Game Reviews

Championship Manager 2011

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Championship Manager 2011

When you take into account the average tenure of your typical football league manager, it’s a wonder anyone even considers it a career.

The slightest hiccup in a season usually results in a disgruntled board sacking the hapless coach regardless of his track record, and some managers barely have enough time to get their feet under the desk before they’re unceremoniously handed their P45s.

Thank goodness, then, for games like Championship Manager 2011, which allow you to experience the highs and lows of football management without having to worry about the terrifying prospect of putting food on the table after you’re given the sack following a string of especially dire results.

Sick as a parrot

The game places you at the helm of one of Europe’s leading teams, with the ultimate objective to bring fame and glory to the club.

To do this you need to juggle multiple responsibilities: not only are you in charge of on-pitch tactics, but you have to decide training doctrines, deal with probing questions from sceptical media types, and scour the transfer market for budding new talent.

Championship Manager 2011 has a vast and often intimidating array of options. Team management is ridiculously in-depth, going as far as to offer one-on-one interaction with your players.

You can praise individual team members or put them through the embarrassment of being transfer listed, or you can simply ask your coach’s opinion and formulate a training program to sharpen their skills.

Tactics play a massive role, and you can pick everything from your team's opening formation to their style of play.

Interestingly, when it comes to how your team acts on the pitch, you’re given the option of emulating famous sides from the history of the sport. You can decide to replicate Manchester United’s flowing football of 1968 or plump for the total domination of the ’73 Ajax squad.

It’s not as simple as picking a playing format and running away with the match. Many of the available styles place strict requirements on your team, and if they don’t possess the necessary skill your tactics crumble. Blackpool can’t be Inter Milan, after all.

Fresh blood

It’s not just the events on pitch with which you need to concern yourself. As a manager, you’re also responsible for bringing in fresh talent, and that means keeping an eye on other teams.

You can choose to search for famous players, or alternatively you can identify a shortcoming in your own squad and browse available strikers, goalkeepers, or midfielders.

Just like in real life, transfer negotiations are complex and tense. You can tinker with the bid and even sweeten the deal by offering a player in exchange or a percentage of a future sale.

Dabbling in the market is vital because you often find that it’s your responsibility to balance the books. If you have too many well-paid stars on your wage bill then it can throw your finances into turmoil, so expect to offload under-performing players during the transfer period to ease the burden.

Another key component to Championship Manager 2011 is dealing with the media. During press conferences your replies carry a tremendous amount of weight. Publicly lambasting the board is unwise if your position is fragile, but can generate results if timed correctly.

The beautiful game

Once you have training, transfer concerns, media meetings and financial issues dealt with, you can get down to the matter at hand: winning football matches.

Here, Championship Manager 2011 stumbles slightly. Matches are practically animated, with little dots representing the 22 players on the pitch. You can choose to either watch the entire game (although thankfully not in real time) or just savour the highlights.

While it's tempting to skip to the end of a dour 0-0 draw in a half-empty stadium, you're better advised to watch the whole game, as this allows you to identify and solve potential issues your team might be experiencing.

Unfortunately, a little bit of effort is required to read games that are already in progress. During a match the only indication you get of how your team is performing comes form the occasional commentary text which flashes at the top of the screen.

Using this, you can spot potential flaws in squad - for example, poor players are randomly highlighted, so it's a good idea to substitute these out for fresh team members. You can also view your squad screen to see the overall stamina of each player.

Devil is in the details

In this respect, Championship Manager 2011 feels a little lacking. Early football management games fell into the trap of not providing enough information on how tactical changes affect on-pitch performance and Championship Manager 2011 is guilty of this crime too.

It also could be argued that, for a portable release, Championship Manager 2011 is overwhelming. The level of detail is incredible, making this the kind of title into which you have to invest serious time. Thankfully, this criticism is mitigated by an excellent user interface, which has been built from the ground up for iPhone and iPod touch.

Another minor bugbear is the lack of official Premier League licensing. Although lower league English teams feature their official club emblems – granting a degree of authenticity – Premiership sides are merely given coloured crests. It's a cosmetic rather than gameplay-based issue, but worth mentioning all the same.

Despite these problems, Championship Manager 2011 is a fantastic investment. There are elements which could be improved upon for next year’s entry, but for the time being this is right up there with Football Manager 2010 as one of the best management simulations on the format.

Championship Manager 2011

A little more detail during matches would help make Championship Manager 2011 a more intuitive experience, but the rest of the package is impressively comprehensive