Review by Shirow

"The Lions Will Roar Tonight"

It all started innocently enough. Some guys thought that kicking in a ball was fun and thus created ''Football''. They didn't just create one of those trivial things though. In less time than you'd take to dribble three defenders, the sport made a huge impact on the world and quickly established itself as the king, nudging basketball to the second place. From here, nothing ever came even close to contesting that supremacy and the craze around every event that pertains to football is proof enough of its popularity.

Needless to say, this was also a way to make easy money. Other than the ensuing matches which by themselves made millions of bucks, other than the exorbitant prices of tickets, goodies and anything else related to football, other than the fact that a single player may cost more than an airplane, a couple of developers thought about making video games out of it. In the strides of a hungry wolf feasting on its deceased prey, EA Sports and Eidos got to share the rights for anything pertaining to the FIFA.

They went separate ways though. EA Sports churned out football games where you would obviously pick a team and control the players on the pitch. Although their FIFA series got a bright start, they never really managed to keep it going strong and were eventually crushed by Konami's International Superstar Soccer although Konami should indeed be shot for blaspheming the sport with such a name. However, Eidos opted for something else. Instead of going for the obvious sports games, they turned to strategy games.

Hence, the Championship Manager series was created. While sadly unknown in the U.S. -easily explained by the fact that most Americans hate football because their team sucks-, the CM series remains the undisputed champion -watch out for poor oxymorons !- of the genre. While consisting of only a few titles thus far, there is no denying that the series is the best yet. You see, CM lets you be the manager and you are the one in charge of whatever team you find suitable. Your opponents here are Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger or maybe Guy Roux.

When the first title came out, I never dreamt of getting the game myself as like everyone else, I was more interested in scoring goals myself instead of clicking on various texts. The fact that the games don't even let you see the matches didn't help either and I automatically assumed they would not interest me. In a sense, I was wrong ! Upon getting my copy of the game, I was yet another victim of this Eidos masterpiece and joined the growing legion of football fanatics who worship the CM series.

And, most of all, I should have heeded my friend's advice who told me to ''cancel all my appointments and forget about everything else'' when I told him I finally had the game. Because, you see, CM is that engrossing. Once you start playing it, you cannot stop. The fact however remains, CM is not like any other game. Video gaming is meant for mindless -and often mind-numbing- fun. If you however take up this game in the hope that you'll experience the same joy you felt upon playing Final Fantasy X, you may as well go and kill yourself.

Championship Manager is strenuous and instead of enabling you to have some fun, it makes you anxious until you eventually develop an addiction for it. Trying to describe the feeling you get with such a game is insanely tough, you just have to experience it yourself. As you take the manager's seat, you become the Almighty Mister and expect all your players to listen to what you have to say…or click ! You see, it simply puts all the sensations associated to the job upon you to relish.

Relish ? Not really ! Addiction is what CM's all about. With its variety of options, you actually feel you really are the man. CM carries all the features closely associated with managing a football team. The list is exhaustive and range from varying Player Statistics to Scout Reports without forgetting the necessary Transfer List. Substitutions and squad lists are not to be discarded either and you soon find yourself unable to concentrate on one thing at a time. CM is a huge world that only awaits you entering it, but don't count on it to release you quickly.

It is up to you to handle all the behind-the-scenes work and what you do determines how your team will fare on the pitch. Getting to win all your matches is tedious enough, so let's just concentrate on not losing instead. Due to this, CM can also be terribly frustrating but there's a whole world of difference between the ''Frustration'' you'll experience here and one you'd normally get from ''Tomb Raider''. Instead of stopping, you are actually encouraged to sharpen your managing skills so you can defeat that team which shamelessly put an end to your dreams.

It is thus primordial to set good formations and strategies. Formation, along with good players of course, is the key to victory here. Use a bone-crunching offensive strategy with suitable players and watch as your team sets record upon record and establishes itself as the best one in the whole world -without forgetting to beat the hell out of arrogant Real Madrid. On the other hand, if you are so avaricious as to not buy good players and line up wimps, prepare to stay stuck at the last position -and if you are unlucky enough, go down in history as the suckiest team ever-.

Finally, it all comes down to strategy. Placing rising star El Hadji Diouf up-front alone will only yield offsides throughout a match. Support him with players like Ballack or Nakata and the renowned striker will make you win a match. Getting an excellent all-round team is not as easy as it seems thanks to the sheer amount of varying factors included in the game. CM can be seen as a randomized mess where everything has been mixed up. It is now your job to clean up.

Stats, performances…almost everything is randomized. Just because a player was good in the Spanish league doesn't mean he'll do well in your Italian team. Moreover, your behavior and choices are eventually preponderant too. By leaving a certain player on the bench all the time or by going against recommended tactics, you run of risk of making those expensive stars unhappy. Eventually, they demand to be transferred while they could have helped you to earn more titles. Similarly, it is primordial to make good choices all the time or you may be fired.

Championship Manager 2001/2002 is the finest sports strategy title that has ever been crafted for all these reasons. And this is very surprising when you consider how the game is extremely lacking in both the graphics and sound section.

Graphics : mainly text, pictures of teams also provide an overwhelming distraction.
Sound : some sound effects, that's all, thank you very much.

Matches are vividly described in text with all the noteworthy actions quickly highlighted. While this may seem awkward and can rebut you, it is on the contrary excellent and add to the heart-gripping atmosphere of the game. This game is purely text, the only graphics you'll ever find are the pictures that merely provide a background. Similarly, all transactions are done by clicking on several options until you are happy enough to move on. Once you're done, sit back and watch your team get crushed against cocky Bayern Munich.

As for replay value, the seasons go on endlessly as long as you wish. Obviously, players get old too and eventually, it is always better to start from scratch with a different team in a different league. Packed with replay value, CM never loses its charm. You can suddenly find that you have been playing it for more than twenty-four hours but still go on because you are that intent to attain a certain objective -in any case, it happened to me-.

Of course, there is an important requirement if you are considering to buy this game. You must love football. With a passion. A sound knowledge of the sport is also necessary since the game doesn't blatantly state what players are worth buying and you must be accustomed to all the gibberish featured throughout it. If you are one of those who don't even know what a Bicycle Kick is, it would be utterly pointless to get CM. If however you sleep with a Manchester United pyjama or have already built a shrine for El Pibe De Oro (Maradona) in your room, this game is a must.

Don't forget though ! ''Cancel all your appointments and forget about everything else !''

~ Score : 10 ~
This game is worse than drugs !

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/31/02, Updated 11/09/02

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