Championship Manager, the granddaddy of football management brands, returns to iPhone, with a raft of changes for the 2011 edition aiming at producing a more intuitive game. The name evokes memories of hours stolen away trying to steer Manchester United to domestic and European glory, while sealing that new multi-million signing.
The PC version of CM is no longer developed by Sports Interactive of course – the development studio released the first edition in 1992 but split from EIDOS in 2005 and reformed the rival Football Manager brand for desktop and handheld.
Indeed, CM 2011 for iPhone, developed by Beautiful Game Studios, is a very different beast from the behemoth spreadsheet monster that is FM on PC.
Whether that is good very much depends on your outlook. CM 2011 for iPhone very conspicuously concentrates on producing a lighter game experience than either its PC brother or the Football Manager brand on any platform. The inherent usability of the iPhone is exploited, with many elements within the game touch-to-click, although frustratingly not all.
The game loads with speed and within minutes the new manager is settled in at his club; buying, selling and training players, setting up the tactical system and playing matches. Matches are played at speed and – crucially for an iPhone game – chunks of the management experience are concluded at such velocity that it is almost impossible to be caught at the end of a bus, train or tram journey with a match in progress. The same certainly could not be said for Football Manager Handheld 2010.
The flip side of the coin is that CM 2011 for iPhone feels lightweight. So much of the management experience is glossed over. Tactics are basic, comprising of positions, runs and pre-defined playing styles. The playing styles are essentially those of around a dozen famous European Cup winning teams.
Training too is limited, with managers choosing from a set of pre-define groups which appear to have random effects on individual players. Training becomes a system of trial and error, with ‘attack’, ‘defend’, ‘skill’ and others groups not obviously working for individuals.
The transfer market is simple – read basic – too. Much like its big brother scouts can be sent around to world to discover new players, although since there are no hidden attributes this is often an exercise in vanity since the search filter system is pretty comprehensive. Values are unrealistic though and the manager takes little part in the negotiations with potential new signings, except over price.
Rant secured the services of Maicon for £10.6 million, Wolfsburg’s Diego for £12 million and Sebastian Giovinco for £8 million. Who said there is no value in the transfer market?
Conversely Rant could not offload John O’Shea, Wes Brown nor Oliver Gill for love and certainly not money. Although repeatedly fining the latter simply for being the ceo’s offspring brought superficial joy. What Larnell Cole was doing in United’s first team squad is a mystery known only to the developers.
The game’s low AI becomes apparent when matches are played, which follow a similar simplistic pattern to the rest of the game. Most frustrating of all, it is nigh on impossible to work out which players are performing well and which poorly, although there is at least a simple graphic to show a player’s condition. Is there truly no in-match rating system? It seems so. As such, substitutions become little more than a cosmetic exercise.
The 2D moving tactics board produces such bizarre movements at times it is rendered useless as any true representation of a match. One goal scored by Dimitar Berbatov, for example, came when the United striker ran fully 40 yards towards his own goal before turning and lashing the ball into the opposition’s top corner.
Not that CM 2011 for iPhone isn’t playable. It very much is and the desire to win and develop a team is every bit as strong as with the game’s bigger CM and FM brothers. The strength of the game is in its ease-of-use and bite-sized chunks of play, not its depth.
For the casual user this is undoubtedly a boon. It is easy to dip in and out and the game is reasonably priced to reflect the casual user audience. For anybody wanting to replicate the PC experience in any form, the iPhone version leads largely to frustration.
Championship Manager 2011 iPhone is available now on iTunes, priced £3.99.