The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

2:40pm on Sunday, 3rd April, 2005:

Championship Football Manager 5 2005


I've been playing Championship Manager 5 recently.

I'm a big fan of soccer management sims, having played a pencil-and-paper one of my own devising when I was a child, then doing a computerised one (for fun) when I was a student. I very much liked Championship Managers 1 to 4, so was looking forward to 5. However, the franchise forked: original developers Sports Interactive were dumped by publisher Eidos, who switched to an in-house team (Beautiful Game Studios) instead. Sports Interactive promptly signed up with Sega and created Football Manager 2005. FM2005 came out several months ago, so I've already been playing that (taking Halifax Town to league 1 from the Conference, although I'm now thinking of accepting a job offer from Oxford United, who have made it to the Championship).

So how does CM5 stack up against FM2005?

Well, in my opinion, FM2005 is just better.

CM5 has too many rough edges. The first thing I took a dislike to was the fact that if I put the mouse on the button for "continue game", a tool tip appeared that obscured the "new messages" notice. I can switch off tool tips in general, but not particular individual ones. This may seem like pettiness, but it's not — I find it really annoying to have to move the mouse before I can see if there are messages waiting for me.

Related to this is the shortlisting feature. You can send your scouts off to scout other players (good) and they report back every week (good) with the potential players they've spotted (good). There can be lots of these (good) — 20 or 30 — but there's no way to order them (bad). I can't pick out the cream of the crop unless I look at every single profile and judge for myself. In FM2005 there is a "star rating" that tells you how good the scout thinks the player is. In CM5, this is not information you can easily get. Result: I want to add every recommended player to my shortlist, so I can check through should I ever have enough money to spend on transfers. I can't do it as a block, though: it takes 2 clicks per recommended player to add them to the shortlist. Great. That's not the worst of it, though: when you have a player on the shortlist, you get all this news information about them — press speculation, that kind of thing. This means the news system quickly fills up with what is basically spam. No wonder they want to hide it with tool tips...

It wouldn't be so bad if I could filter by news subject, but I can't. Well, I can, but only one filter at a time. I can say "give me all the transfer news" or "give me news about injuries" and so on, but I can't say "give me all the news except press speculation reports about the 200 players I have on my shortlist", damn your hide!

Another thing with filtering is that you can't view your team by their temprement. You can view by physical characteristics, intelligence and a swathe of other stats, but if you can do it by temprement then I've somehow not spotted how. Why do I need to know temprement? So I don't have to click through every single player's profile individually trying to figure out if they'd make a good captain or not by looking at their leadership.

The presentation of the match isn't too bad, using an angled view rather than the direct overhead view of FM2005. I don't think much of its highlighting system, though. I especially don't like having to watch for endless seconds while the referee wanders over and books a player when I know what's going to happen because the incident has already been related as text plus an icon. Bookings really slow things down: it's like watching a DVD and not being able to fast-forward over the copyright notice at the beginning — very frustrating.

Training is ghastly, but then it's ghastly for FM2005, too (I preferred CM3's). The matches don't really thrill, and the preponderance of positions (left-sided defender, left full back, left wing back — why aren't these basically interchangeable?) makes it hard to experiment with formations. I still haven't found anything decent. It's harder in FM2005 than it was in CM4, but changes do seem to have an effect. It's hard to discern what's going on in CM5.

The only place where CM5 definitely wins over FM2005 is in its speed. It's faster, so games come quicker. Then again, Master of Orion 3 was faster than Master of Orion 2, but was utterly dismal in all other respects. MOO2 wasn't as good as MOO, come to that...

I'll play CM5 for a while longer, but I think I'll eventually revert to FM2005.

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).