It has traditionally been the job of Sports Interactive to consistently fulfil the role of being the developer responsible for repeatedly coming out with the most widely-adored and prolifically played football manager game of all time. Tradition has its way of being broken however, and the title responsible for saying no to the status quo is Nordeus, the clever developers (award winning, no less) behind the sublime Top Eleven Football Manager.
Don’t you dare expect to be smashing head-first into matches immediately in Top Eleven however. Even though you’ll find that Sports Interactive’s Football Manager isn’t exactly a load-up-and-play-instantly-fest, Top Eleven is even more subtle and thirsty for your time than its big-budget counterpart. Expect to shoulder – and in the most realistic way possible – the responsibilities of a football manager, including careful management of your team’s finances and the day-to-day running of the club. In Top Eleven, you’ll find the glory comes later, after you’ve put in the hours of ground work.
This trade-off of instant gratification for long-term consistency in football-management entertainment is one any serious fan will fully appreciate however. Even though it noticeably lacks the official licenses for its teams, it still manages to impress in spite of the lack of arcade-level gameplay or the pitch time seen in games like Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. In addition to being able to customise your team’s kit, name, and other nitty-gritty details, you have full control over team-level decisions such as your physical formation and the tactics you’ll employ during each match. Your off-pitch responsibilities comprise a serious chunk of the gameplay as well, with emphasis on financial management – everything from contract negotiations to overseeing and arranging sponsorship details.
The interface itself is as you would expect from a management game; menus and text make up the majority of what you will see, with added visuals representing the dynamics of each match in detail. I found the menus to be as intuitive as you will find in any management game, and there’s a good amount of polish and general slick-ness applied to the interface in general to make it feel modern and well-developed.
So if you do opt to give Top Eleven a go, I find it best to give it at least an hour or so of gameplay before you make your judgement. This is because this game is just like a well-constructed fire: you have to put in the initial ground work to spark the flame, and you’ll reap the benefits as you are rewarded with the long-burning, white-hot embers of Top Elevens’ massively enjoyable gameplay.
Year after year, EA Sports’ dominator of the football game market continues to show its rivals how football simulation is done. Its mobile counterpart, FIFA Mobile Ultimate Team, manages to bring a somewhat truncated version of the full game to mobile, distilling the action down to the much-loved Ultimate Team branch of the full FIFA 2016 experience. What this entails for players is fairly self-explanatory: the mobile FIFA 2016 only offers an Ultimate Team mode.
If you’re looking for Career Mode, standard tournaments, or Quick Match functionality, you simply won’t find it here. What you will find however, is all the fun of the Ultimate Team mode found in the FIFA 2016 console with the added bonus of a much-anticipated new graphics system and a revamped control scheme to top things off.
Prime examples of the game’s much-improved AI engine can be found after just a few moments of being on the pitch. Opposing players feel much more purposeful in their actions as they fight back by attempting to steal the ball, and what was previously a sluggish defence system has been given a kick up the proverbial – opposing players mark their opponents and manage to utilise the space around them much more effectively. Though the enhanced AI represents but a fraction of the improvements here (in comparison with FIFA 2015 Mobile), it results in a much more realistic experience all round.
If you also factor in the greatly improved physics and the way in which they dictate altogether more realistic manoeuvres such as passing and dribbling when moving quickly, you can almost forgive the lack of non-Ultimate Team features. Perhaps the most impressive feature here is the control system – a hybrid that is a partial throwback to the greatness of FIFA 2014 touch controls with the remainder being business of usual. You can use the on-screen joystick, but when you let go the AI takes over in order to automatically move the player on the ball to leave you free in making wider strategic decisions.
There are flaws here to be spoken of however. The overarching annoyance is the restriction placed on you by the very design of the app: it’s Ultimate Team only, and if you don’t like this trading card-based system, you’re not going to enjoy anything else no matter how good the controls, physics, or AI really are. The interface in the menus is also very poor and not at all intuitive to navigate.
So you may very well enjoy FIFA Mobile Ultimate Team if you enjoy the corresponding game mode in the console version. Much improvement has been made since this game’s 2015 predecessor, but if you don’t like the trading card format, you may wish to hold out for something better.
Flick Shoot 2
There are many ways to get your football kicks (you can either excuse the pun or let it tickle your chuckle bone) these days, particularly if you’ve got a reasonably recent mobile phone. Those mad about football management have titles like Football Manager 2016 or Top Eleven to quench their thirst; if you’re partial to a bit of full-match action with a twist of card collecting, then FIFA 2016 Ultimate Team’s your game. If you want football distilled to its absolute essence however, it’s Flick Shoot 2 that should pique your interest.
Flick Shoot 2 is a goal-scoring gaming for multiple mobile platforms (Windows, Android, and iOS). It is an app with the aim of allowing you to face off against a goalkeeper, scoring goals using a touch-screen interface which is conducive to a realistic-feeling goal-scoring experience. Expect to encounter a variety of gameplay modes in Flick Shoot 2, all of which are variations of the same format, which is to score goals against a goalkeeper by applying spin and swerve to the ball through the use of the impressive flick-to-shoot control input.
