It's 3am and your star striker has just refused your new offer of a contract to keep him at the club. You lie 2nd in the league, 2 points behind the leaders with a game in hand, but you really should get some sleep, after all, you have that big presentation tomorrow. Your eyes are barely open when Kit Carson walks in and declares that he has found the next Wayne Rooney, playing for the BB Old Boys 3rd team, when suddenly it's as if you've been attacked with a defibrillator.
More awake now than you were when your Bognor Regis side beat Man United 2-1 in the 2005 FA Cup 3rd Round, you know that this is the one. The one guy who will take the chances served to him, like a cannibal in a morgue, and propel you to that elusive top spot. It looks like someone else will be making the presentation, not for the first time though, seeing as you missed another one either this month. It's time for a quick look on the net, searching feverishly to find yet another illness that will sound credible when you phone in.
Responsible for more broken marriages and divorces than Stella Artois, and quite possibly more addictive than Heroin (so I'm told), SI Games' latest offering is sure to be hugely popular with fans of their previous football manager series, Championship Manager. For those of you who aren't aware, SI Games have split from Eidos, keeping the code and database, yet parting with the name and basic look of the game. They've now teamed up with SEGA to produce Football Manager 2005.
I have been playing Championship Manager since I first laid my grubby mitts on a copy of CM2 Italia, which came to me on two floppy disks (remember those!?) and I've been sorely addicted since. Weekends have been lost in a flurry of transfer activity, Yeovil town have won the Champions League and most impressive of all, Northern Ireland qualified for the 2014 World cup!
Throughout the series, there have been a number of impressive changes, from the ability to run more than 1 league at a time, right up to the specs of the present day: There are teams from 158 Divisions in 51 countries, which is 9 more countries than in the last incarnation of the game. There are over 5000 league teams to choose from, which is sure to give anyone a headache. Taking International teams into account, with their under-19, 21 and 23 squads, brings the total of manageable clubs to around 5300. Plenty to keep you going.
There are a few changes that will take veteran CM players a while to get used to, the most noticeable of these being the game interface. It does look as good as you'd expect from the makers of Championship Manager, but has definitely been replaced, and finding things may take you a while longer than before. For instance, you have to use the links at the top, rather than the side, to access your squad screen, which itself is totally different, now presented as a continuous list, instead of being broken across the screen. There is also the new feature of being able to start the game unemployed, in a real test of your managerial mettle. Will you take the job at Elgin and go all the way?
The match engine has also been tweaked and runs a lot smoother, and although Drogba is not going to sky it from 5 yards out now, Kanu might... Coupling this with a few tweaks in the algorithms that calculate the outcomes of match's, means you get far more realistic results. This means that there's no way that Boston Utd are going to go to Old Trafford and get a draw in the FA cup, unless of course, you happen to be at the Boston helm.
There's a also a whole new Media interaction aspect to the game, and although some may feel that this leads away from a true management sim, I feel that it adds a welcome new angle to the game. Who knows, perhaps in FM 2006 we'll be able to throw virtual pea soup and pizza at Alex Ferguson.
Another great thing is that a number of licensing problems have been sorted out with various leagues, teams, so many players are now once again welcomed to the FM fold. In turn, this also means that one Freddy Adu is also welcomed back, oh...he's just scored a hat trick!
There are, however, a number of bugs in the game that can cause some rather annoying problems. For instance, running the Irish league will cause your game to crash in November, and some people may be on the wrong end of some very one-sided high scoring games. There are other bugs in the game that are equally as annoying, but SI Games are working on a patch to sort them out, and if it's as good as the patches released for the earlier incarnations, these problems should be a thing of the past.
Experienced CM players should be able to pick this up and continue where they left off whereas newbie's will be able to install and get managing with very few problems... unless they're managing Blackburn! If you are serious about football and fancy yourself as the next Jose Mourinho (probably without the huge money pit), you could easily spend half your life playing Football Manager 2005.