Football Director 2011/2012 Review (iOS)
I’m going to begin by giving you a little background into my history and love affair with the football simulation genre. I have been playing football management games since I was about 8 years old (so a good 24 years), and over that time I have developed a very keen eye on what I like and want from these games. As a kid, these games filled up a huge portion of my free time. I can still vividly remember waking up early on a Sunday morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and going to work as a ‘football manager’ (my mum was even under strict instructions at the time that I was unavailable to go play with any of my friends until lunchtime, as I had a job to do first, such was my immersion in these games). Over the years I have seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly of this genre, so when Football Director became available for review, Calm Down Tom knew they had the right man for the job.
The original ‘Football Director’ title by D&H Games appeared on the ZX Spectrum back in 1986 and joined the ranks of an ever increasing list of football sims at the time (most notably Football Manager, which started off the whole genre in 1982). Football Director has now been resurrected and given some spit and polish courtesy of UK publishers ‘Sports Director Ltd’ for almost all IOS/Smartphone devices.
Football Director gives the user the opportunity to take control of their favourite football teams across any one of 15 international leagues (4x English and 2x Scottish, French, Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish leagues), to compete for domestic or European honours. However, while the number of available ‘playable’ leagues are somewhat reduced in comparison to some of its primary competitors (e.g. FM2012), be rest assured that the main European leagues are included. From the 15 leagues and teams/players participating in those leagues, only the English Premier League makes use of the official team and player names. The other leagues (I can only assume due to legal reasons) only provide (very close to the original) custom names. However, the team over at Sports Director have very kindly bundled an in-game editor allowing the leagues to be updated.
Football Director only provides the user with a ‘Career Mode’ allowing them to take part in the main season, which does let it down slightly when compared against some of its competitors (e.g. FM2012 provides an additional ‘Challenge Mode’ to allow player to pit their management skills against clubs placed in precarious/challenging situations).
Once the user has selected the league and team they want to manage, they are then provided with a number of features and options in assisting them build a successful team and campaign, such as a choice of tactics & formations, player transfers, player contracts and the ability to shape your backroom staff. Sadly, none of the features provided help to set this title apart from its competitors.
In my opinion, a successful football management sim has got to be able to engage and immerse the player through game input. The user must feel that they are being fed the right information and can react accordingly (i.e. the user must feel that their actions matter). While Football Director does make very good use of statistics and ensuring the player is kept informed, they did miss one vital statistic during match days: individual player ratings.
Player ratings are vital stat as it allows the user to micro manage each player during match day to ensure the most efficient performance by the team is attained (e.g. changing player formation, making a tactical substitution, etc). Unfortunately, Football Director only provides the user with general information of how an area of the pitch is performing (e.g. Defence, Midfield and Attack). This makes it a lot harder for the user to make the necessary decisions to positively affect the game.
Graphically, Football Director is by far the best looking football management simulation game for IOS/Smartphone on the market to date. The user interface is very clean and intuitive, and they use the limited space of the mobile devices/phones amazingly well with menu sliders and the bottom menu bar. The sounds on the other hand can become quickly irritating and repetitive (e.g. if the user has the match speed set to x4, then the user will have to endure a flurry of whistles).
Another negative point is that the user will be unable to listen to their music whilst playing this game (NB: this has only been confirmed on the iPhone 4). The application will pause your music player while the game is active to make way for the in-game sounds.
Overall, I think most fans of this genre will be really pleased by what Sports Director has done with this classic title. They have breathed new life into a forgotten king of the genre, and brought it kicking and screaming to the IOS and Smartphone devices.
Football Director does have a way to go to compete with the daddy of the genre (Football Manager), but Sports Director have gotten a lot right in their first attempt with this title. If they can work at providing more player interaction, relevant statistics and sorting the issues with the sound, then they might have a title contender on their hands.
7 balls-a-bouncing out of 10
Article by Chris Rieley