Championship Manager PSP Reader Review
"Well Brian, at the end of the day, it's a game of two halves."
Pundit speak eh? Well my names not Brian but that does nicely sum up Championship Manager on the PSP. There are so many things it does well but there are some things it does badly.
Booting up the UMD, one of the things you'll notice is the more or less complete lack of disk whirring once you're playing. This is a good thing as it allows 2am to come round without the need for a recharge.
CM games have always been addictive, right up to the point where Sports Interactive parted company with Eidos and went about the whole thing from scratch with a different and confusing UI under the Football Manager moniker. This game then has the familiar CM user interface that dates back pretty much to the time that computers were steam powered and Man Utd used to be a powerful force in European football and has no input from Sports Interactive. In fact they're bring their own FM series to PSP next year.
CM's control system has been adapted for the PSP in a pretty reasonable way- there's no pointer on the screen, the D pad or analogue nub is used to select anything that can be highlighted. To save scrolling endlessly just to hit continue, there are some shortcuts too.
Anybody who has played CM in any of its iterations since CM2 hit the shelves back in the late 1990's will be immediately familiar with the game mechanics. And it must be said, for the most part it plays like CM should play. Much praise must go to Gusto Games for shoe horning as much as they have into a console game and a portable console game at that.
It does the text commentary, 2d match/highlights and all the other things that we've come to expect CM to do over the years, only this time on a PSP screen and not on a chunky PC. This means when the heating goes off at night you don't suddenly start shivering and realise it's almost time to get up because you can play the damn thing in bed.
CM does give the impression that formation and substitutions affect the game. There is definitely a feeling of interaction with what's going on onscreen.
It is however not without it's faults. First time round I decided to manage the mighty Morecambe (yes! it does allow you to manage Conference teams). Unfortunately my first friendly in charge saw the clock on minus 207 minutes and the game hopelessly crash out.
If the text commentary is run at high speed you'll often be notified of a goal before the text catches up, which is annoying to say the least. The text itself though is pretty comprehensive, it does tend to ping from goalkeeper to goalkeeper a little but it's reasonably descriptive and certainly no worse than any of the CM3 based games.
The other really annoying thing is the transfers that other teams make- Bolton offered £8m+ 4 players for Christiano Ronaldo and Utd sold him. . That and the fact that every man and his dog is trying to buy Aren Robben from Chelsea, including 2nd Division German teams, makes the transfer market a little bit confusing.
Quirks (a polite way of saying bugs I suppose) like these are of course part and parcel of a CM game though. I well remember having 12 members of my squad unavailable for my quarter final in the CL with Barcelona due to international friendlies. The problem is PC versions can be patched, while console games are supposed to be "finished".
The real question is do these "quirks" detract enough from the game to turn a comfortable home win into an agonising loss on penalties after a dour 90 minutes? The answer is no. There is still enough classic CM goodness to ensure it's 4-2 on penalties AET, through to the next round and here's hoping we don't draw Chelsea.
If this is Gusto Games first stab at a PSP football management game, it can only bode well for the future. It's fun to play and whilst a bit broken, it still plays well enough to be highly enjoyable.
8 / 10