Football Manager 2022 (FM22) is out today, however a key player has been dropped from the line-up. For as many seasons as I can remember, there’s been a Touch version of the game for iPad/Android tablets. However, there is no FM22 Touch, with Sports Interactive deciding to drop it in favour of streaming the Xbox version of the game via Xbox Game Pass. A good decision? Here’s my verdict.
Why no FM22 Touch?
Sports Interactive announced back in October that there would be no FM22 Touch for iOS/Android devices, although I must admit the announcement passed me by. The only Platform getting FM22 Touch is the Nintendo Switch.
It seems FM22 Touch has become a victim of Covid. “With the pandemic and changing working practices thrown into the mix, we also have to weigh up internal resources, both short term and long term, when making format decisions,” explained Sports Interactive chief, Miles Jacobson, in a post explaining the decision. Instead, Miles announced, “tablet players will be able to stream that game to their devices via Microsoft’s xCloud streaming service (which is available to anyone with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription).”
What’s the streaming version like?
I’m a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber, so I streamed FM22 on my iPad Pro last night to find out what the experience is like.
The first thing to note is that you’re streaming the Xbox version of the game, not the PC version (both are available from day one on Game Pass, but only Xbox games can be streamed). The Xbox version is functionally similar to FM Touch: a more streamlined feature set, smaller player databases, no way to upload skins/face packs/custom databases.
On the iPad there are two ways to control the game. You can use an Xbox controller (connected via Bluetooth) or touch controls. It’s a long time since I’ve dabbled with FM on the Xbox, but I have to say using the Xbox controller worked a lot better than I thought it would. Little tooltips appear above menu options, showing you which button to press in the menus (as you can see in the screenshot below), making it much easier than I anticipated to navigate your way around a game that was clearly designed for mouse and keyboard.
You can also use the iPad’s touch screen to navigate around the menus. At first, I thought this was going to be painful. Even doing something as simple as setting up my manager profile was hideous, as the imprecise touch controls made things such as picking my date of birth from drop-down menus near impossible. However, once I got into the main game, the touch controls seemed to work much better – although not as well as previous versions of FM Touch. Dragging players around the pitch on the Tactics screen, for example, or donking small menu buttons is still a process of trial and error. It’s playable with touch controls, but I’d definitely opt for the controller if I had one to hand.
iPad owners might be wondering if they can use a Bluetooth mouse or a keyboard with Magic Trackpad to control the game. Alas, that doesn’t appear to work in my tests, which is a crying shame.
The game play itself is fine, very similar to the FM Touch experience of seasons past. The game progresses much more quickly, because there are no press conferences, team talks and other elements to slow the pace. If you’re the kind of player who just wants to get stuck into the matches and can’t be arsed with the rest, then it’s the perfect vehicle.
However, there are some big drawbacks of streaming via Game Pass rather than a downloadable FM Touch app. The most obvious one is the need for a decent internet connection. You won’t be able to stream from a moving plane, train or automobile because 4G/5G connections don’t offer the reliability. Even at home, you might find you need to be within a room or two of the router to get a reliable stream.
Then we come to the cost. Game Pass Ultimate costs £10.99 per month. For that you get a massive library of PC and Xbox games to install and stream, and I’m a big fan of it. However, if you’re coming purely for FM22, the cost is way more than the £25 you might have dropped on FM22 Touch.
I also saw some weird shizz in my early tests of FM22 on Game Pass. Although my game saved in the cloud fine, it completely forgot my preferences. For some reason, the game seemed to decide I was American, meaning wages were shown in dollars, the date formats were wrong etc. I went through and changed all of these to the UK defaults, but when I loaded the save game this morning, it had reverted to the Trumpian way of doing things. Highly irritating.
Overall, is Game Pass streaming a like-for-like replacement for FM Touch on iPad/Android tablets? I’d have to say not. The lack of offline play, the more akward controls and the price all count against it. I could definitely see myself reaching for FM22 on Game Pass if I didn’t have my laptop to hand on a weekend away, for example, but would I want to play a long-term save that way? Probably not.