Well here we are with the latest version of the most popular and the best football management game you could ever find. The championship manager series has come a long way since its first release years ago on the Amiga, then the game was slow and although enjoyable it was boring as you had to wait hours to move from one game to another as the slow machines took ages to process just one league.
Nowadays however we have faster PC's, tons of RAM and a game that is so loved it is given yearly updates and the very best of support. Ask anyone that likes football and computers and they will no doubt mention championship manager as one of the top games.
This years update is as you would expect for the 2001 and 2002 season. I myself have missed out on most of the pervious updates, playing my last championship manager game over 4 years ago, so I was pleased to get this in the post to review.
Since I last played Champ Man it has gone though various updates and many features have been added. In this latest update a fair few very useful features have been added, one of them is allowing you to compare two players to see which is better at a particular position. Doing this shows you the best attributes of each player on the same screen and also the game uses these to try and tell you which player is best at what position.
The game also incorporates the new transfer system, which among other rules limits players of a certain age to a minimum contract length or protects the contact you have with the player.
In this version you are also given the chance to appeal the ban of a player after getting a red card or a number of yellows, however every time I have done this the FA have just dismissed my claims.
I have never been good at Champ Man, I always start at the bottom of the English League, usually going for a team with enough money and who are currently doing well in real life. Even though I try to guarantee I will have a good season I never really paid much attention to the tactics, and staying with a 4-4-2 formation for the duration of a season usually means I am sacked after only a few months.
This time I really paid attention to the tactics, the young players coming through, the skills of the senior players and I really went after players in the transfer market. I know in all of these games when you start at the bottom, you will try to get the premiership players whose contracts have run out, but as in real life you don't stand much of a chance.
Paying more attention has really paid off and after my first season in charge the board was happy, my team was 6th in the league and we had a reasonable amount of cash. Although I am still amazed by people who seem to have a magic and can take teams right from the bottom and in each season get promoted to the next league up in the ladder.
I do like the fact that you can run more than one league in a game, such as you managing a team in the English first division while the German and Italian leagues are also played out in the background. This allows you to buy players from these countries and really check up on the progress of the teams in those leagues, interacting with them at the highest level.
Championship manager includes 27 major leagues from around the world, including some of the best leagues such as the English, Italian, German and Brazilian leagues. There are also a couple of smaller leagues such as the Welsh, US, Japanese, etc. The game also allows you to choose from 4 feeder leagues, which are at the bottom end of some of the bigger league pyramids in the world. These are the English Conference, German Regional Divisions, Italian Serie C2 - A, B & C and the Portuguese Second Division.
The in game graphics are nothing to shout about, Championship Manager employs a very simple 2D interface which works and looks pretty good, however there are no flash 3D graphics in sight. Its amazing in this day and age, where every software publisher is looking for the very best in 3D games that championship manager has retained a perfectly tuned 2D engine. Now don't get me wrong, I am not having a go, the engine works to the very best and any 3D features would not really help the game in any way. Its just nice to see a game that does very well based purely on its gameplay not the graphics.
The in game sound is nothing special either. The crowd during a game isn't really that realistic but the oooh's and the ahhh's that are very evident help to add some atmosphere while a game is played.
There are very few things about this game that you can possibly pick on. Maybe a few things here and there could be made slightly easier such as comparing two players but it really does not matter when you are playing such a perfect game.
Sports Interactive really has one hell of a winner on their hands and as long as they keep the updates coming, this is a game that will keep to the top of the charts.