By being an avid soccer fan for years, the closest that I've ever been to become a manager on the pitch was when I played Championship Manager. The Championship Manager (CM) series is still one of the best-selling managerial games in the business, despite the fact that it's a text-only game with the lack of in-match graphics. Back in the days with CM2, it got me sitting in front of the computer for hours. Now with the release of CM 00/01, it's time for me to don my virtual sheepskin again and establish my managerial credentials in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
In CM 00/01, you get a choice of 26 leagues from around the world, which can be played either singularly or concurrently. Although this release is an update, it still contains enough new features, tweaks and refinements that doesn't detract the excitement while playing. The database features comprehensively researched data of over 50,000 players and staff members. The attention to detail and fearsome accuracy is what makes this game a must for any soccer fan.
For me, I jumped for the job at the club that I've supported for a decade -- Arsenal FC. While most people would do the same, this massive game let you play out an entire management career where you can apply for jobs with any team in the game, any time at all. You might want to start building your reputation by joining a smaller club, before landing the plum job with any one of the major clubs in the world.
Every single detail has been taken into account by SI Games, the makers of CM, to make it as real as possible to the real world scenario. Transfer deals have been revised to reflect the complexity and frustration of the money movements between clubs for players. The saying, 'Money can't buy you everything' holds true to this effect in the game. You'll have interactive staff by your side helping you out with decisions and advice to offering an analysis of your players and tactics. One major change that stood out well is the involvement with the media. Nowadays, you get transfer rumours, player discontentions, pundits heaping praise and criticisms, leaving you to decide how to tread your way through the media minefield. This in my own opinion, clearly reflects the 'threat' the modern press pose to the modern day supremo.
The details of the players are so real in the game that you would most probably be buying them due to your own preception of the real players in the real world rather than their CM counterparts. This is where the analysing of the player statistics, 30 of them, comes into play. Thorough sifting through the stats will give you an idea how well a player will perform for your team. SI Games came up with a better idea for promoting researching by giving you the option to play with 'random' players. By playing with these fictitious players, you have to learn their strengths and weaknesses, including their hidden attributes, and on the other hand, you're not coloured by your preconceptions. This is one feature that would be useful for those who want a challenging game.
Match dialogues have been expanded to give a much more clearer 'view' of what's happening on the pitch. You'll see passes 'skimming off the water', players 'kicking the ball away in frustration' on any match day. Additional description, statistics and analysis brings you closer than watching the real thing on the idiot box. Everything from shots on target to pass completion ratios, gives you an idea of how well your players are playing, differentiating the dead-weights from the superstars. A small addition that turned out to be quite helpful is the live league table available during games that lets you check where your team will be lying if the scores remained as they currently are. This allows you to decide whether to press for a crucial win or hold-out for a draw in the end-of-season matches.
The appeal of CM series lies in its way of presenting you with as much information as possible for your viewing pleasure. It's up to you to make the final decision as to how to pick your starting-11, who to buy or sell and choosing the right tactics. It's easy to blur the line between realism and detail, but for this game, it's one heck of an addictive experience.
CM 00/01 comes with a pre-game editor that you can use to update your favourite team rosters, mimicking the real world or maybe to give you some financial boost before you start the game. You could also get a saved-game editor from any CM sites on the Net, to update your game without shelling out for another official update from SI Games. This utility is very handy and I can assure you that you'll find it most useful when it comes to finding who will be the stars of the future.
The bottom line is CM 00/01 continues in its predecessors' tradition of providing authentic footballing action that can only get better in years to come. The myriad of game, team and player screens encourage you to wade through the cavernous underlying game database. CM 00/01 is still the best soccer management that I've come across so far and it's still the closest you'll get to having the real soccer world on your machine.