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Football Manager 2005 PC/MAC CD-ROM

Published by SEGA
Developed by Sports Interactive
Release Date - 4th November 2005
Price : £29.99

I've been struggling to think of an opening paragraph for such an important review but I think the following says it all:

'What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet'

W. Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet Act 2 Scene 1

For over 10 years now we've called the game, that the Collyer Brothers and Sports Interactive have developed, Championship Manager but after parting with Eidos their work from now on will be known as Football Manager. As the great Bard says though the name is irrelevant. A rose would still smell as sweet and look as good if it were called something else and it's exactly the same with the football management games that Sports Interactive have produced over the years. Whilst Eidos have the Championship Manager name and 'look', the code, ideas and brains behind the series all belong to Sports Interactive and now it's the Football Manager series that will be responsible for late nights, days off works etc.

The most important question that most will have is how does the game differ from past Sports Interactive games? Most of you will probably have a very good idea of what the game is like because Sports Interactive have kept with tradition in releasing a demo of the finished article but I'll attempt to cover some of what's new in the game. Football Manager 2005 includes 51 countries comprising of 140+ playable divisions and 100+ cup competitions. Reserve and Junior leagues have also been included. Well over 230,000 players and staff have been included in the game which is fantastic and much more in depth than any previous management game. Media interaction has also been increased and now you can comment on other managers should you have the desire to get involved in mind games. Most will agree the interaction with the media is still not as great as they would have hoped but it's improving and that's what matters. Want to find a new coach, assistant manager, scout or physio but don't have the time? Well now you can place an advert in the job centre and your personal assistant will draw up a list of applicants for you to cast your eye over. If you fancy playing a game online Football Manager 2005 reportedly supports up to 30 players without any problems and although we've haven't had a chance to test this it's certainly an exciting prospect.

The first thing you're going to notice about Football Manager 2005 is the interface and if the truth be told it will feel very strange at first. Initially I just couldn't get the hang of it until I applied the Metallic (Right) skin which shifts the navigation from the left side of the screen to the right side. This made the interface much more intuitive. If you were a user of the hotkeys in CM 03/04 you'll notice that the hotkeys have changed in FM 2005. F1 used to bring up your squad screen but now you'll need F6 to do that (F1 is now the hotkey for the news page). What also seems strange initially is the look of the squad selection screen. Gone (for legal reasons I assume) is the traditional CM view and instead is a kind of detailed list view. This does seem very strange to begin with but it does offer more detail at a glance and provides more information than the old CM view ever did. Again this will initially seem confusing but after a few days play I would find it difficult to return to the old CM configuration. For the first time in a Sports Interactive game there are player photographs (for a good amount of players too). You'll notice pictures of team shirts on the match overview screens (and there are the official kits complete with logos and sponsors where possible). Club badges have also been included for a lot of teams. In fact if you play in the English leagues (there's plenty of official league names too) only the Premiership teams and a few in the Conference North and South don't have the team badges next to their name.

The 2D match engine returns and has progressed from the one in CM 03/04. The matches now seem more realistic (player movement is much improved) and now the match can even be viewed in a split screen display so you can keep your eye on other details whilst you watch the match. You can now even change the speed of the match and the highlights. Match reports can now be generated at any time (not just at half and full time) and will update as the match plays out. Before the game kicks off you get to see the line-up of both teams so you'll have a fair idea of how your opponents are going to play. Speaking of which the tactics element of the game has also been improved and Sports Interactive have included slider bars that allow you to change elements of your team's tactics in a more graduated fashion. After a match you can view the highlights of all the other games in your division/competition. What I would say here though is that you can only click the view goals button which then shows every single goal. I would have much preferred checkboxes next to each fixture so that I can just show the matches I was interested in. There is much, much more that's new here too such as more realistic injuries, more advanced loan and transfer negotiations etc. Player agents can now even send you video clips of their players (using the 2D match engine) to arouse your interest in them. The game also has a few RPG elements too. If you take a look at your own profile you'll notice some Mental Attributes that all begin at 10. Ratings such as 'Ability to handle pressure', 'Media Handling', and 'Professionalism' definitely seem to change according to your actions. In fact it would make the bulk of this review look like a feature list if we were to list every new feature in the game but suffice to say that with the extra/improved features alone Sports Interactive have done a great job.