What stands out about Flick Shoot 2 is its general mechanics. As its title suggests, you flick upwards on the screen to shoot the ball in the direction of the flick; the curve of the shot and its accuracy depends on the shape and accuracy of your swiping. Though this kind of flick mechanic has been done before in titles like Flick Kick Football, here you’ve got an actual goalkeeper (instead of just targets), and one that has the ability to gain experience over time. Essentially the goalkeeper gets more difficult to out-play the more you play the game.
You should be playing a lot of the game as well, particularly when you consider the multi-faceted single player mode, its multi-player gameplay, and also the mini-games it has to offer. From challenge mode to arcade mode through to time attack, there’s longevity in this game to say the least. If you also factor in its impressive graphics, Flick Shoot 2 is a sequel that’s not short of appeal for fans of football in general. Mobilecraft’s game makes a nice change to full matches and the long-term responsibility of football management.
First Touch Soccer
There’s a lot to be said for First Touch Games’ roster of sports titles. From soccer to snowboarding and beyond, this is an experienced games development team that are no stranger to top-quality soccer/football games in particular. First Touch Soccer is therefore by no means their first, but it is arguably the best mobile soccer game for mobile thus far in 2015. Before you even consider its sublime graphics and realistic player models, First Touch Soccer has a wealth of content in the form of teams, various competitions, and modes of play. It’s also ridiculously easy to play thanks to the clear and intuitive control system.
The stand-out features of First Touch Soccer are its graphics, controls, and AI. Controlling the game is facilitated by the on-screen buttons/joystick, making various skills and manoeuvres as simple as touching the appropriate buttons and moving the joystick in relevant fashion. Intuitive is how the matches feel from start to finish, and the AI only serves to make things feel more realistic. Both your team and the opposition use the space on the field wisely, with players marking opponents and actually challenging you. At times, it would be difficult to tell the AI apart from real-life opponents in a blind test; that’s how good the AI is here.
Then you’ve got a treasure chest of content, with well over 200 club teams in the mix, as well as dozens of different competitions to be getting on with. A wealth of game modes also augments the experience, from quick match to online multiplayer, there’s a mode to suit all sorts of tastes and satisfy people who either have a few minutes or a few hours to kill. There’s even a Dream Team mode where you can amass your own team with the legendary players of your choosing.
The only conclusion therefore, is that choosing to play First Touch Soccer 2015 shouldn’t be given a second thought. There are many that consider it to be one of, if not the best football title available on mobile at the moment. Its intuitive and effective control system, staggeringly impressive AI, reams of content, and online multiplayer all stack up to make a football game experience that towers above almost all of its competition, even the big-budget FIFA and PES offerings.
Dream League Soccer
Having the freedom to manage your own football team’s players and general affairs is the subject of a great number of games on the app store. However, take a look at Dream League Soccer if you want a game that balances both football management and detailed, dynamic on-pitch action. As the name suggests, Dream League Soccer is all about building up your ideal team, constructing your dream team from what you’re handed at the beginning: a nondescript, generic, fourth-tier (there are four leagues in the game – this means you’re bottom in the game’s fictional league system) football team with random players and not much success under their metaphorical belts. You can change all this however, by taking control of Dream FC., building their stadium, training the players, and getting stuck in on the pitch in order to earn your position in the big leagues.
Your initial team is more like a thing of nightmares than dreams, so it’s up to you to change things for the better. Gameplay is split between off-pitch responsibilities - tending to your football ground and training your players are the main ports of call here – and on-pitch gameplay where you play out games using the on-screen joystick and contextual action buttons. Controls are simple, but as is the case with other First Touch Games, they are effective in allowing you to control the movement and perform actions like shooting, tackling, and passing. It’s no FIFA Mobile in terms of pitch play, but it’ll do for a management/on-pitch hybrid.
Your extra-curricular (i.e. off-pitch) duties involve training your players and performing other activities like upgrading your stadium. Most actions (with the exception of changing your team’s name) cost differing quantities of in-game currency in order to be completed, so it’s a case of either winning matches to earn coins, watching 30-second video clips to earn just 30 coins, or – I’m sure you’ve worked it out by now – handing over your own cash for fake, in-game coins.
And so we come to the harsh truth about Dream League Soccer: it’s really one of First Touch Games’ lesser titles that appears to be designed around the cash-cow gaming model. On-pitch action is entertaining, and pitting your success against the teams of other real-life players is also a satisfying multiplayer angle. Even the graphics are impressive and consistent with other titles in the First Touch Games repertoire. It’s just that the whole package somehow feels disappointing. Passing, tackling, and shooting don’t quite feel as natural as they should, and your off-pitch activities are restricted heavily by the quantity of coins you have at any one time, making this a great free-to-play romp as long as you’re not expecting too much depth or rapid progress from rags to virtual riches.