Review by Penguin

"Graphics? Nah. Addictiveness? Yes."

Note: Football = Soccer for our American comrades.

Championship Manager (CM) is hailed as the best football management sim in computer games. Even though the best graphics is the flashing text when somebody scores a goal, this game proves to be a great example where you don't need graphics to have a great game.
The version of CM I'm reviewing is 01/02, which is obviously starting from the 2001/2002 football season. In this game, you'll have to lead your fav team (they got the license from FIFA, so they can use real teams and real player names) to win games. Sounds simple? Well it SOUNDS simple. In reality, you'll have to deal with transfers, player management, tactics, staffs, and of course the almighty Board of Directors who can kick your butt out of the club if you're performing bad.
Be forewarned though, if you don't like football, or have absolutely NO interest in knowing more about it, you may want to skip this review and read about others instead. This game is designed by football fanatics, for football fans (not just fanatics, at least I'm not one and I'm enjoying the game =P).

Graphics: 5
This is what I call a perfect example of having subpar graphics with great gameplay. The game has craploads of text. If you want 3D graphics, look elsewhere. This game is almost pure text. As mentioned, the best graphic is the flashing text when somebody scores. The main menu (located on the left side of the screen) has a customizable background. In the main screen you'll find numbers, text and a background picture featuring footballers or stadiums (or the like). No flashy stuff. Really.

Sound: ?
I turn off the sound when I play this game. Even though in matches you'll hear crowd cheering, but that's really all I can think of. Just adds atmosphere to the game. Most people prefer to have the sound turned off anyway.

Gameplay: 10
Check this out: You can start with most major leagues around the world, even the MLS and the J League. Which probably means that you can play as the manager of your favorite club. Or just about any club featured in major football countries.
Once you are in control as team manager, you can look at the players and stare in awe when you look at their stats. The whole page is filled with like 3 columns (and 12 rows) of stats! This might intimidate the new players, so that's why it's important for new players to start with big clubs or teams they're familiar it, then familiarize themselves with the stats and the game.
The game itself is deep. The transfer system is well balanced, you can sell or buy players; do exchanges with other teams; scout players, teams, regions, nations, and youth players, and more. Get a great player through a major deal, and your supporters will be happy. Sell your star player or lose him somehow, and feel the wrath of pissed fans by your doorstep.
Preparations for a match are also in great detail. You can choose the starting eleven and reserves, set formations, and choose on captain, penalty takers, free kick takers, corner takers, tackle aggresiveness, and a whole lot more. This will directly affect on your team's performance and how the match is played out. Play an extremely defensive-minded game and you won't lose much goals, but don't expect to score much either. And vice versa for offensive games.
The fun is in actual match playing. Through the text messages, you can see how the match is played out. Score a goal, the message bar flashes in your team's color. Lose a goal, and...well you know. Moreover, there's this ''anticipation'' factor of scoring goals. Your team creates an organized offense, and then your player shoots! But the ball grazes the bar and you'd go ''Damn!''...that kinda stuff which makes you think ''This time the ball will go in...this time the ball will go in...'' In fact, most CM players agree that the most addictive part of the game is during matches. Especially in CM 01/02, where you get to watch the league table even during matches. Umm I don't think I did give a good description, I actually dunno how to describe it best.
But the game doesn't end after the 01/02 season. It can go on and on until you finally think that you've accomplished something great and need a rest. There's always the temptation of ''one more match...just one more match'', ''maybe I should get this player during the summer off-season...'', ''I should finish this season'' and ''$()#)$(#_ my team was relegated!''
There's also the fun of starting with a team that you're not even familiar about, or a team that'll prolly struggle for relegation, and just a Division 3 team that you haven't even heard of. With every new team, you get new players to get familiar with, new difficulty, and new challenges. Replayability is just endless. In addition, the game can be played with more than 1 person, you can have hot-seat play, or network play (I'm actually trying to figure out the network play as I'm writing now). In most online CM communities you can find roster updates or 'patches' that'll create a new league or have minor tweaks. The game itself features an editor as well.
But there's more stuff, like international games, awards, training, etc. Can't mention it all, I'll bore you all to death.
If I were to nitpick I'd say that newbies would be scared away by those player stats, a long season, and the long time it takes to save a game(it actually improved from CM 3, that took like 5 minutes to save).

Overall: 9
Graphics aside, this game is a must have for football fans who want something addictive. I had long nights playing this game (once I had played 8 hours straight just to finish up a season), and I definitely recommend at least trying the game out (there's a demo). That's the best I can do to convert a few alive-and-well football fans into computer zombies. =P

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/08/04

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