Championship Manager History
Championship Manager is a name that has become synonymous in the UK for over a decade with the concept of a great, in-depth football management game. Originally developed by Sports Interactive, the game has been the responsibility of Beautiful Game Studios (BGS) since 2004. Unfortunately their initial attempts frankly weren’t up to scratch but with the benefit of time and stability under the new SCi-Eidos regime, the team has succeeded in building those early efforts into something far more worthy of the CM brand.
This year’s iteration is undoubtedly the most convincing edition yet and gives you the task of choosing any team from a total of 63 league tiers in 26 countries with which to find glory. What that glory might be will depend on your choice of team. Chelsea, for example, would no doubt demand an excellent showing in the English Premier League, as well as a more-than-respectable level of advancement in the Champions’ League. But if you decide to opt for the likes of Farnborough Town, which would probably just settle for avoiding relegation from the English Conference South, a different kind of challenge would await you.
But your first choice, once you’ve set up your own manager’s profile, is to work out which leagues you want to run and how much detail you’d like the game to go into. If you’ve got an older machine, it’ll help to keep the number of active leagues relatively low and simulate the rest, although you can only take jobs from active leagues as determined at the start of the game. It’s common to choose the country you want to start in, as well as a few others, and it’s possible to limit the number of leagues playable within a given country.
Once that’s done, and you’ve decided on a team, you’ll be responsible for pretty much every decision you can think of that a football manager in real life would make. First of all, you’ll need to think carefully about the players at your disposal and whether you want to mould a team around a certain formation, or vice versa. It’s important, especially at lower-level clubs, to spend some time looking at the players’ statistics–of which there are many–to see who might perform well in any given position.
Of course, there’s far more to take into account than bare stats alone–the age, morale, and general happiness of a player can contribute to whether or not he’ll perform. And until you’ve played a number of matches, it’s hard to get a feel for a team that you don’t know very well.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what preseason is for, with a raft of friendly matches that will have been arranged for you. These games are designed to give your players the chance to gain match practice before the proper season begins, but also to give you the opportunity to experiment with formations and tactical settings. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the opposition is likely to be doing the same, so just how much valuable information you gather during this time is always open for debate.
The hub of the game focuses around match day itself. When your team is due to play, you’ll see a list of fixtures onscreen, before being taken to the dressing room for the team talk. In CM 2007, you have the opportunity to utter some words of inspiration–or condemnation–before a match, during halftime, and after the final whistle. You can also talk individually to players, as well as give an overall address or keep quiet if you’d prefer. Different team members will respond better to different messages, depending on their personalities. A feedback area at the bottom of the screen will give you some idea about how certain players have reacted to your comments. As you progress in this way, you’ll get an idea of how to motivate the various characters on your team to get the best from them.
After that, it’s on to the real action, and you can choose to digest the match in a number of different ways. The game is played out automatically, without any intervention from you unless you decide to make a tactical change. As in real life, once the whistle blows, it’s up to the players. You can view as much or as little of the on-pitch action as you like, but you’ll usually want to stick to the highlights–near misses, red cards, injuries, and of course, goals.
When one of these highlights occurs, you can watch the match in a kind of 3D that’s an approximation of what you might see on TV. Should you so desire, you can also change the viewing angle. Although players aren’t represented realistically, as you might expect from something like FIFA 07, you get a good idea of the movement and the ball and players.
On the plus side, being able to see a game play out in this way gives you much more of a visual clue as to where your team is doing well, or not so well, and it’s certainly easier on the eye than CM’s text commentary roots. However, the drawback is that most people buying this game will be used to watching real teams play on TV, and unfortunately, BGS still has some work to do on sharpening up some of the player intelligence. There has definitely been an improvement made to the match engine since CM 2006, but watching just a handful of games will present a myriad of odd decisions.
For example, on a number of occasions, we witnessed situations where a challenge would occur on the edge of the area, which resulted in the ball trickling toward the goal and just past the post as the goalkeeper and nearest defenders stood by and watched. This usually resulted in a corner to the opposition–despite the fact that there was ample time and opportunity for one of our team’s players to rescue the ball.
On another occasion, we managed to score from a free kick that was taken midway in the opposition’s half. Curiously, most of the players on the pitch were huddled about 15 yards from where the kick was being taken, while a lone pairing of striker and defender stood on the penalty spot. The ball came in and was nodded home by our striker–the oddest-looking attack-free kick we’ve ever seen.