Top Eleven 2016 review: We see if we can do better than Jose in this updated version of the football management sim Top Eleven, out now for iPhone and iPad.
Managing a football team these days is as thankless a task as catching flies with chopsticks, as the likes of Mourinho, Van Gaal and McClaren will inevitably testify. But leading a virtual team to the top of the league has been gloriously addictive since the days of the original Champ Manager on the PC, back in the 90s. That game is the reason we skipped revision, failed our finals and ended up drinking and moaning for a living (a.k.a. journalism).
And now that dangerous addiction is available in mobile form, thanks to Top Eleven 2016. This iOS take on the footy management sim is just as detailed and engrossing as the best Champ Man games, with the added ‘bonus’ that you can take it everywhere you go. We’re expecting a lot of man hours to be lost across the country, as employees take one-hour toilet breaks to get their teams ready for the next big match.
Top Eleven 2016 is the latest version of the management sim, and there’s so much packed in that it would take an essay-style report to mention it all. If you don’t have that patience, then this is all you need to know: Champ Man fans should be satisfied by everything except for the inflexible time-based match system, which is unnecessarily restrictive. But if you have an eye for detail and want total control, Top Eleven delivers in buckets.
As an example, you can not only upgrade your stadium to give it a greater capacity, you can also add extra car parking spaces and pimp out your training ground and improve the pitch to lessen the risk of injuries. When it comes to your squad, you can hand-pick the training regimes of individual players and select the running order of set piece takers and tweak your match tactics depending on your next opponent. You’ll even need a keen mind for finances, as you work out the best sponsorship deals for your club and decide which extra staff to employ to keep your players fit and healthy.
Transfers are another highlight, operating on an exciting eBay-style bid system. Spotted someone you like the look of, to fill that defensive hole in your squad? Try chucking a few thousand down and then cross all available limbs that none of the other teams storm in with a higher bid before the countdown ends. Because if they do, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth bumping up your bid in the final seconds.
When you finally get stuck into a match, you’ll see a Champ Man style presentation of the game. For the most part it’s text descriptions, while occasionally you’ll see a top-down real-time slice of the action if one team comes close to scoring. You can make subs and switch up tactics mid-game, but you’ll have to be quick as there’s no way to pause the match, adding an extra squirt of authenticity.
However, Top Eleven 2016 isn’t perfect, and our main complaint is the scheduled matches. You can tinker as much as you like between games, but you have no say over when a match is actually played, which means you either have to check back when your next game is due, or else miss it (often through work or other life commitments) – and miss out on the chance to throw in subs and mix up your tactics.
You’ll also need to be online to play, which means you’re stuffed if you’re hoping to get stuck in during a flight, or if you head abroad without roaming enabled.
Still, Top Eleven 2016 is free to download and the freemium elements aren’t intrusive or rammed down your throat. If you have any love for the beautiful game, you should definitely check the game out right now on the App Store for iPhone/iPad.