Championship Manager – PSP
Football Management games have been thriving on the PC for well over a decade now but this is the first proper one to appear on a handheld console. So how does the experience differ and does it live up to the high-level expectations that a dedicated fan will have?
The basic jist of the game if you haven't come across the series before is that you take control of a football team of your choosing and handle every aspect of decision making to guide them to greatness. There are 25,000 players within 55 leagues spread over 12 countries throughout Europe, South America and Asia. This means that you're pretty much guaranteed to find your favourite club on the game, unless you're a devoted follower of a team in the Ryman League. The stats are complete and up to date for the 2005/06 season and there have also been a few new additions to help re-invent a game that has been around for so long. These include: Boardroom Pressure, Action Zones, Downloadable Season Data, Live Cup Draws and also some new Game Modes.
If you don't fancy starting a whole new campaign then you can dabble in a quick play mode or have a bash at Challenge mode. The Quick Game mode is a little bit pointless as the first season is a long winded process finding your feet and getting your team sorted, so by the time you're getting into things its game over. But the challenge mode offers a choice of trials to try and overcome, such as win a continental cup over 4 seasons with a team who isn't in the top crop (Just like Liverpool's adventure last season in the Champs League) or avoid relegation over 1 season with a struggling team. Not exactly new things that you need to accomplish but with the time and team constraints things are tougher and can make a refreshing change.
Gusto Games have done a very good job of porting a massive amount of information from the PC format onto a handheld device so this is by no means a younger brother that doesn't contain as much info as expected these days. There is also a surprisingly low amount of loading required so you'll get a good run from your battery (obviously developers accounted for the fact that players spend multiple hours at a time on the game).
Football Management games are a juggling act that require the player to constantly experiment with formations, scour the transfer market, deal with tabloid/boardroom pressures and train your squad. Once you've done all your tinkering you sit back and watch/listen to the match commentary or view the game in a 2D format. It takes time to build up a strong team and make real progress through leagues and cups but once you've grasped the basics you'll fly through the weeks and learn the best methods for developing your team.
The screen layouts are clearly structured for the PSP screen and thanks to the lack of cursor it isn't fiddly to select the option you require. The D-Pad or analogue highlight everything that can be selected and shortcut keys can also be used to speed things up once you are accustomed to the layout. Graphics and sound don't really play a part in what makes a Football Management game good; it's all about the realism, detail and interaction so you feel that when you make a change it actually has an affect. It's these factors that have kept millions of players awake until the Sun comes up as they are deeply engrossed and desire success. Championship Manager certainly does tick the right boxes and offers a unique experience on the PSP (at least until March) which will fill up spare time in abundance.
The major benefit of having this power on a handheld means that you don't need to be shackled to your PC anymore. You can get the same satisfaction wherever and whenever you choose. Sitting by the pool on holiday, lengthy train journeys or even just walking around your home can now transport you to the dugout or training ground so you can test you managerial skills. For all those out there who think they can do better than Graeme Souness, Mick McCarthy or even The Special One then this game will throw up the scenarios to see what you can do. Its not always easy and you will need to be on your toes for continued success but the rewards of leading a team to a title give you a sense of greatness, and make you want to try and do it again.
When Eidos and Sports Interactive split a few years ago the latter decided to start from scratch with Football Manager. The general consensus is that Eidos have the name and format but Sports Interactive has the better quality game. As S.I. aren't releasing there version on the PSP until March 2006 it's not possible to call which is better at the moment. But, if you're chomping at the bit for some Football Management addiction then the Gusto development will certainly keep you entertained and help give some freedom or a social life to those who want to break free from being locked in their PC room all night.
7 out of 10
Downloadable Season Data -