A page? A solitary page for the single most important game of the year? Fair enough - there's not a great deal in the way of eye candy, and the game is already on sale, with Bonfire Night leading to a spate of unsupervised kids maiming themselves while errant fathers got stuck into a brand new season. Chances are the majority of them have yet to emerge from the twilight world of Football Manager 2005, as Sports Interactive has only gone and done it again.
Was it ever in doubt? Of course not. All that's changed is the name; the game remains the same. And with Eidos's all-new Championship Manager 5 yet to see the light of day, it would appear to be something of an open goal. Eidos's loss is Sega's gain, as FM2005 continues the rich heritage that Sports Interactive has established over more than a decade as genre leader. In fact, we've even already accepted the new name. If anything it's an improvement, as to the untrained mind, Championship Manager could refer to a dominoes tournament.
There are no spots on Football Manager though, which takes an improved version of the match engine from SI's 'previous game' and wraps it in a radically redesigned interface. And while for the first few hours it feels a bit like writing with your wrong hand, ultimately it's a sizeable improvement, proving far more intuitive than in the past.
When Skies Are Grey
Of course, all this does is facilitate the descent into madness, as that familiar addiction takes hold. The time-honoured annual ritual of grey sky and green monitor has once again proven too much to resist, and as you read these words, hundreds of thousands of virtual managers are staring into middle space contemplating tactics and transfers, regardless of whether they're actually playing the game or not. There will still always be countless people who simply 'don't understand', and in many ways they are the lucky ones, free to go about their business free of the autistic behaviour that the game engenders.
Something of a walkover then, and while FM2005 retains a homespun feel, there's no doubting that it's the real deal. For dots on a screen to be imbued with tangible personalities is no mean feat, but it's one that SI appears to have pulled off without breaking sweat. There are a few quibbles to be had, such as the lacklustre 'mind games' feature to wind up opposing managers, and we expect the usual routine of minor patches. But when you find yourself contesting an LDV Vans tie at six in the morning, you have to concede that they've got it right. Quite simply the most addictive thing I've ever tried. And I've tried the lot.
Business as usual
- Almost infinitely playable
- Improved speed
- Intuitive interface
- Comprehensive editor
- Mind games not that exciting
- Bland crowd noises
- Ruinous to sleep patterns