re an absolute beginner who’s way in over your head, like me, there is a little bit of help to ease you into it. The game is more than happy to provide you with a full team of advisers; these advisers are an absolute godsend, providing tips to help you manage your team, and, if you wish, doing all the hard work for you. You can’t entirely hand off all of your football managing to your advisers, there are some tasks that only you can do, but even in those tasks you’ll occasionally get tips to nudge you in the right direction.
Day-to-day management of your team is fairly straightforward. Players under your management have to train in a variety of different fields, such as offensive and defensive tactics, which improves their stats when it comes to game day. However, your players are human, and they require rest. While you’re in charge of their training schedule, and you can force them to train every single day, this can lead to high-risk situations, where your players are tired, stressed, and potentially injured. As such, you’re left with a balancing act, trading off between maximising your players’ training and keeping them in good health. It’s a balancing act that can get boring very quickly if you’re not engaged, but fans of management sims know what they’re getting into here, and are no doubt more than willing to put the hours in.
All that training and micro-management does have a pay-off, at least, in the form of watching matches happen. When game day rolls around, you get to take somewhat of a backseat and watch your little guys, who you’ve spent so long training and tending to, kick the ball around on the field against some of the biggest teams on the planet. You can skip straight to the results if you’d like, but watching the match has more benefits than just getting to sit back and relax. At certain points in the match, and at halftime, you can make small adjustments to your strategies, formations, and players, in order to maximise your chances of winning, minimise the chances of an in-game injury, and try to stop the more aggressive players from making bad choices and getting penalised. It’s a nice little distraction from the tedium of countless spreadsheets management, and it’s good to have an incentive to be more involved in your players than just training them up and letting them roam free.
Unfortunately, as coherent as the much of the package is, one area that needs some serious work is the user experience. As the name of the game suggests, Football Manager Touch is more or less built for touchscreens. The Switch does have a touchscreen, of course, and it’s mostly okay to play the game using that alone, but trying to play in docked mode is a frustrating, borderline-impossible experience. Slow menu animations add to this frustration, with button presses not always being apparent in-game, and the general setup of buttons being mapped to functions is, on the whole, confusing and unintuitive. Again, this is a game meant to be touched, and it gets by alright if that’s the only way you plan on playing. Just don’t expect too much enjoyment out of playing on the big screen.
Football Manager 2019 Touch fills a very specific niche, and I fully recognise that I’m not the target audience. That said, football superfans and management sim aficionados will no doubt find a lot to sink their teeth — and time — into. It doesn’t look perhaps as good as it could, and the user experience leaves a lot to be desired, but deep down, there’s something compelling here, even if it’s not for everybody.
+ Beginner-friendly advisers
+ Huge range of teams available
+ Watching matches play out is fun
- Character models look pretty bad
- Docked UX is borderline unusable
- So. Many. Numbers.