Championship Manager: Season 01/02
Games journalists are not known for their dedication and sacrifice. We may be willing to knock back a few stiff ones in the name of our craft or stay in expensive Californian hotels for the sake of research, but ask us to get up early and do an honest day's work and we'll do nothing but bitch and moan. So you'll be surprised to hear what a stringent regime I put myself through to bring you this thoroughly researched preview. It may not come close to Robert De Niro's preparation for the role of Jake LaMotta for which he put on four stone (although weight gain was a curious side effect), but I think you'll agree it comes close.
Update The Update
The most common accusation levelled at Champ Man updates is that they're nothing short of a con - that they don't bring enough new features to warrant shelling out $20 to $30 on a whole new game. To put these allegations to the test I spent five whole days playing CM 00/01 (the previous update), before grabbing the early beta version of CM 01/02 from the startled postman's hands. And when I say five whole days, I'm talking the full dinner-on-a-tray and potty-under-the-desk workout.
I even went to the trouble of downloading the latest free updates from the Web, so all the teams would be in the correct leagues and all the latest transfers implemented. If anyone was going to notice any worthwhile changes it was going to be me. As always, the new tweaks and changes all seem like superficial polish when you first start playing.
It's only when you're knee deep into a season that you realise how much they enhance the experience. The first things you notice in the new version are that you can now choose two players and compare them on a special screen, and make your scouts spy on your next opponents to analyse their strengths and weaknesses. Big deal, you think. Click on an unknown youngster from another team and you see his stats are all blank and are only revealed if you send a scout to investigate him. If you decide he's one to watch in the future you can make a note on him and make the game remind you in the future to check up on his progress. Intriguing, but still hardly worth the extra cash. Then suddenly the big signing you'd finally managed to coax from another team won't come because your team's wages are too paltry, so you tell the board you need some extra cash, like you'd normally do. They come back with their usual refusal, and you notice you can issue them with an ultimatum. The next thing you know the fans are backing you and turning against the directors, who are left with no choice but to grudgingly give you some more dough. The big name signs and the fans explode with merriment and chant your name in the streets, while season ticket sales rocket.
Older And Wiser
Slowly, almost without realising it, you're drawn into the CM world more than ever before. Every tiny new feature adds another layer to the already rich texture of the game. This is why, despite a few whingeing old-timers who still revere the ancient CM1, the game just keeps getting better with each new release. And if the above isn't enough to convince you, how about the chance to appeal against player bans, see the new EU transfer system in action, send recurrent Darren Andertons to surgery or change anything you want with the improved editor?
But leaving the new tweaks, improvements and added features aside for a moment, the mere data update alone is worth the money. The whole point of the game is that it mirrors the real world with such unerring accuracy that it feels like you're actually there, and no fan-created database can compete with the sheer number of people working for Sports Interactive to ensure each stat is as close to the money as it can be. It's not just the right players in the right teams. Age, wages, personality, injuries, feelings towards the manager or even new positions they have been playing in are all equally important to create that sense of realism. The fact that each player's contract has changed by a year alone has enormous repercussions regarding who is willing to move when you start dabbling in the transfer market at the start of the season.
CM is not a game you approach casually. There is a commitment involved. You have to bring to it your imagination, concentration and a certain suspension of disbelief to experience it fully. If you do, what many view as a spreadsheet with no graphics and hardly any sound suddenly becomes a portal into another reality. You control a real football team remotely by your PC and those names with a bunch of stats underneath them are transformed into real players with their own unique abilities and unpredictable personalities.
If you want further proof as to the accuracy of the data you only need to look at its ability to predict future stars. Us CM fans delight in bragging that we knew that young Argentinian Javier Saviola was going to turn into one of the hottest strikers in the world at least two years ago. He's now been presented as Barcelona's biggest signing of the season. Similarly, we knew Pablo Aimar was a little genius long before he signed for Valencia in the middle of last season, and we're sure you'll be hearing a lot about Riquelme in years to come (another player Barcelona is trying to sign -perhaps they're avid CM players). In the UK, Kieron Dyer, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane were all making splashes in the game before they were in real life. And young Wigan goalkeeper Roy Carroll was always going to go to a bigger club; he's just joined Manchester United no less.
So if you want to find out who the stars of tomorrow are, play Championship Manager. And if you want to find out if it's really worth spending money on if you've got the last update... well, of course it is, what are you thinking? But it will look better in a couple of months' time when we review the finished version and give it a score.
CAM is just a year away
CM 01/02 is the last update for CM3 and SI are already hard at work on the next chapter of the series. The game will get a major overhaul that will affect Its looks and introduce lots of the ideas they've been developing for the past couple of years while retaining the same playability.
The introduction of agents should add even more depth to transfer negotiations, while assistant managers will have a much greater role to play and the media will get even more involved. Training will also undergo severe improvements. And while the Collyers are sticking to their guns with their hatred of 3D players, there will be a top-down 2D representation of the matches to let you see what's going on with more detail than the stats could ever provide on their own.
The biggest feature though is the implementation of full online support, creating a much more believable alternate universe to the goblin-filled Evertluest. Get your ADSL connections ready because this could be the biggest game on PC ever. Also making an appearance on the Xbox and even the PS2 if Sony sort out a hard disk.
Processor: PC compatible, P-100
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode