The Xbox football market in this latest generation has been well and truly kicked out of the park by just one game – and I promise this is my only football-related pun in this review. I’m talking about FIFA of course, and the might that it brings. See, back with generations past you had PES, FIFA and even the likes of Championship manager tugging at your purse strings, vying for your attention. So it really is time for some new football competition to hit the marketplace, pushing out some new blood into the transfer market. And that is where Football, Tactics & Glory comes in, hoping to combine a new way of playing the beautiful game with the football manager strategy and tactics side of things. But does it work? Or is combining multiple football related matters seeing it attempting to bite off more than it can chew?
Football, Tactics & Glory throws you straight into a game the moment you load up the single-player campaign. And it is this which introduces you to the first aspect of how to play, detailing how things will work out going forward. However it also contains a bit of a story, seeing you injured in the first game, and told that it is the end of your playing career. It’s all very sad, as we begin to understand that we’ll be missing out on the best years of our lives; hopes and dreams smashed. But hey, we shouldn’t worry because a team in the lowest of all leagues – the amateur league – wants you as their manager. And that is where the game truly begins.
The club you decide to begin your management career with is found at the very bottom of the league, but you can customise everything including your name, the players, the club name, the badge, the type of coffee in the canteen… well, I may have made that last one up but you get the idea – customisation is king here and you might as well have some fun. This is because the game hasn’t any licensing rights so your favorite Premier League team isn’t likely to be found anywhere.
When you start at the club you have the usual trapping of a football management sim; emails from the directors, first-team coaches and all sorts of people that I started to lose track of. In fact, there are so many it’s hard to remember who is who and what they do. The aim, of course, is to take your club from the bottom to the top, promoted through the leagues and taking home the ultimate glory. You’ll be doing so by playing with different formations, and messing around with tactics as you should see fit. The stats of the players are – at first – quite hard to understand, but over a few games, as you begin to understand what is best to look out for, you get used to them. You have some money to start with, but you will gain more per game, and with more success you of course discover the rewards.
A big part of this whole management gig is found by immersing yourself into the transfer market, but again it’s all a bit tricky to get to grips with, mainly because the players included will be those you’ve never heard of. All prior knowledge of real-world football goes out the window, and if I’m honest the career mode in FIFA 20 is a bit more involving than this. You basically spend money on scouts and other coaches, get a list of player names and are left to evaluate the stats in order to get an idea of who is best. And from there, you pay the money and the player is yours; no fuss, no negotiations and no agents.
When you get to match day you get even more choice; simulate the game and watch how things unfold, or actually play the match. Now, this is where Football, Tactics & Glory becomes something very different and unique. Again, you’ll have to get your head around things in order to understand what is what, but when you do, it’s a good deal of fun. It plays out almost like a game of chess mixed with Subbuteo, leaving you with a top-down version of the pitch with all the players in their positions. Each team gets to utilise three moves per turn, advancing up the pitch and playing the game out. So, for instance, you could move a player down the wing in one turn, pass the ball in another and then score a goal with the last move. It’s not as simple as that though and this is where the stats system comes into play. Each player’s stats and their opponent’s appear above them – for example you might have a 22 rated forward up against a defender who is equipped with a 36. So your odds of bothering to shoot at goal, while the opposition could get a block in, ensures things are not in your favour. The better the players though, the greater the chance you will have to win the game. And further to that, the very best players come equipped with special moves – like a power shot that they can employ. In a nice touch, you can upgrade your players fully with experience points that are earnt from games.
Even though it seems complex, Football, Tactics & Glory plays out reasonably well. There are several leagues and cups to play through and because of this you could easily spend hundreds of hours perfecting and customizing your team, playing to your heart’s content. Visually though and it is all quite simple to look at. The menus take a bit of getting used to, particularly as there will be times when you’re left to squint at the text. But hey, it’s colorful and fine to work with. The sound that accompanies it is pretty basic as well – as you would expect from a game of this ilk – but there’s a soundtrack in place that has a go at mixing some original uplifting music. Personally, I think after a few hours you’ll be turning the volume down on the TV and putting on your own playlists.
Football, Tactics & Glory on Xbox One is a bit of a fascinating game to play, for no reason other than because I am a big football fan. I like that it is trying something new with how you play the beautiful game, working in a turn-based manner and mixing it with a bit of Top Trumps. And I have also enjoyed the management side of it, trying to get a team through the many leagues to rise to the top. But that said, I massively miss the licensed player names and teams that bigger football games all have, and even though you can customise everything, it’ll take some work and you’ll just have to be ‘that kind of person’. I’m afraid I’m not such a person. Perhaps things would be a bit more positive if you picked up the Nintendo Switch version of Football, Tactics & Glory, as it suits that “on the train” type experience, whereby on the home console it doesn’t quite feel right. That all said, if you’re a football fan, want something a bit different and love to have a challenge then consider seeking out Football, Tactics & Glory.