By GamesPaper's guest writer Martyn
Championship Manager 4, the undisputed king of footy-management sim games, has finally arrived, after numerous delays saw the game slip from it's original release date which was planned before Christmas. We don our woolly coats and Bovril, dig out an old pork pie, and gear up for yet another love affair with the beautiful game.
Assuming you haven't been living in a cave for the past decade, then you'll no doubt have encountered the Championship Manager phenomenon at some time or another. It's the most successful football management sim game of all time, and the tenth anniversary edition shifted a massive number of copies when it was first released. In Championship Manager 4 you can choose from 39 national leagues with more than 200,000 players and staff between them. To top it all off this years release has been created in partnership with ex-Liverpool and Ireland legend Ray Houghton, so you really are getting as close to the real thing as you could possibly get.
There's a huge amount of manager interactivity with the fans, the media and, of course, the upper hierarchy of the club. The Board and the fans make their voices, and indeed their expectations, known from the off. You'll be set targets, possibly to sustain a mid table position in the league, or if your club is a little more successful, the fans may have aspirations of some European football being played next season.
One thing is for sure, the players, board and fans probably wont take too kindly to an unknown manager being put in charge of their team, so its gonna be tough. If things start going downhill, questions will be asked - and then the pressure is firmly on you - you've got all the usual management options to refine your clubs on-field action. Either train the crop of players in your existing pool, to make them more impressive on the field or, if your board allows it, splash the cash and invest in new talent.
The training section of the game itself has been greatly improved. You can create a player-specific training regime, and coaches will make regular updates on the players progress. The tactics system is much the same is it was in the previous Championship Manager - the only difference is that when moving players, you see soft images of possible positions where they can play.
The look of the game itself has been greatly refined since the previous version, and the menu has been altered slightly. Some of the player attribute buttons have also been moved around a bit, helping to make the game easier to manage. All the squared out boxes have been rounded off, and given a much softer feel. It's not quite the same as the leap up made from Championship Manager 2 to Championship Manager 3, but it's a huge improvement all the same. There’s also the ability to download various "skins" from the SIgames website, to give CM4 your own clubs look and feel.
The 2D match engine shows a top down overview of the match, so you can watch your team's every move, as it happens. Rather than just reading from the traditional in-game text descriptions, you can watch the game progress live, and view any potential strengths or weaknesses in your team. As well as providing a bit more insight into each match, it also has similarities to the style of the classic footy games of the 1990's - along the lines of Sensible Soccer - which surely can't be a bad thing.
On the negative side, the Championship Manager 4's release appears to have been jinxed by a few gremlins, and if you're unlucky you'll find the install process isn't quite as simple as it should be - a patch has been released on the SIgames website, which gets around all of the bugs which are in the final release, and it has to be said that most of the problems are pretty minor. All the same it's a shame that a game which has had such hype and build-up over the past few months, along with delays in it's release, should ship with problems still in place.
We've had to wait months since the previous instalment of Championship Manager, whilst the new match engine was developed, and SIgames introduced numerous tweaks and refinements - the wait has been worth it though, and it wont be long before you'll find yourself screaming at the howlers your virtual team are going to make. Prepare for another stint locked away from the real world!Overall score: 9 out of 10
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: March 28thBuy Championship Manager 4 from Amazon