It’s fair to say that so far, Football Manager on Switch has been a bit like the Arsenal squad this season: there’s clearly some top quality in there but for some reason, it just doesn’t come together and work in a cohesive, seamless manner.
That’s mainly because the Switch versions of Football Manager are actually ports of Football Manager Touch, the slimmed-down take on the game designed for quicker, less complicated play. This would be perfectly fine were the 2018 and 2019 versions not plagued with a horrendous control scheme, making ‘less complicated’ one of the things furthest from your mind when you start playing it.
Football Manager 2020 Touch is Sega and Sports Interactive’s third attempt at nailing this, but we’re sorry to say that while it’s undoubtedly still as addictive and compelling as the series has always been, those control issues and a few other niggles continue to be present. The result is a game that can absolutely be worth your time and money, but feels like it’s constantly fighting against you.
For the most part, the 2020 version of Football Manager Touch is extremely similar to last year’s game. Look at them both at a glance and you’d be hard pushed to tell which is which. There are a few little tweaks and new features added to this year’s game, though, and while none of them are absolutely groundbreaking by any means, they at least show we’re not looking at a FIFA 20 style ‘Legacy Edition’ here with nothing but squad updates.
One of these is a new hub screen dedicated to player development, conveniently called the Development Centre. Instead of sifting your way through your youth team and your reserves – which you can still do – you now have a single screen where your backroom staff will point out any young talents who look like they may be ready to take their next step by breaking into the reserves or even the first time. This screen also lets you keep an eye on your players who are out on loan, so you can see if they’re actually improving or just warming the bench.
Other new features are similarly focused on the future. The Club Vision screen is basically a mission statement that explains what the board expects of the club. This sort of thing is commonplace in football management games, but this improved version goes into far greater detail than the usual “we expect you to win the league this season” stuff you usually get. For example, your team may be known for its attacking football, so the board may want to make sure you continue to follow that culture.
The Club Vision also includes a 5-year plan, which includes longer-term continuous goals, as well as the board’s expectations over the next half a decade. Naturally, this screen is more exciting for some teams than others, and teams in lower leagues tend to have more interesting 5-year plans. Teams like Celtic have less thrilling objectives: each year is basically “win the league”, with other annual requirements like qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League (sorry, the Champions Cup) being held back until nearer the time.
This 5-year plan gimmick also now extends to transfer negotiations, where you can tell a player in more detail how you expect to see their role develop with the team. Obviously, if you’re trying to bring in Messi there isn’t much to discuss there, but if you’re bringing in a hot young prospect on a three-year contract, you may want to tell him that your plan is to make him a fringe player in the first season, an impact sub in the second and a regular starter by the time he reaches his third, all going well. It’s another nice way of adding more nuance to your plans rather than the previous situation where you had to tell a young player you didn’t see him as a star player, even if you thought he could be by the end of his contract.
These are more or less the main additions this year, other than some graphical tweaks like wet pitches and more detailed manager models: these certainly aren’t notable enough to make a huge difference over last year’s game, which in a sense covers this release as a whole. There are still missing features that we’d have liked to have seen added this time around: while we appreciate that one of the main principles of the Touch series is streamlined play, we’d still like the option to do things like press conferences and team talks which may not necessarily have a huge impact on your team but add to the immersion and just make things a little more fun in general.
The main issue, though, is that control system. Using the Joy-Cons or Pro Controller to move around can be a bit of a nightmare, especially in more cluttered screens where there isn’t always a natural order to which options are highlighted each time you move the D-Pad. There’s always the option to bring up a mouse cursor and move it around with the left stick, but when you’re dealing with something that requires a number of selections – such as picking your squad – it can be an exercise in patience.
Ultimately, this was always a game designed with a mouse in mind, and while there was once a time when Football Manager was simple enough to make playing with a controller possible – FM 2006, 2007 and 2008 on Xbox 360 were actually surprisingly intuitive after a couple of matches – the constant stream of features and details added over the years (even in this stripped-down version) have resulted in a game that’s so saturated with different menus and options that you’re basically putting in the Konami code any time you want to do anything.
The main issue boils down to this: in theory, this is supposed to be a simpler version of Football Manager that’s easier to play than the PC game, but the reality is that players are stuck with a Goldilocks scenario where the screen’s too small to effectively use the touchscreen but the physical control system is ridiculously fiddly. Football Manager will always be a brilliant management sim, but by this point it’s starting to look like, sad to say, Switch owners are going to be stuck with these awkward controls going forward.
The third Football Manager on Switch is a relatively minor upgrade to an already entertaining and compelling game. The controls are still unwieldy and the new features, while welcome, aren't exactly transformative: as such, we'd usually recommend you consider buying last year's game for a slightly lower price. However, since Sega's pulled the 2018 and 2019 editions from the eShop, you don't have much choice but to pay full price for this one.