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Hands on with Championship Manager 2011 on iPhone

Step aside, Fergie

Hands on with Championship Manager 2011 on iPhone

It didn’t take long for the average footy fan in England to erase the memory of his country’s humbling exit to those pesky Germans at the Last 16 stage of World Cup 2010.

Time tends to pass more quickly when you’re occupied. The opening skirmishes in the Premier League and the imminent resumption of Champions League hostilities are taking the edge off the South Africa shambles, but nothing hastens the healing process like a good long bout of Championship Manager 2011.

Marking the third outing for the granddaddy of the football management genre on iPhone, Championship Manager 2011 is a new beast, developed by Beautiful Game Studios specifically for iPhone.

Bespoke iPhone edition

As studio head Roy Meredith readily acknowledges, the first iteration on iPhone, Championship Manager 2009, was a clumsy direct port from Java mobile.

And whilst its successor Championship Manager 2010 stripped away some of its Symbian roots, the promise of a bespoke Championship Manager edition for iPhone has been realised this season. Evidence of this ground-up approach permeates the revamped UI.

Switching to landscape orientation has opened the field of play up, allowing for a horizontal strip at the bottom of the screen to provide quick and intuitive access to key features, such as league table, inbox, and tactics.

The preponderance of menus in Championship Manager 2011’s predecessors on iPhone often stymied any kind of rhythm or gratification, since you could get bogged down too easily in incidentals. This time around, the navigation experience appears on the whole less cluttered, and more refined.

Scouting for Boys

For example, when scouting for the next big thing – Romelu Lukaku, anyone? – managers can now set their search parameters by spinning the iPhone’s familiar ‘picker’ wheels until the desired age, position, value, and type appear.

On the subject of transfers, all of Harry Redknapp’s wheeling and dealing on transfer deadline day will be reflected in Championship Manager 2011, ensuring that squads will be bang up-to-date for your new Championship Manager season.

And addressing one of the more common App Store requests of last year’s model, Meredith and his teammates have introduced the transfer window. Not only does this bring greater realism to the series, but also an additional strategic dimension, since the playing staff can now only be changed twice a year.

A further RPG-ish twist, which has survived the rebuilding process, comes in the form of regular press conferences. The manner in which you respond to the hostile, and not-so-malevolent, members of the media has a knock-on effect on your relationship with the club’s board and supporters.

Six times a day, five minutes a time

“This version has all the tenets, compulsion, and values you would expect from a Championship Manager title, including training, set pieces, and highlights," says Meredith, "with one significant difference: it’s faster.

“You can dip in and out, dining on snack-sized chunks, rather than the full banquet.”

Five European leagues are available for budding Bruces and fledgling Fergusons to get their coaching teeth into, including the top flights in England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Spain.

Anyone up for a greater challenge than managing Chelsea to Premier League glory again will be delighted to note that Championship Manager 2011’s playable divisions stretch all the way down to the Blue Square Bet Premier. To the uninitiated, this means five - yes, FIVE - tiers of English football are present.

Of less importance, perhaps, is the inclusion of the Community Shield and Europe’s equivalent season curtain raisers, but it’s another example of the increased depth on offer in Championship Manager 2011.

4-4-2 or 4-3-3?

One of the biggest complaints among the Championship Manager community about the 2010 edition was the limited, and limiting, pre-loaded formations. In this season’s edition, squads can be more freely manipulated, allowing even for that rarely seen 8-1-1 line up.

Player runs are adjusted by simply sliding your finger across the touchscreen in the appropriate direction, while substitutes can be dragged onto the pitch with consummate ease.

OpenFeint: yes. Game Center: no

Should you manage to frequently get the better of your counterpart in the dugout, OpenFeint support is provided, offering achievements and leaderboards.

Unfortunately for the Championship Manager 2011 team, the launch of Game Center tomorrow (September 8th) has arrived too soon, so integration with Apple’s social gaming service is off the menu.

Championship Manager 2011 is, of course, compatible with iOS 4.1, meaning that matches and indeed seasons – with the assistant manager taking over the reins - can run merrily in the background, leaving you free to multitask on the commute into town.

Championship Manager 2011 for iPhone should kick off on the App Store at the end of September or the beginning of October, pending the legendary Apple approval process.

Talk of releasing Championship Manager 11 on other devices and platforms - iPad, Windows Phone 7, and Android - is merely at the investigatory / wait-and-see stage.

The final price is still to be determined by Square Enix and Beautiful Game Studios, though it’s a safe bet Championship Manager 2011 won’t break your digital piggybank.