Football Manager Handheld 2012 is a football management simulation game for mobile devices. The premise is simple; select and manage a real football (soccer) team from any of the top leagues and steer them to glory.
The game attempts to be as realistic as possible and includes as many aspects of the real world as it can, from over-demanding club owners and contract negotiations to player sales and handling the media. The game did raise a few eyebrows when it was released – most notably due to the relatively high price – so the question remains: is it worth it? Read on for some analysis…
The game feels very real from the moment you fire it up. Enter your name and nationality, then choose a club to manage. You can alternatively select Challenge mode which gives you a team in a precarious position with a desperate need to turn results around… perhaps one for the hardcore among you, then. The next thing you’ll see is your name on the front of the newspaper, as the brand new manager of your chosen club.
New manager announcement
You are then gradually immersed into the world of football: transfers, media questions, matchday action, tactics and, of course, goals. This isn’t Real Football 2012 or FIFA 12, nor is it anything like games like Flick Kick Football where the game is all about action. Instead, you are the manager – you pick the squad, choose the tactics and cross your fingers come matchday. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for the armchair football fanatic there are few games as obsessive and engrossing as a quality Football Manager sim.
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The World of the Football Manager
Football Manager Handheld 2012 is mostly menus, text and faux-emails from various in-game parties. The initial menu lets you choose a new game, to load a previously played game or to alter preferences such as language, currency and sound. Once up and started you need to familiarise yourself with the various menus and sub-sections. I did find that it’s not the easiest game to navigate, but it is rewarding after some practice.
Home menu screen
From the Home menu, you can switch to a number of screens:
There’s the Club itself (teams, tactics, division, training, fixtures, finances etc). This is an important screen for the day-to-day running of your club and one you’ll visit often.
The Manager screen is a sub-menu of options related to you – it’s where you can go on holiday and leave your assistant manager holding the fort or, if things get really bad, a place where you can resign.
The Competitions menu lets you explore the wider game universe, letting you look at various competitions, leagues and teams.
There is a Search feature that lets you broadly search for players, jobs, transfers and also provides a means to scout teams (if you are due to face them and want a heads-up) and players (if you’re thinking of signing them for your team).
Also on this screen is a further Options menu and the big green ‘Continue‘ button. This essentially moves the game on, usually one day at a time.
Player search screen. You can make transfers from here.
In between games, the most frequent screens you’ll see will be the News. These will include scout reports, transfer news and speculation and reports on how well your players performed for their national sides. These can be scrolled through quite easily, although some will require action from you.
Picking Your Team
On the squad selection screen simply assign your players with the position you want them to play by dragging and dropping. You can also get a team report from your assistant manager here, which is handy. Tactics are also crucial if you’re going to win trophies. You can select from 21 different formations and also give the team and individual players specific instructions to deploy in-game. Prior to big matches you can even train your players in a particular way, which is ideal if you are playing against a strong team and need some resilience.
First Team squad view
When your players are mentally and physically ready, and you’ve done everything you can to prepare your warriors for the match ahead, it’s time for the action to start. The principal matchday screen consists of your team’s name and your opposition’s name at the top, alongside the score. In the middle of the screen is the text readout of the ongoing action. This will highlight chances and player actions if they are deemed important- like shots, saves and near-misses. If a highlight warrants it, the view will change to a top-down perspective, where you will see the highlight animated. This will especially occur when a goal is scored, letting you watch your little men hit the net and run off in celebration.
Highlights are played out in a slick top-down view
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are very well-developed and slick. While most of the time you are looking at polished menus and news stories, the in-game action is smooth and easy to follow. Graphically there are far better games, but this isn’t about controlling the action yourself. It’s all about getting it right before the game starts and hoping your boys play well during the game. Therefore, the in-game visuals are at the level you’d expect, and Football Manager fans will be right at home. The real game strength therefore is the backroom processing that keeps the game universe ticking.
Sound is mostly rather mute, dull thuds as you touch buttons. I thought we might see some match sounds; the PC game often featured real-match atmosphere (whistles, cheers, boos, and so on), which was pretty immersive. No such luck here however.
In-match text describes the action
Is It Worth It Though?
There are a smattering of football manager games in the Google Play Store but none have the pedigree or quality of a proper ‘Football Manager’ game. Games such as Soccer Manager are perhaps a good way to determine whether a management sim is right for you, but it’s really a freemium game and subsequently feels restrictive.
No titles have the depth, official team, player and league names (which need to be licensed) and detail of Football Manager. It’s this authenticity, attention to detail and playability that perhaps justifies the costly price. It’s not cheap, but if you’re a football fan – and certainly if you’re a fan of the Football Manager series of games – this is entirely worth downloading.
Main tactics screen
Football Manager Handheld 2012 is a great game, very reminiscent of the PC titles of the same name around five years ago. While the mobile version of the game lacks the 3D glamour of the proper game, the top-down view works well on a small screen. The game runs perfectly and you don’t have to wait several minutes for it to update (a problem faced by users of the PC game if their computer lacked significant power). The game crunches a lot of numbers, managing a wealth of players, teams, leagues and competitions, meaning the game ‘universe’ is broad and detailed.
Organise training so your team are well prepared for the match ahead
I did feel that the game let itself down in the navigation. Sometimes it becomes wholly counter-intuitive, and finding some features occur by accident rather than by a coherent direction. If you’re a fan of the series and, like me, have played the game (in its various guises) for over a decade now, all this should be pretty much second nature as the game already feels incredibly familiar. However, if you’re new to the genre, it might take a bit of time and patience to find your way around.
If you’re a football fan who hankers after the excitement of managerial life, Football Manager Handheld 2012 is the finest example of the genre in the Google Play Store. It features an authentic universe of footy management with correct player names, leagues and teams. It’s highly playable, massively addictive and wholly engrossing. The in-game navigation is a problem and newbies might struggle to find certain features, but, with some effort and exploration, anyone can get the hang of it.
The final whistle blows and it's all over
It should go without saying that if you’re not a fan of football, or prefer being on the field rather than off it, the game really isn’t for you. While the price tag is high, I think football management fans and armchair fantasy league players can invest confidently in Football Manager Handheld 2012. It’s not perfect, but it still offers the addictive experience of the full PC title and is certainly a game you’ll be playing for months to come.