Thursday 30 March 2006
The format here will be more than familiar to anyone who's dabbled in football management gaming before. Screens of text and numbers cover everything from team sheets to league tables.
As ever, the action breaks down into the short-term fun of deciding upon tactics and watching your team play, the longer term challenge of steering your side through the ups and downs of a season, and your overarching mission of building a dynasty.
Let's face it, we all know what a football management game does. But it isn't so much what Champ Man 06 does that matters, it's how it does it. And we can safely say, without any hint of a doubt, that it does things adequately.
'Adequately' is an improvement on the last Champ Man, and it also implies that this is a perfectly acceptable, playable title. But it also implies that things could be a whole lot better, which indeed they could be.
This is apparent from the moment you go to pick your first team in your first ever match. You click on tactics to bring up a screen showing your formation, bring up a drop-down menu and pick out which of the many variants you prefer. Then, you go to drag your players from the list at the side into the positions you want them to play and discover that you can't. No, you have to click on another screen to select the team, then click back to the tactics screen to make further adjustments.
Sure, it does the job, but it's not as logical or as streamlined as it could be (or as its rivals are). Similarly, player information - all gratefully received and undeniably useful - is spread across several screens when it could surely have been easily combined into one or two.Small points, yes, but indicative of the relative lack of refinement evident in Champ Man 06 compared to the sheepskin-sporting benchmark that is Football Manager 2006.
Take scouting. Whilst Champ Man 06 lets you search across various criteria (position, side, foot, age, wage, value), it doesn't let you search by individual attribute, making it harder to track down, say, a Makelele-like midfield stopper.
There's also a lack of sophistication in places. It only takes a couple of good performances from a player to make other managers come sniffing around, even if the player has been useless the rest of the time. Likewise, your board are largely either pleased, satisfied or disappointed with wins, draws and losses respectively, regardless of the context.
To its credit, Champ Man 06 has tried to innovate with its 3D pitch view of matches. You can use the number pad keys to switch between multiple angles, and featuring Subbuteo-like figures moving around the pitch, it does deliver some genuinely exciting action.
Flowing moves, deft free-kicks, brutal tackles, agile saves and cracking goals - they're all here. As is some very odd action on occasion, such as the freakish goals scored from outside the box at acute angles, and the truly imbecilic lack of communication between certain lower league goalies and central defenders that let strikers run onto seemingly aimless long balls. Still, these are isolated incidents. The same can't be said for bookable offences, with red and yellow cards flourished far too often.
Another innovation, building upon the speed of play that was CM 05's only distinction, is its simulated world. Even if, to keep the game fast, a player selects the minimum number of playable leagues, the engine will simulate major leagues from around the world, allowing you to dip in to inspect results and check player and team form across the globe. It's a nice feature, especially for anyone with a low-spec machine, and adds not just atmosphere but real, playable detail.
Champ Man 06 still feels more like a bunch of names and numbers than a convincing world of football, and doesn't quite mesmerise you the way FM 06 can.
While the last Champ Man barely functioned, this latest version is at least playable. More importantly, it can claim to be fun, even if it is still brought down by some faults.