The latest in the once glorious but now frankly mediocre Championship Manager series sets out with a host of new features that threaten to push it up the table. The inclusion of Prozone analysis, for one, is inspirational: it’s more comprehensive than ever before and the set-piece editor gives you more control over what you can do with free kicks and corners than you could have imagined possible. But, like the beautiful game itself, it’s no good having the skills and tricks if you can’t pay the bills by getting the basics right. And Champ Manager 2007 remains, at this stage, hampered by some, sadly, fundamental problems.
First up, despite its much-talked-about “revolutionary” control system we found it very easy to end up completely lost in its deep navigation tree. Finding things was often a process of trial and error and with a fat wedge burning a hole in our pocket, getting to the transfer page was like getting out of a maze blindfolded. Crappy and inefficient, the inclusion of a quick “home”-style button, which lets you bring up a comprehensive menu at any time, often bailed us out. The home button is a good thing. The fact that it becomes more of a panic button most definitely isn’t.
And then onto the game engine. There’s a lot here we like, especially the range of camera views and in particular the isometric angles - a great improvement that we suspect, and hope, will soon be aped by market leaders Football Manager. Unfortunately, play still seemed wobbly, with weird throw-ins and absurd goal-keeping positions. If they smooth these problems out (and the attacking play needs to be addressed, especially) it could still succeed, particularly as - again - there’s some neat stuff dovetailing this: on-the-fly tactic changes and individual instructions or pep talks to your overpaid prima donnas from the sidelines being one of them. A mixed bag then with navigation and engine issues, plus an ugly interface at this stage undo a lot of the good. There is a strong chance this won’t come out here, but we’ll keep you posted.