Football Manager Handheld
There are those times with videogames when you just wish we could have updated versions of old classics. Streets of Rage 2 would be an absolute blast, so would Speedball 2, but on newer consoles so we don’t have to fiddle around with RF leads and power packs. Sure, there’s emulation, but that needs software downloading and things to configure. Why can’t they just re-release Sensible Soccer in all it’s shining glory instead of pissing about with it?
For Football Manager fans, there’s always that look over the shoulder, that blast from the past. Media interest, players throwing tantrums, foul play by agents and 3D engines are fantastic and keep us sucked in for hours on end; but deep down we’re all secretly hoping for one last hurrah of the Championship Manager 01/02 engine. There were no fancy training regimes, media scandal, 3D matches or any of that palaver, just pure management simulation; you, 11 players and the green grass of the football pitch.
Pick up Football Manager Handheld and you’ll instantly think of a watered down, tasteless version of the series we all love and cherish. Not so. Instead, this is Championship Manager 01/02 to the extreme, with fast loading, cheap and easy training, straightforward tactics and simple interfaces. The PSP is suddenly looking essential again.
Let’s get the drawbacks out of the way first; there are only (only!) 7 countries you can manage in, and only one at once, but when you look at the small print and see that this consists of 19 leagues and a whopping 354 teams, that’s not exactly meagre. The other slightly annoying thing is that each team can only consist of 36 players. On the PC version, that would sacrilege, but here on the PSP, there are no reserve or under 19 teams, so when you look at it as a 36-man first team, that’s plenty of room. The whole focus of FMH is on first team football; loan out youngsters to get first team experience whilst you concentrate on getting the results.
Transfers are also far more realistic and bloody fast too. You’ll have a hard time selling someone if they aren’t playing, let alone their form, so to sell a high reputation player it’s wise to bring him on as a sub and let him show potential buyers what he can do – with a small squad, you’ll find it hard not play almost everyone anyway. No longer will transfer dealings take several days; before bidding, your assistant chips in with some timely advice as to what he thinks the selling club regard the player. If he’s indispensable, be prepared to bend over backwards for his signature. And as soon as he signs on the dotted line he’s yours, that very same day. Contracts have been scaled down, so instead of detailing a player’s role in the team, he’ll find out by when you play him. Young players with average stats are obviously ones for the future, but those will superstar attributes expect to be played frequently, so generally you’re being urged to play your best possible eleven, which is how it should be.
Player attributes have been thinned out, though still in the three classes of technical, mental and physical ability. For example speed, acceleration and reactions have been streamlined into pace, so you’re not losing any information, rather it’s been made easier to identify. Statistics are never far away; with a few clicks of a button and you have the player’s entire playing career in your hands, including injuries, bans and goals scored. Perfect for the manager who wants it all.
And then we have the match day, where all the hard work during the week should pay off. Matches take place by a text commentary, and you can switch between which screens to view, such as player ratings, match stats and team statistics. Sadly there are no crowd noises, but at least the match goes along at a fair old crack so you’re not sitting there for ages wondering what to have for tea.
There was never much point in writing about every single aspect of Football Manager, detailing what makes it tick and what have you, because we’ve done that before. And chances are, you already know your Football Manager’s from your Championship Manager’s anyhow.
And all you now need to know is that Football Manager Handheld is more or less a landmark in the series. What you’re getting is the latest branding, style and flair of the Football Manager series, but with the gameplay of Championship Manager 01/02. This is totally different from the PC version, because rather than running a club, from the under 19’s to the first team, releasing media stories to wind up opposition players and keep your own staff happy, you’re playing for yourself. There are no distractions here, there’s just a first team to choose from and matches to play, with the odd transfer here and there. The aim of the game is to put out a first eleven, with a few back up players and some hot prospects lurking in the background.
Its fast, it’s frantic, you‘ll be hooked for months. See you at the FA Cup Final.