Beginning a new game (by starting one from scratch as opposed to loading a quick start) will also draw your attention to several new features. You can choose from four database sizes ranging from small to huge. There is an option to load all the players from any nation you wish which I would imagine is very useful if you wanted to try and become an international manager of a country other than the one whose league you'll begin the game with (as it will give you a greater choice of players to pick from). As before you can play with fictitious players if you wish and attribute masking can be disabled if you don't like it. If you want to, extra detail can be enabled for a selected league which will allow you to look at all that leagues highlights in full detail. What I really like though is that you can begin a new game unemployed. This has to the ultimate test of your managerial skills as you don't know which team's going to give you your first job although from my experience it's usually a team in the lower divisions (Conference North and South in English leagues) who have nothing to loose by giving a rookie a chance. Once you've taken your job you'll be given a warm welcome by your chairman as well as negative messages from the media who usually don't rate your chances of success. Sports Interactive claim the game now processes data more quickly than CM 03/04 did and I would agree with that. You can now choose from four processing options ranging from the fastest (which means you can't interrupt to carry out tasks) to the slowest (which allows you to continue your duties whilst data is processed in the background).

Enthusiasts will be pleased to know that Sports Interactive have included a pre-game editor with the game and it's pretty comprehensive and allows you to edit practically anything in the game. You can edit players, edit staff and edit teams exactly how you want to. Want to give you favourite team a third kit? No problem, and you can even choose from a variety of styles as well as choosing the colours you'd like. If you want to you can create a new team you can do and place them in a division of your choosing. Over the years database editors have often relied on home made editors to bring the database up to date and it's great that such a comprehensive official editor has been included with the first Football Manager game from Sports Interactive.

Football Manager 2005, just like the Championship Manager games before it, is completely deaf gamer friendly. All information in the game, the player attributes, the match commentary and news items etc., are in text which makes the game fully accessible to deaf gamers. An electronic (.pdf) guide for the editor has been included so you can read up on how to use the editor if you need to. We reviewed a downloadable version of the game so we can't comment on the quality of the manual but we would hope it will be of a similar quality to the one that was with CM 03/04. Thankfully you can now access information on competition rules from within the game itself so if you choose to play in a foreign league you'll have no problem in finding how the promotions and relegations etc., are decided. The match text commentary seems better than in the CM 4 series but it doesn't seem as comprehensive as the text commentary that appeared in the CM 3 series which may be a little disappointing if you don't watch the 2D match highlights.

Football Manager 2005 is the second game in the SEGA Sports Interactive partnership (NHL Eastside Hockey Manager being the first) and by all accounts it's a cracker. It offers a lot of small refinements over Championship Manager 03/04 that at first might not seem such a big deal but with extensive play you'll find yourself becoming more impressed and engrossed in this new game that Sports Interactive have created. I've played every game the Collyer Brothers and Sports Interactive have made since Championship Manager '93/94 and I can honestly say that Football Manager 2005 is the best of the lot which is a fantastic achievement. Much was made about the bugs in Championship Manager 4 and I personally experienced a few that resulted in crashes. There's no such problems here though and in over 10 days of almost constant play I've not had any problems and the game has been rock solid in regards to stability which is excellent. So a new era has dawned then. It's long been the case that the greatest football management game was a Championship Manager title but that's not the case anymore. With the Championship Manager series now in the hands of developers who couldn't create a worthy rival to any Championship Manager that Sports Interactive created it's a good bet that the next Championship Manager will not be as good. It doesn't matter though because a new game has taken over the title of the greatest football management simulation and that game is Football Manager 2005.

Overall Game Rating: 9.2/10
Many thought that Sports Interactive would suffer when they had to change the name of their game. However, Football Manager 2005 is the greatest football management simulation to date and a great start for both SEGA and Sports Interactive.

Deaf Gamers comment:
As usual it's another Sports Interactive title that's completely deaf gamer friendly.