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遊戲品評 - FM 2005 Gaming Age評論

FM 2005 Gaming Age評論

System: PC
Developer: Sports Interactive
Publisher: Sega
Medium: CD-ROM
Players: Multi

The advertisement campaign for Football Manager 2005, the latest hugely detailed football management game from Sports Interactive, is based on one slogan, 'addiction has a new name'. SI are the developers of the illustrious Championship Manager series, a series that commands a huge cult fan base with legions of wannabe football managers furiously discussing tactics online. The strange change in name was due to the all too common producer-developer fallout, shrouded in secrecy as usual. Eidos and SI split, so SI sign a deal with their new publisher, Sega, and hammer out their next management game. It's called Football Manager 2005, it's basically the sequel to Championship Manager 4, and addiction does have a new name. A new name perhaps, but the game itself seems strikingly familiar to CM 4. The question must be posed, is FM 2005 anything but a make-over and database update for the best sports management game there is? 

As is the case with the most comprehensive management games, FM 2005 is hugely attribute based. Putting together a red hot team is all about getting the guys with the right attributes. It's the attributes, ranging from 1 (rubbish) to 20 (amazing), that define a player's ability, psychology, and personality. The stats are essentially split into three areas - technical, physical and mental. There are so many attributes and stats in the game that the first look at a player's profile can force sympathies for a lion in a heard of zebras. To add even more complexity players have hidden stats and hidden agendas giving the game huge personal depth. Players age on their birthday and the effects on their attributes are obvious. Players will peak in their late twenties and drop off in their mid thirties. Of course price can often reflect ability, and lower league managers will have a wonder of a time seeking out the aging players of yesterday, still with some spark in their eye - on the other hand maybe you just bought an overpriced has-been. 

The game allows managers to watch their matches on a 2D pitch, a little dot is flicked around by slightly larger dots – it's more addictive than it sounds. Supposedly with a new match engine from CM 4, but it's hardly noticeable. Managers can choose to either experience only commentary, key highlights, extended highlights, or even watch the full match on the 2D pitch. Although full match 90 *real-time* minutes of moving dots certainly didn't do anything for my eyes, or impress my girlfriend - key highlights is fine enough. 

The psychology of players is a part of the immersive feel of the game. Players can become unhappy with their contract, feel they're being mistreated, feel they've been misled, or even just decide they dislike you - it's a fun part of the game to have to deal with. A feature new to FM 2005 is that player pictures now appear on their profile screen, presumably an attempt to add even further depth to the feel of the game. Unfortunately with core fans this will most likely fail. The pictures, along with the 'official' club badges displayed next to club names, tend to feel like a pseudo-EA gimmick and add very little to the game. 
One of the major additions to FM 2005 that has been hyped up is the ability that players now have to criticise or praise other managers in the media. The idea is, supposedly, that playing mind games with the other managers somehow affects your team's morale. As far as I can tell, it has a very minimal effect and seems a very minor and empty element. 

Scouting and obtaining new players provides, literally, hours of 'fun' - although the fun part is generally conditional and only comes later when your budget striker blasts in a scorcher on his debut appearance. The game uses a fog-of-war style system of attribute masking, where many of a player's attributes can be unknown until scouts are sent out to determine if you've found a rough diamond or a lump of fool's gold. Acquiring players is important, but it requires money. The board are on your case from day one demanding that the overpriced star striker be sold or the club's wage budget is drastically cut. As in real life, football club chairmen tend to be rather tight with their wallet. This mentality, although most probably accurate, is extremely frustrating. 

The tactical control in the game is impressively vast, but only in the same way as CM 4 was. Positions can be set, team orders can be set and crucially individual player orders can be set. Such settings include; attacking mentality, tackling mentality, creative freedom, amount of forward runs, dribbling mentality, amount player should attempt crosses, etc. The new additions to tactical control in FM 2005 are small in number, being effectively reduced to the replacement of tick boxes with sliding bars to more accurately define the amount each team order can be set at. The increase in control the gamer has with this addition even seems questionable. 

Probably one of the most fun things to do in FM 2005 is a hot seat or network game with friends. It's probably a good job too; the addiction of the championship manager series is such that the only way to keep in touch with friends is by getting them to play along. This works really well and the game doesn't suffer any problems for it. It allows for the discussion of tactics, player purchases and, if you play in the same league, it allows for at least two matches a virtual year played against each other. 

FM 2005 does boast a brand new interface on its predecessors; however this was always going to be guaranteed after the fallout with Eidos, who own the rights to the old interface. The new interface is very much so in the style of windows XP; it's round, shiny, and has a bubble like feel to it. It certainly looks slicker than the boxy look of CM, but this isn't necessarily a good thing. The old look had a certain nice computer feel to it, there was something magical about the simplistic layout and style of CM 4. FM 2005 loses all that and plus the menus now seem to be randomly scattered over the screen. As oppose to the goal SI probably had in mind, it appears their new interface is more counter-intuitive than intuitive. The main screen has menu bars on the top, left, and bottom, which serves to confuse more than aid. Furthermore there's some real rookie errors made in the design, for example, when playing a match there are three continue game buttons splattered around the screen that all do exactly the same thing. 

Overall one feels rather as if there are not too many new features in FM 2005 that make it different, or better, than CM 4. The new interface is certainly not an improvement and the little EA-style additions, like 'official' club badges being displayed next to their name just seem a little soulless and unnecessary. The game engine itself seems to have barely changed. But on the other hand CM 4 was a winning formula and at the very least FM 2005 updates the player rosters and patches out the super almost-guaranteed-win tactics that were discovered in CM 4. 

It's a bloody decent game, as could only be expected. If it were not for the battle with Eidos perhaps one would have expected SI to release this as an add-on or update to FM 2005, rather than pitch it as an entirely new game with all these 'amazing' new features. It's nice to have the players and teams updated for 2005 at least. Of course it goes without saying, only those who actually enjoy management games and have some degree of interest in football need take interest. FM 2005 is at least as good as CM 4, it's still the best sports management game that exists, and the hot seat play is absolutely top notch. 

-- Rich Nolan