Championship Manager 4
We all fear change. Nevertheless, it inexorably creeps up on us and engulfs us in its terrifying newness. It's not always a bad thing, mind you. After all, were it not for the invention of the toilet, we’d still be hanging our clinkers out of a first floor window of a morning. The success of Championship Manager, however, has always been built on a basic unmoveable foundation: no graphics. For more than a decade, the game has enraptured a generation of virtual managers through the simple medium of words. So what have they done for this fourth version proper? Only gone and added a graphics engine.
OK, so 'graphics' might be stretching the point a little. Suffice to say. you won’t need to peruse our hardware section for a new 3D card, but we can confirm the existence of an optional 2D match engine which will run concurrently with the traditional text commentary. Basically, it's a moving version of the tactics board so beloved by Andy Gray on Sky Sports. And while it's a brave new world for Championship Manager, the reasonably playable Ultimate Soccer Manager employed a similar method with some degree of success.
While it's not exactly the FIFA engine -as recently used by EA in Total Club Manager- it still represents a sizeable leap for Champ Man, and is a fundamental change that will inevitably irk the purists. However, Marc Vaughan, developer at Sports Interactive says: "It's a natural evolution. It gives people improved feedback on what's happening in the game, why they’re letting goals in, why they’re scoring goals. It’s the obvious way to allow people to analyse things further."
As for the minutiae of tactics, rather than relying on guesswork, SI has gone to the professionals. Erstwhile Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder, Ray Houghton, has for the past 18 months been employed as director of football, studying the match engine and pointing out any obvious tactical anomalies. As Vaughan says: "We’ve always traditionally spoken to players, managers, agents and anyone else who will talk to us to find out as much as possible - and make sure the game is as realistic as possible. With Ray we’ve been very lucky in that we now have an employee of Sports Interactive rather than people just doing us favours."
The match engine aside, there will be more than 40 different leagues, youth teams, completelyreworked training, and the ability to delegate several tasks. Furthermore, the interface has been totally redesigned in an attempt to throw off the perennial 'glorified spreadsheet' jibes, and players will be able to customise it and create their own skins. As for other treats, Vaughan is remaining cagey. 'There are loads of new features, and a lot of them will be things that you will still be coming across six months after you start playing it. That’s always been what I've tried to get into Champ Man, and that’s basically what keeps it fresh." Bring it on.
Download Championship Manager 4
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Championship Manager divides the gaming community like nothing else, and that love/hate relationship rings true within the rarefied confines of the office. Whereas Woods, Korda, Holden and Pratchett won't have it in the house, visionaries such as Steve Hill (who wrote this muck? - Ed), the other Hill, Shoemaker and Pullin are all dedicated followers. Spot the difference between the two groups? The first lot are deskbound automatons (does not compute - Ed), whereas the latter bunch are freelancers, with hours of gnawing emptiness to fill. The point is, it's almost impossible to hold down a job and apply yourself fully to the game. February should bring bad news for employers then, as CM4 looks set to cut deep into the heart of industry.
Aficionados may balk at the all-new 2D match engine, but it will be complemented by the traditional text commentary, and Sports Interactive is keen to stress that the purity of the game will remain intact. As head of development Marc Vaughan says, Regardless of how we portray it, there will always be one simulation. We simulate a football match.
Elsewhere, a host of new features are being added, and the interface has had a fairly drastic re-design. We hesitate to use the words dumbing down' but there is a definite feeling that CM4 is a concerted effort to become a piece of genuine mainstream entertainment. Just think of it - dedicated S/ms-ters dropping their home-making kits in favour of a hardcore text-based sports simulation. At that prospect alone, we're truly excited.