Football Manager Handheld 2013: More immediate, more compelling

Sports Interactive's flagship title is at its accessible best on iPad

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For me, Football Manager Handheld 2013's biggest revelation is Fabio Borini.

On first impressions he's destined to be good, but never great; Typical of most Liverpool signings. He's the kind of player that'll score seven or eight goals a season before retiring to Fulham for £3 million. In real life, he has scored one goal in eleven appearances before breaking a bone in his foot - so far, so Liverpool.

In Football Manager Handheld 2013, Borini is a sensation. He netted 25 goals in his first (injury-free) season before out-scoring supposed star striker Luis Suarez in his second. Andy Carroll, meanwhile, has been recalled from his nonsensical loan move to West Ham. He sits on the bench at Anfield in March 2014 admiring a revitalised club.

Fabio Borini: New Anfield hero.

Liverpool are no longer so feckless in attack. Fashionable, ponderous short-passing has been ditched for direct, attacking 4-4-2 with proper wingers. We are fighting it out with Man City, Man United and Chelsea for the title. Over a weekend's play, I have begun to casually refer to my pretend team as 'we', as if they were anything more than a collection of statistics I have arbitrarily attached myself to.

It doesn't matter. Football Manager's magic is in turning crushing, inevitable reality into an intoxicating alternate universe. An unforeseen world in which Fabio Borini is a much-admired goalscorer, and Mark Hughes has succeeded Arsene Wenger at the Emirates.

Complaints that Football Manager had become too bloated and complex have never applied to its Handheld edition. It has always been most reminiscent of turn-of-the-century Championship Manager 3, with its boxy blue presentation and far simpler transfers and tactics. It is engaging enough to satisfy without overwhelming or asking too much of the player.


Sports Interactive's masterpiece is famed for its addictive qualities. On iPad, its portability makes it all the more attractive. The more static act of playing on PC has always felt more demanding of your time, but here a swipe to unlock is all that stands between you and one more game. On the train or on the sofa, its play is naturally more immediate and accessible.

For £6.99 it is extraordinary value for money. Every single club in each of the 14 nations in this game represents a different kind of challenge. Its vast database will entertain football fans almost endlessly - a true desert island videogame.

The 2013 edition brings extra in-app purchases that can, for example, attract sugar daddies to the club in exchange for real money. There's also the new Challenge Mode, a unique set of circumstances to be overcome within a shorter timespan. But these additions are really sideshows compared to the main game.

It is a rare thing to find a videogame whose fictional world can prompt a real-life punch of the air or evoke that unique, empty feeling of a last-gasp defeat. Sports Interactive's latest piece of dream fulfilment is, in my opinion, at its streamlined and accessible best on iPad.

Football Manager Handheld 2013 is available on the App Store for £6.99 here.