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BGS statement 22/1/04:
"we’re going to make sure that CM5 will be the most realistic, detailed and addictive football management game ever."
Alas, CM5 is finally apon us, albeit it around 6 months overdue, and its about time i actually had a play of it. For those of you who dont know, CM5 is made by BGS and produced by the ever-struggling Eidos. It is a brand new game, only carrying forward it's name from the previous SI-developed games.
I'll start with why this review is decidedly tainted; ive played CM since the early days, and ive stuck with SI through thick-and-thin (notibly CM4... oh the horror, the horror), so when FM popped up and did everything it said it would, i kind of stopped thinking about CM for a while. Though cometh the day on a bleary march morning, and CM finally hits the shelfs (at the reasonable price of £24). In true CM4 stlye it was ominously followed by a rather large online patch on the day of release. So a week after i finally have the game on my hands, ready to give my 'review' and outline where BGS went right, and where they went wrong.
You know when you get a scratch-thingy in the newspaper, and it says you've won loads of money, then it clearly tells you how to claim it.. but then it hits you that really, you havent won anything, and you're just fooling yourself. Yeah? Well that's kind of what CM5 is like, it promises so much from its exterior, yet delivers so little from its deranged insides.
CM5 is not a good game, and at no point does it even trick you into thinking it might be, but before i berate why the game doesnt deserve the name it has on it, ill explain how the game attempts to place itself as the best management game in the world.
CM5 tries to improve on CM0304, it uses a new complex tactics system allowing 270 different positions on the pitch, a vast improvement from previous instalments, it also improves the training section, allowing detailed options within hourly segments of the day. The scouting system is noticably improved too, all your scouts now deliver more accurate 'reports' summing up what they have found. The major difference between CM5 and 0304 is the 1-100 attribute rating, BGS claims this allows more detailed analysis of particular players (apparently the 1-20 system is shallow). All in all its pretty fair to say that CM5 offers some distinct improvements over its predeccesor.
That's where the fun stops for poor old BGS, the match engine resembles that of times-gone-by. Players sometimes dont make any kind of runs of the ball, sometimes your people will simply boot the ball out of play for no seemingly apparent reason as the text commentary calls it an excellent ball. Indeed the new 2.5D engine is a distinct improvement, and its pretty much the best thing BGS has come up with, apart from that the matches are unrealistic and fustratingly hard to watch. The commentary appears to skip vital key moments preferring just for "goal for liverpool" to appear at random moments.
Unfortunatly it's fair to say that a management game is only as good as it's match engine, and CM falls perfectly into line here, the news/media engine is decidly poor, producing unrealistic and repeated messages at regular intervals. For 'deep' players such as myself, the database does not provide much comfort, certain players are simply not in the game, and those that are often dont have correct first names (or none at all). However, the biggest flaw of the player scene is easily the histories, BGS has seemingly dismissed this from its priorities with all players starting without one...
CM5 is not a good game, mainly for two reasons. One; it fails in what a management game should be, it doesnt allow a life-like experience to the user, it isnt going to keep many people playing for ages, and it isnt really as satisfying as previous versions. Secondly, and probably more cinically, it totally fails in everything it sets out to be, BGS said it would be "realistic, detailed and addictive", the realism in the game is far inferior to Football Manager with a distinct lack of player feelings. It isnt detailed in many ways as various lower league players are exiled from the game, and it most definatly isnt as addictive as other management games such as FM or TCM
In an interent article in June i wrote this about CM5:
"Eidos have major problems, the expectation due to the sheer enormity of CM’s history is too much for them, players who don’t go on forums and aren’t aware of the technical side of gaming will feel cheated and while they may buy it in the short run, will soon take their copies back from whence they came expecting some kind of store credit. I’m sorry to say this, but there is no way that however hard BGS try they can create something as good as CM0304 first time around. SI have spent 10 years working, adapting, perfecting CM and one company cannot make a truly fantastic world beater of a game in a measly 12 months. It will even be an attempt of amazing proportions if BGS get close to the level at which CM0304 is on, they should give themselves a solid pat on the back if this somehow manages to rival FM, but I sincerely doubt it."
I dont think i was far wrong with it, CM5 is a great achievement from the underdog BGS, it pushed and pushed the release date back, but at the end of the day it doesnt even begin to chip away at FM's mantle. The sales may well be 'decent' for Eidos, and i hope BGS will have another crack at the series, yet whether they manage to create a rival to FM06, we shall have to wait and see...
Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?
That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.
Nice review Seems to be in line with what alot of people are saying - and despite my initial praise for CM5 I am starting to come round to agree with you. As I said on MSN, FM certainly could learn alot from CM, such as how to improve their awful tactics engine, but on its own, as a game, CM5 really isnt up to much.
Coming from a completely outside approach (I have never owned any version of the CM/FM series, and having recently gained the internet ability to download both games' demos, I will say that CM is very similar to FM to the point of being the 'ugly fraternal twin'.
Thing is, though, that CM and FM both have their problems. Admittedly, CM has bigger problems to tackle than FM does, but I don't see how FM is the 'great game' that everyone claims it is (this was before playing CM).
I prefer the speed, menu system and tactical engine of CM. Obviously this doesn't make it the better game, but I could see CM competing with FM in the near future.
Note to both developers:
1) Give me player interaction. This is only in Sick as a Parrot and in my opinion crucially important; take the Newcastle incident for example, there has to be a talk-to-players one-on-one module so I have some way to change my players' morale.
2) Enough of this email banter. 80%-99% of the things I get 'sent' in both games are irrelevant or not important to my team and are just frivolous. (This is opinion, but FM's 'Goal of the Month' is a neat yet completely useless feature.)
3) Change the training. Training from a managerial perspective is so that the manager can see who is in form and ready to go for the upcoming match more than it is improving your players' skills (not to say it's not, though, especially with inexperienced players). I did not use training in either game - it is sort of an afterthought.
Both games can be improved. I for one don't care about the size of a database.
Thinking about it is that these games simulate the football world, and they do a pretty good job of it. It's fun to jump into KV Oostende or Canvey Island and have them do well, as it's fun to watch the cup results and to see how other leagues are doing, but it doesn't mean anything for the ultimate success of my team. I honestly didn't really manage that much in either game, I basically sat, had the computer pick my lineup, and waited for the computer to generate the results. During both games, I didn't really have a good indication of how my team was playing except for the score, so it felt as if I was making my deepest tactical moves by gut alone.
Here's the burning question: how many sales would Sports Interactive/Beautiful Game Studios lose if they took out the Ukrainian or Indonesian league and instead improved the scouting system? Would it be enough to justify doing it? My guess is that as long as people are paying for these current products (then complaining that Freddy Adu is not in the database) we're not going to have a true simulation coming from a major company.
In the meantime, I'm supporting Sick as a Parrot. It's independent and entertaining, though you have to completely erase FM/CM from your mind when you play (which isn't a bad thing).