Hands-on with Real Football 2013
It may have inexplicably earned some very high-scoring user reviews on the App Store, but any serious football fan would be hard pressed to say that Gameloft's first foray into freemium football was a particularly good game.
It wasn't the business model that rankled with us, however. It was more the fact the action on the pitch was utterly woeful, as our 4/10 review made abundantly clear.
Still, Gameloft appears to be attempting something a little different with this second shot on the freemium footy net, with Real Football 2013 possessing a more feature-packed take on the beautiful game.Get in there!
The first big new change is the user experience. The whole UI and progression side of the game have been completely overhauled.
Onto the subs bench go the traditional - but dull - menus from the last game. Onto the pitch comes an interface that more closely resembles a footballing community (stadium, gym, etc.).
You can upgrade these facilities to help certain areas of your club - substituting better medical facilities for inferior ones heals your players faster, for instance - and there's definitely more of a personal feeling about this side as a result.
There's more of an involved career element to this year's edition, too: you're now in charge of one club and have to turn it into a superstar team.
You start the game with a selection of pretty poor players, but by using cash earned in matches (or bought with actual money), you get to initiate "transfers" for new signings, as well as get handed one free transfer per day.
I write 'transfers' in speech marks because they bear more of a resemblance to FIFA's Ultimate Team card packs on the consoles than to Football Manager Handheld 2012.
Instead of picking a player and negotiating wages, you choose from increasingly expensive packs (labelled "bronze", "silver", and the like) and are handed a random player of that particular grade.
The way the player is revealed, however, is genuinely nifty. You smash a ball into a goal rather than merely watch an animation of a box opening.Smooth moves
Having had a go on FIFA 13 within an hour of playing Real Football 2013, I'm not confident that Gameloft will be overturning EA's lead in the genre this time around on the pitch, but there's undeniably signs of improvement from the old mobile star.
Animations are noticeably smoother in Real Football 2013 than in previous iterations, for instance, and the controls felt slightly tighter than before.
Old vices die hard, though, and no one will be happy to find the player selection is still as fiddly and unreliable as ever. Plus, the AI I played against was rubbish. It backed off from the ball until I reached the penalty box on a dead-straight run.
I'm hoping this really was just because I was playing against the first and easiest team in the game, for this is an area in which Real Football really needs to improve following last year's entry.
Thankfully, I saw no signs of the hateful energy system during my hands-on time with the game, although the rep couldn't tell me if it had truly been ejected from the stands, or had just not yet collected its seat ticket.
Hopefully, we'll hear more about that from Gameloft closer to the game's release later this year.