Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 review: Thank goodness Hockey is back
Baseball is winding down. Football has just begun. Fall is in the air. This means one thing and one thing only: the return of hockey. The best part about watching the Sunday Night Football games on NBC this past month has been the promo for opening night between the Washington Capitals and my Chicago Blackhawks. Now, diehard NHL fans have been able to play NHL 14 for the past few weeks, but what if you don’t have the desire to be an all-star on the ice? What if you’d rather run the team from behind the scenes, setting up rosters, trading players, and setting tactics during the game? If this sounds like your cup of tea, Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 has you covered.
Well, kind of covered, anyway.
The game’s immediate impression is that the UI is straight out of the 90s and only appeals to the type of people who are aroused over spreadsheets and numbers. While this seems off-putting, consider that the game is essentially a franchise simulator. You’re not playing any games, nor are you watching them (the game does have a “real time” game simulator, but it’s so poorly implemented that you’re better off bypassing it or just having it on at 6 times the normal speed). Instead, you’re looking at names, comparing stats, and making decisions, so perhaps the game’s target demographic does like this type of UI. In fact, my initial negative reaction shortly wore off as I multitasked between simulating and doing other tasks.
But let’s say you’re not one to multitask. What if you just want to be engaged 24/7 in the hockey management experience? That’s entirely possible; there are plenty of options that allow for the user to have a hands-on experience with every aspect of the franchise. Want to propose trades yourself? Go right ahead. Looking to set line-ups personally? Be my guest. The amount of customization for a hands-on/hands-off experience is impressive and extends into the games themselves. You’re able to change up tactics on the fly in (what I assume to be) real time.
That line, “what I assume to be.” We need to talk about that.
There were far too many instances where I’d go, “Wait, didn’t I just make X move?” There seems to be a problem with the communication between the game and player. Maybe it stems from the weak UI, or maybe it just stems from a bad design, but there are plenty of times where you’ll wonder if a trade, roster move, or tactical decision you’ve implemented has really gone into effect. The game is frustrating enough when your players aren’t performing as well as you’d like them to. This only complicates things more.
Sadly, the complications don’t quite end there. The simulation of a game is an extremely painful process should you sit and “watch” it; you’re better off fast-forwarding through each game instead of wasting ten minutes of your time. Sadly, though, bypassing the games themselves doesn’t allow you to switch some tactics on the fly, something that has given me tangible results. It’s an unfortunate catch-22 that only showcases the problems with the game.
Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 has potential. In order to reach that, you’ll have to dig through a lot of crap. It’s not bad, yet not good. Merely so-so
At least hockey is back, though. Go ‘Hawks.