Championship Manager 5
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We've discussed the politics ad nauseum, now we're down to the facts. The brutal facts of an all-new Championship Manager from an all-new developer. Following months of rumour and counterrumour, a release date was suddenly announced, and a review copy followed shortly (as did a patch), albeit comfortably too late for this review to deter early buyers. It's the oldest trick in the book and one that's particularly prescient here, as those who have already bought the game will attest. In plain English, it's a stinker. Following up the definitive football management game from scratch was admittedly an onerous task, but it's one that the now ironically named Beautiful Game Studios set about with good intentions. The obvious thing to do would be to simply to copy Championship Manager 4, and as far as is practically possible, this would appear to be the case. Give or take the aesthetics and clunky interface, the layout will be largely familiar to fans of the series, and initially comes across as an Argos version of CM4. So far, so predictable, and the game chugs along at a similar pace to its predecessors.
For all the claims of a quicker game, it's not vastly speedier, whether with just the one league loaded or the full complement of 26 nations. As for the other claim of constant gameplay', this simply means that you can continue tampering with your squad and so on while the game is processing results. Not exactly a revolution in the medium, but it does give you something to do during matches apart from drum your fingers. Elsewhere, for all the bragging about having attributes rated out of 100, there is an option to revert to the traditional out of 20' score too.
Bad Cover Version
Championship Manager 4 introduced the concept of the 2D match engine to the series, and this is retained here, but at a slightly jauntier angle. An array of options is available for your viewing pleasure, and you can watch the entire match in either real-time, double-speed, six-speed, 60-speed or simply go for the fast result. Apart from the absurdity of the idea of watching an entire football match played out by dots, none of the times seem to be particularly accurate and are all largely pointless anyway.
As we said ages ago, the obvious thing to do is to include a highlights mode, and thankfully this is the case. However, this is where things begin to unravel, as the game's definition of highlights appears to differ drastically from the accepted norm. The action cuts off in the middle of a goalmouth scramble, goals are even sometimes missed, although interestingly the whole thing slows down in order for the referee to run half the length of the pitch in order to book a player.
Any tension is taken out of the experience, and the game can go from 60 minutes on the clock to full time in the blink of an eye, thus scuppering any plans to bring on substitutes or make tactical changes. Attempting to enjoy a tangible match experience is something of a game in itself, as you find yourself trying to second-guess the computer by switching off the highlights mode partway through the second half, and manually guiding the match home through a combination of double-speed and six-speed.
Publish And Be Damned
This alone is enough to make you lose interest, but the more you play the game, the more it begins to fall apart, with a series of flaws and bugs appearing on a regular basis. The bottom line is that CM5 simply isn't finished. Had we received this disc out of the blue, we would have deemed it unreviewable and perhaps knocked out a cautiously noncommittal preview. The fact that it's actually on sale in this state is little short of a disgrace, and is a damning indictment of the unprofessional nature of the games industry. It has been well publicised that the finances of CM5 publisher Eidos are in a parlous state to say the least, and it doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to suggest that the company simply got it on the shelves before the end of the financial year in a last ditch attempt to save the company.
It's a sickener all round, not least for the developer, who, given time and testing could feasibly have produced a decent game. It was never going to match Football Manager 2005, but the signs are that it could at least have been competent. If BGS remains in existence, no doubt patches will continue to appear thick and fast, but unfortunately, you can't polish a turd. Eidos, you have dropped the ball.
Championship Manager 5's Got More Bugs Than An Entomology Convention...
The more you play it, the more they keep coming, with CM5's bugs proving a mix of comical, niggling and fatal. And don't forget, this is the patched version. For starters, how about the same news story cropping up twice in a row? Or the fact you can happily select supposedly ineligible players even if they're on loan elsewhere. No more than a minor annoyance? OK, imagine how you'd feel if you watched your team win a cup-tie and were then informed you'd been knocked out of the competition. A bit of a pisser? Then try sending your scout to watch a player and you're greeted with the attractive screen of death shown here. Now say bollocks.
Download Championship Manager 5
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Despite Being billed as the battle of the brands, the head-to-head showdown between Sports Interactive's Football Manager and Eidos' Championship Manager never materialised, with CM5 now slated for any time between January and June of 2005.
According to brand director John Webb, "The PC release of Championship Manager 5 was deferred from October 2004 in order to allow for further development and refinement of the game. Whilst the game is in good shape, we believe that it will benefit from additional improvements to further increase its competitive edge."
However, with Football Manager 2005 flying off the shelves, it's a safe bet that the CM5 team have at least had a dabble with it. "It's a good solid game but there are definitely areas where it could be improved," says Webb. "We constantly monitor all of our competitors and review our design to ensure that we maintain our leadership position. That said, we are continuing to concentrate on our original focus areas for CM5: speed of gameplay, realism and accessibility. Other than the significant speed gains which will be delivered by CM5, the biggest areas of improvement are in the training and tactical aspects of the game. Both have been considerably revamped working closely with Charlton Athletic's UEFA Pro-Certified First Team Coach, Mervyn Day. There are now more and more realistic tactical options to allow the manager to hone their team's performance, whilst the training area has been made more usable and accessible." Needless to say, we'll be the judges of that. Verdict some time between January and June...