Everyone's a sport critic. No matter the sport you follow, you always think you can do better than the coach and want to offer advice to improve the team. Chances are it would be destroyed but over the years one sport has given players the opportunity to do this via the Championship Manager series, Football or as some like to call it, Soccer. Sports Interactive has been at the top of the game for years and so many people would have been surprised when they split from Eidos, lost the Championship Manager name and decided to go it alone with another publisher. The result is finally here and it will probably leave most fans of the genre saying, Championship what?
Football Manager allows you to take full control of your favorite club from anywhere in the world. Despite the fact the big focus of football these days is Europe, almost every club in the world which is either professional or semi-professional is represented in some way. One thing which Football Manager does is allow you choose right from the outset which club to control and this has both positive and negative affects. Sure you can jump right into the premier division, and probably be sacked quickly as it is very tough. It is great that you can jump into the frying pan right away but it would have been nice to see a career mode where you begin in something like the English Conference and have to gain the attention of teams like Real Madrid and Chelsea. The club you pick affects the requirements and aspirations of the board of directors. Small club, low money, remain in the premier division; rich club, transfer money available, win everything.
Of course this initial decision determines how the game will play out for you. The challenge in the higher divisions comes from maintaining a healthy team with a ridiculous amount of fixtures to play so its all about man management. Considering you will be in the Champions League (not officially), Nations Premier League, League Cup and the relevant FA style cup, you'll have quite a handful. This is why its best to start lower and work your way up. We found a team just below the premier division much easier to manage than a premier team initially. Football Manager 2005 also allows you to determine just how much you want to manage. Don't want to pick the first team? Don't have to. Manage training? Nope don't have to do that either but of course to really become a successful manager you will have to do it all.
Of course comparisons are going to be made to Championship Manager, considering they also made that franchise and many may be asking what is new for the new franchise, and the answer to that is a heck of a lot. The first is you now have to talk to the media and what you say does affect the matches and the players. If you say the other team will probably beat us before a match, then the game will take that into account and the players morale affected. Everything can affect a players morale. Like in the real world injuries and suspension can have a negative affect while scoring a goal can turn it all around in an instant. You can now also hire people such as scouts, trainers and assistant managers to help you on your way. Football Manager is probably the most accessible title on the market in this genre, and that is definitely a massive positive for the game.
The game as mentioned before features all the leagues and most of the licenses. We say most because some are missing, most notably the UEFA Champions League and English Premier League. Sports Interactive have some how worked around the absence of a EPL license because all the teams, stadiums, referees and players have been included, only the logos are missing which are seen in the lower English leagues and other countries. You can now also manage an international team through World Cup qualification and other international duties and have to put up with instructions such as a player only being able to play one half in a friendly. Quite ironic considering earlier in your FM 2005 career you may have done this yourself.
The game is presented quite well but for most of the time it's just looking at player names and statistics or yelling at the screen after you lose to some minnow team. The game during matches provides you with a great deal of useful information. Each player is ranked out of ten by the game to help you with substitutions and of course the morale does affect how they play and when they play naturally affects their morale. The sound effects are fairly limited to crowds cheering and no music has been included. Considering a lot of the time you're not in a match scenario, this would have been welcome..
It may be a niche genre but it is producing some quality games time and time again. Sports Interactive have done a superb job with their first game for SEGA and if you've ever wanted to try a game of this nature but have found the lack of accessibility a problem, then this really is the one to try. Football Manager 2005 is the best football/soccer management game ever made.