Football Manager 2005
A page? A solitary page for the single most important game of the year? Fair enough -there's not a great deal in the way of eye candy, and the game is already on sale, with Bonfire Night leading to a spate of unsupervised kids maiming themselves while errant fathers got stuck into a brand new season. Chances are the majority of them have yet to emerge from the twilight world of Football Manager 2005, as Sports Interactive has only gone and done it again.
Was it ever in doubt? Of course not. All that's changed is the name; the game remains the same. And with Eidos's all-new Championship Manager 5 yet to see the light of day, it would appear to be something of an open goal. Eidos's loss is Sega's gain, as FM2005 continues the rich heritage that Sports Interactive has established over more than a decade as genre leader. In fact, we've even already accepted the new name. If anything it's an improvement, as to the untrained mind, Championship Manager could refer to a dominoes tournament.
There are no spots on Football Manager though, which takes an improved version of the match engine from Si's 'previous game' and wraps it in a radically redesigned interface. And while for the first few hours it feels a bit like writing with your wrong hand, ultimately it's a sizeable improvement, proving far more intuitive than in the past.
When Skies Are Grey
Of course, all this does is facilitate the descent into madness, as that familiar addiction takes hold. The time-honoured annual ritual of grey sky and green monitor has once again proven too much to resist, and as you read these words, hundreds of thousands of virtual managers are staring into middle space contemplating tactics and transfers, regardless of whether they're actually playing the game or not. There will still always be countless people who simply 'don't understand', and in many ways they are the lucky ones, free to go about their business free of the autistic behaviour that the game engenders.
Something of a walkover then, and while FM2005 retains a homespun feel, there's no doubting that it's the real deal. For dots on a screen to be imbued with tangible personalities is no mean feat, but it's one that SI appears to have pulled off without breaking sweat. There are a few quibbles to be had, such as the lacklustre 'mind games' feature to wind up opposing managers, and we expect the usual routine of minor patches. But when you find yourself contesting an LDV Vans tie at six in the morning, you have to concede that they've got it right. Quite simply the most addictive thing I've ever tried. And I've tried the lot.
Download Football Manager 2005
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
After Sports Interactive's recent transfer from publisher Eidos to Sega, the hugely successful company set up by the footie-mad Collyer brothers is now keen to draw a line under its previous development of the Championship Manager franchise to concentrate fully on its latest venture.
Football Manager 2005 is promising to be Sports Interactive's best footie management sim to date, and from our exclusive E3 preview of the game, we can assure fans that the latest code - still six months from completion -is already looking healthier than Chelsea's bank balance.
A Screen Of Two Halves
While retaining the core gameplay, Sports Interactive is adding more data and new features to FM2005, while also delivering an overall speed increase of at least 30 per cent. The first of the gameplay improvements is the interface, now much easier to navigate with neater panel organisation, more pop-up menus and a homepage that players have as a first point of contact with their team.
There are new player screens with more than 30 new stats too, mostly made up of special moves - such as Cristiano Ronaldo's slinky step-overs -that are only revealed to you through scouting and training. SI is also adding player photos for more personality - although how many hinges on the success of a number of licence negotiations over the next few months.
Most importantly, however, you can now split the interface screen into two panels, meaning, for example, you can watch a 2D match while keeping an eye on live league table updates - good for end-of-the-season crunch games. Handling reporters is now a vital part of being a modern manager, and Sports Interactive is revamping the media aspect of its game as well. You can now receive more newspaper-style text reports on football goings-on, as well as giving you the opportunity for 'mind games'. This is ideal for publicly winding up other managers and unsettling their teams - as Alex Ferguson did so successfully in causing Kevin Keegan's famous "I'd love it!" outburst on live TV a few years ago.
Agents are also becoming more important, so you have to quickly learn what type of character your players' agents are when doing deals with them (from easy-going to hard bastard). Leeds United fans will also be glad to know that it's going to be harder for teams to go into administration - but you might have to put up with the interference of a chairman, who could start selling players behind your back if you're in dire financial difficulties.
Sports Interactive is successfully working towards its goal of making the ultimate sports management sim, but the company is also aware that a huge part of football is the people and the interaction of personalities. With more unique characteristics for the players, the realistic media element and the increased opportunities for in-game rivalries between players and managers, could Football Manager 2005 be the world's first sports management RPG? We ll find out more this summer.
Following months of fevered speculation, it's now been confirmed that Sports Interactive's new football management game will be called... Football Manager. As surprises go, this was up there with night following day and bears defecating in woodland. Word had already spread that a classic name had been acquired, and those who have wasted over two decades of their lives with this sort of thing managed to hazard an educated guess.
The original Football Manager graced the ZX Spectrum in 1982. The work of the hirsute Kevin Toms, it was something of a revolution and is directly responsible for the creation of a genre. You may also remember Toms as the face that graced numerous cheap-looking ads for Addictive Games in '80s magazines.
What's In A Name?
Whatever, the name Football Manager now belongs to Sega and SI, having been acquired from Prism Leisure for an undisclosed sum. For the uninitiated, a condition of Sports Interactive's previous deal with Eidos was that the publisher would always retain the Championship Manager name. And with the long-mooted split finally coming, SI was forced to come up with a new title, whereas Eidos has come up with a new team to develop Championship Manager 05. An unprecedented occurrence for the games industry, it's now an interesting test case. To make a musical analogy, it's like The Beatles being replaced by four session musicians and continuing to make records.
The development team working on Football Manager 2005 is exactly the same as that which developed CM03/04, and still at the helm are the Collyer brothers, Oliver and Paul. In all but name, the new SI game will essentially be the latest iteration of Championship Manager. As Oliver says: It's the engine that we've been working on since the year dot, which we're just improving on as we've been constantly doing. It's an evolution of the game and we're continuing the evolution, that's the way we see it."
As for the unique split, he says: It makes it interesting. We certainly see it as a challenge. It's not been done before, the whole same engine, different name' thing, but sometimes you have to freshen things up. We've been developing Champ Man for years, so maybe it's time for something fresher. Things can go on for too long."
Ten Grand Brand
Getting the message across is a marketing challenge, and one that's already under way. Numerous Champ Manager webmasters have bought new Football Manager-based URLs for instance, and there's even a $10,000 competition to design the new logo for the game.
I don't think we're expecting things to happen overnight, says Oliver. It took us a long time to get to the situation we had with Championship Manager. However, we're confident that if we concentrate on making the game as good as possible, which is what we've always done, then that'll be the winning factor.
A Week Is a long time in football, never mind a year, but this budget release of Sports Interactive's first Football Manager game is still a must-buy for lovers of the beautiful game. Previously responsible for the legendary Championship Manager series, SI took their stats-heavy recreation of football management and radically designed the interface to make negotiating team changes, transfers and other stuff far more intuitive.
Additions since the developers' last Champ Man game (Season 03/04) include a pre-match comparison of teams and a new split-screen so you can track any info you like during matches. Featuring more than 150 divisions in over 50 countries, plus in excess of 5,300 players, the scope of Football Manager is breathtaking - although the game does chug from time-to-time. Despite an update last year, the stats and teams are somewhat out-of-date, but even this doesn't detract from an insanely addictive footie sim that's still vastly superior to the recent non-SI produced Championship Manager 2006.