|The Football Manager series on PC has evolved from its Championship Manager roots and become the premier football title. On the PSP there hasn't been much in the way of serious competition but that hasn't stopped them from trying something different and innovating with this years iteration.
Football Manager Handheld 09 comes with a series of refinements and improvements. For the first time the game features a 2D match engine along with the feature to hop between different countries rather than being limited to the run nation. Both of these new headline features aren't without their fair share of problems though. There is also improved transfer code which helps make selling those unwanted players easier. The game also has two new skins, the dark skin in particular is gorgeous and very pleasing to the eye.
The 2D match engine shares none of the same code as the PC version and as such starts from scratch, with this in mind it will come as no surprise that the match experience has its fair share of glitches. Strange sights such a defender running at the keeper one on one and then laying it back half the length of the pitch rather than shooting are common place and using the pitch for tactical analysis can be very hard. Instead much more can be garnered from the brilliant text that gives plenty of hints and tips at where players are being beaten or how attacks break down. Some decisions have clearly been made with the format in mind as well, only goals or near misses are shown and even then it is only the smallest of glimpses. This helps to keep the action going quick and fast and means that games don't drag on, the option for full match highlights would be welcome. SI have had a fair stab at improving the match day experience and should be praised for their efforts and as a starting point the engine looks to have a solid enough framework to build on.
The database problems arise from the hardware only being able to handle X number of players existing in the game at any one time. Things are fine when running one nation with every team having their full first team, high profile reserves and a smattering of exciting youngsters, teams abroad have a decent selection to pick from. When running with extra nations though the game has to spread its players thinly across all of the leagues running meaning that not all teams have their full complements of players and some even having very noticeable first team absences. There seems no solution though unless SI can push that bit more out of the PSP. It is a shame that their is no way to install the database in full on a Memory Card and run them off this faster solid state rather than streaming off the UMD, whether this is even possible or simply pie in the sky is another matter.
There are many other aspects that people would argue mean the handheld version is a poor relation to the its PC brother. This is however not the case as the developers have taken all the key features and distilled them down to their most common form. Take the media involvement, whilst the PC version has taken things a step further and created media conferences. Rather than offering a ream of time consuming options all of which are either positive, negative or no comment related Handheld simply offers these three simple offers. This is by no means a bad thing however has is helps keep the pace to that more suitable to a handheld game where you may just be catching five minutes here or there. It strikes the right mix between just enough whilst not being to much.
If you are looking for a game that can both fill a quick five minutes and offer hours and hours of gameplay this is the one for you. The game has the usual 30 season limit plus all the unlockables fans have come to expect. A bigger database adds to the experience as well offering more players than ever.
As always finding the right tactics is key to success
The game has improved with each passing year and this is no exception yes there are a few niggling faults, but this doesn't detract from a core experience that will see you spends hours and hours pouring over it's simple text based interface. It may not be the flashiest most graphically intensive PSP game out there but it certainly tests the systems' durability as you will find yourself putting in the hours - time to think about picking up a spare battery for those long distance journeys.
Labels: flameboy, Football Manager Handheld, PSP, Reviews