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Football Director DS (DS) artwork

Football Director DS (DS) review

"Football Director DS is a promising youth team player. The foundations for a worthwhile asset are there for all to see; it simply needs to be carefully cultivated in the future to reach full potential. "

Aldershot Town FC have always enjoyed -- or endured -- a turbulent existence. Theyíve faced bankruptcy, illegitimate buy-outs perpetrated by teenage fraudsters who bluffed their way onto national television, and phoenix-esque revivals birthing a club managed by an ex-player with only three footballers on his books from Aldershot FC's bankrupt corpse. Theyíve spent decades clawing and dragging their way slowly back into the world of football and, as of this current season, theyíve played themselves back into the lowest echelon of the professional division.

Perhaps the 2008-2009 season will forever live as their most infamous. Itís the year Gary Hartley powered up his DS and took command of the teamís first real surge in the English League Division 2.

Despite the boardís foolish insistence that the lightweight team should be finishing mid-table come the seasonís end, I lost nothing in the way of confidence, so the first thing I did was spit all over the old managerís tactics and formations. The foolish 4-2-4 formation upset my English sensibilities in such a way as any formation that isnít 4-4-2 does, so it was changed.

The team didnít look as strong as I had hoped. Each player is split into statistical ratings, as management games are wont to do, and Aldershotís team was rife with low scores. Even after Iíd shepherded out the excess strikers and bought in some midfielders (even if I had to keep a striker on the right wing) I raided the youth team and promoted a youthful attacker, bringing my squad total of forwards up to a staggering eight. Needing a new left winger and perhaps someone to study up my defence, I headed off to the transfer market, where I became immediately confused.

Itís easily done. The small handheldís screen squashes the bevy of options into tiny icons, but, with some exploration, you can find a limited market to browse. Thereíre options as to what you can look at, and the chance to design a clumsy filter to search your preferred players. Keyword: limited. I was in great need of a left-sided winger, but the playerís fields are not defined enough to allow you to search for a wide man -- you only get the basic positions of goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward. No centre backs, no flankers -- just your basic positional flavours.

Random pro: the game is licensed, so Ryan Giggs is not Rayn Goggs, and even the small teams like Aldershot have the correctly named squad available -- if you want to build things around goalkeeper Nikki Bull, you can. Heís right there. Random con: itís only the first four English leagues available; foreign crusades are not a possibility.

I figure getting a primarily left-footed midfielder would suffice. You canít use that in the search filter, either. I found a few players within my price range with suitably advanced skill ratings that I could bid on but within all the information supplied of a potential purchase, stats including age, disciplinary points, morale and fitness. What you donít have is their affiliated team. The first few players I bid on where Premiership players. Obviously, even if youíre right on the fringe of Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, youíre not going to willingly wander all the way down to Aldershot.

In the end, I raided Rotherham to bid on a 20-year-old midfielder who I liked the look of. After some bartering, I persuaded the club to agree a price and was left with only the contract to iron out. As is usually the way, the player balked at my first lowly offer. As is unusual, this took me all the way back to square one where I had to rebid on the player. Randomly, Rotherham decided it would be better not to let J.Yates go for quite as little as they did before. In a panic, my second contract offer was well over the price I wanted to offer, but I couldnít go through all the rigmarole of capturing the same player a third time.

In Yatesí first game, Aldershot lost to Division 2 whipping-boys, Exeter City, 2-0. Yates was booked in the 25th minute, and did little else.

Aldershot did not have a great season that year. After a string of poor results, it was obvious that something wasnít working within the teamís set up. They were ploughing in a large amount of yellow cards, so the aggression was dialled down, leading to less free kicks conceded and less set pieces plaguing our play at the cost of more defenders being beat. It was obvious that asking my team to play a running game of football was exhausting the older members of the squad and bringing in too many injuries, so I elected to make the ball do the work and we slowly switched to a more passing side that interlinked in a series of short, sharp passes. I bought in faster defenders and took my marking from man-to-man and elected to employ zonal, summoning more blasts of the offside whistle to my aid at the forever-lurking risk of a speedy striker springing the trap.

Things picked up after some expert tinkering, but the progress was hard to track. Games could be watched with a text-based commentary that tells you when something noteworthy like a corner has been won, a foul conceded or a goal missed or scored, or you could go the quicker route and just skip straight to the result. Either way, and youíve no real way of knowing how your individual players fared in the game, nor is there any way to retroactively look back on previous results to compare and contrast past and current form. I paid a small fortune to bring Yates into the fold, and he drew a much bigger wage than I wanted to pay him, but I had no way of seeing if he was making as much of an impact on my squad as his wage demanded.

I finished the first season mid-table with finances in the minus despite a complete lack of irresponsible spending sprees and a little over a million in the bank come the start of the season. Aldershot had met their first seasonís goal of being middle of the pack, but Iím pretty confident that Football Director DS was aiming for higher. Itís true that handhelds have been and remain crying out for a decent management game for tracksuit-loving strategists to coach on the move, and here theyíll find a reasonable effort. It would be unfair to compare it to the PC and console powerhouses like Football Manager and LMA, so Iím not going to. I understand and appreciate that, to bring a genre to the smaller, portable screens, sacrifices need to be made. Here, the wrong sacrifices are made at times leaving homebrew football managers without some options they would take for granted. Itís compact and competent, but still lacking and struggling to compete at times.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 15, 2008)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Masters posted December 15, 2008:

Good work Gary. You made reading about a game I'd find incredibly boring, manageable. That's pretty remarkable.
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EmP posted December 15, 2008:

Thanks, Marc. I'm glad my forth Footy manager sim review didn't cause you to swear off EmP reviews for life.

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