Championship Manager – It’s that time of year again

Finally, you’re given the opportunity to just have a word with your players instead of fining them outright.
Championship Manager has garnered a following not seen since the Nuremburg rallies. It dictates your life in a way that many similar football management games have tried but failed to emulate. Those clever chaps at Sports Interactive have always managed to keep one step ahead of the pack with ingenious little touches and a sense of realism that is proving hard to copy.

Where do you start when it comes to dissecting what makes the latest CM such a compelling experience? Well, you could start with the fact that over 50,000 players and every major football club in the world (plus nearly the entire list of other European clubs) have been painstakingly researched and included in CM Season 00/01. Then you add to that the fathomless depths of the gameplay as you cultivate your chosen club to silverware and glory.

All the latest transfers have been taken into account and for the delight of our European cousins, the likes of the Greek, Turkish and Irish leagues have been squeezed on to the CD ROM. What’s more, there is an increased level of interaction with your club which even takes into account the emotional whims of your players and board alike.

For instance, the players in your squad are far more vocal. Footballers will cite bust-ups with other squad members, contract wrangles and even disharmony within your club as any one of a number of reasons for their low morale. Players will now even point the finger at who they see is at fault for poor team performances or dressing room unrest.

As manager, you also get a few more options when it comes to interacting with the CM universe. You can respond in varying ways to tabloid stories about you and your club. The FA can be approached if you want to complain about referees or you can even apply to postpone fixtures for whatever reason.

On a more poignant note you also have increased control over your team through a number of new options. For starters, playmakers can be nominated for the member of the team you feel should run your team’s play. Then, when it comes to disciplining errant players, you can opt to give them an official warning rather than fining them from the outset.

It’s the mix of these new additions and the already classic game engine that makes this the footie management champion for another consecutive season. While the changes are not wholesale they are numerous enough to make CM Season 00/01 an indispensable purchase.

Just as before, this latest version keeps you playing and playing and playing. With each new change you make to your team (adjusting tactics, buying in new players and slaving over the backroom duties) you always want to see the fruits of your labour and with no tangible end to the game, tearing yourself away from your keyboard and more in mobile keypad or touchscreen e.g. SimCity Buildit.

So what if the action is based on glorified spreadsheets, Championship Manager Season 00/01 is the best football management game around. Even if you’ve only got a passing interest in football, the game will hook you and drag you deep into its statistical lair. Before you know it, it’ll be November 2001 and you’ll be saving up for the next version of the game. Quite simply brilliant.

Delta Force: Land Warrior

Great gaming mysteries, no.23: How can a brand-new, 3D accelerated game look worse than its non-accelerated ancestors? We’re confused.

“Hello. I’m from the Delta Force. Would you be so good as to point me in the direction of the bad guys?”
We’re amazed by the graphics in Land Warrior.

Really, truly amazed. The original Delta Force wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, but its voxel engine did its job without needing a 3D card. i>Delta Force 2 was slightly prettier, and again didn’t require a 3D card. Its voxels sort of worked with 32-bit 3D cards, but you were just as well off without one. Neither of them looked bad, and if you were in a pretentious frame of mind you could argue that their blockiness imbued them with the same sort of grainy, documentary feel that Stanley Kubrick strove for in Full Metal Jacket.

Well, maybe. The point is that Land Warrior, the third game in the series, has finally followed the crowd and embraced proper, polygonal 3D that works with a 3D card. And as a result it’s by far the ugliest game in the series. We can’t help but wonder how no-one spotted this little flaw. The rolling landscapes seem too brightly-coloured, the bad guys look like they’re made out of badly-painted four-by-twos, the trees are blurry cut-outs and, strangest of all, your weapons are displayed as blurred, low-res bitmaps.

We haven’t finished. Interiors look bad, too, even when Land Warrior tries to give the impression that it’s pulling out all the stops to look great. Item: the interior of the terrorist-infested Great Pyramid in the first mission. We’re fairly sure that you won’t find rooms full of pillars decorated with the gaudiest possible imitation of hieroglyphics in the real thing. And for pity’s sake, don’t try climbing any of Land Warrior’s ladders if you’ve had too much to drink. The act of vertical ascent seems to be too much for the engine, causing the screen to judder like someone who’s just downed a pint of Metz served at zero degrees Kelvin.

We should probably laugh more at the graphics – yes, they’re that bad – but we ought to get on with the rest of the game which, at least, has enough going on to help you forget about the appalling visuals. That is, it plays pretty much the same as its predecessors. Perhaps Nova logic didn’t budget for buggering up the gameplay as well as the graphics. Maybe they’re saving that for the next game in the series.

Some improvements are even in evidence if you are using Clash Royale hack for free gems; you now have a choice of characters, each with their particular speciality. Naturally we opted for the fully-trained sniper; you’d never guess we’d played before. And if you’re not so keen on the old-school Delta Force mission structure, Novalogic have thoughtfully provided 10 quick missions of varying difficulty that you can jump straight into. Tactics prove to be vital, although you can make up for strategic deficiency with quick and accurate mousing skills; the enemy tactic often appears to be to fire at you and miss in order to give away their position, so that you can kill them a second later.

Nothing new there, then. But there is a lovely range of real guns to choose between; one sniper rifle for us, please. And of course there’s the multiplayer version, which is the closest you’ll get to playing Hide & Seek online. In our experience Delta Force deathmatch turns into a game of ‘Lie down on top of a hill and snipe like a bastard’, which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds.

Basically Land Warrior is bigger, slightly better and one whole lot uglier than its predecessors. We’re not sure that you wouldn’t be better off hunting down one of the earlier editions in the bargain bins, though.