Championship Manager 2 logo

Andy Smith once again attempts to get Bristol Rovers back to the top of the Premiership and into Europe. You'd think he'd have learnt by now...

You know, the Production editors are so overworked here at Format Towers the only fun they ever get is making snide little remarks about us overworked (well, this month anyway) and very underpaid (ahem) reviewers.

You and I, dear reader, are above such things. Come with me as I attempt to get Bristol Rovers from Second division obscurity to the very top of the Premiership. Where they would rightly be. Oh yes.

It's now 2pm on a wet Wednesday afternoon. So far I have picked my team and told them I want them to play in a 4-4-2 formation, taking a direct approach to their football. I have neither bought nor sold any players yet. My team are about to play their first match. I should also tell you that it has taken since midday to get The Gas (as they shall henceforth be known) this far.

The screen is currently black, save for a small spinning ball in the middle. The room is silent save for the occasional humming of the disk drive. It's now 2.15pm and I'm reading the Guardian. The screen is still very black.

2.40pm and I'm beginning to think the game's crashed. I am, however, very reluctant to re-boot because it's taken so long to get here. The drive light is still on anyway. A few desperate mouse clicks and key presses have apparently done nothing.

I'm inclined not to bother trying to sign or sell players simply because of the tedious waiting times...

Back to the paper. 2.44pm and I'm going to re-boot. Here goes.
2.45pm. Disk one in the drive and 'Start Game' selected. Yes, a new game please. Yes I've got two disks that the game can use as disks three and four.
2.46pm, disk two in the drive. And the game's to be called Spike for historical reasons - I won't bore you with the details.
2.47pm and disk three's in the drive.
2.49pm and disk four is in the drive. Ho hum.

2.51pm. 'Player 1 select team' it says here. Bristol Rovers are selected and the manager's name is duly entered. Disk four is changed for disk three and then changed back again. And again. And again.

2.55pm and a small blue window's appeared on the screen telling me that it has '65% Shortlist Updating'. This sounds very groovy. More disk swapping.
3pm and we're at '18% international Team Creation', or at least I think that's what the little blue note is saying because it's extremely difficult to read writing that's horribly tiny and horribly blurred. More disk swapping.

3.01pm and the game's telling me which friendlies England will be playing during the coming season. I fancy Bulgaria to get a beating. The black screen's back. 3.02pm and I now know who Northern Ireland will be playing during the coming season.

The game now rapidly (by its standards) runs through who Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales will also be playing during the coming season before going back to its favourite black screen. I fancy this will be some time so I'm nipping out of the office for a cigarette (don't try this at home kids). It's 3.07pm.

3.15pm and I'm being told that our first match in the Coca Cola League Cup will be at home on Weds 21 August to Lincoln City. That should be a win for us.

3.40pm and the screen's still black. I'm very close to giving this up completely. I think this game stinks.

Disk swapping again before watching more black screens. It's now half an hour since I took control at the Memorial Ground and I've yet to see my squad set up.
3.21pm and we're at the game's main menu screen. I've just hit the 'Advance' option to get us to the first match. The screen's gone black.
3.25pm and apparently Plymouth Argyle have appointed Kevin Lock as their new manager. Great.

3.40pm and the screen's still black. I'm very close to giving this up completely. I think this game stinks. Why on Earth have they been so crap? Apparently, if the game's manual is to be believed, the waiting is simply because this started life as "...a PC CD ROM game". We have tried to modify it as best we can but it is rather a memory intensive game for a machine like the amiga..."
What a load of rot.

Championship Manager 2 is more than a major disappointment. If you've already bought the game, then I'm inclined to say 'serves you right. You should have waited for the review' but I won't, just because I can understand the impatience of a hardened gamesplayer.

I've played a few games now. Rovers are doing quite well but it's still not riveting stuff, I'm inclined not to bother trying to sign or sell players simply because of the tedious waiting times between each screen.

The commentary during matches is fun for the first couple of games but soon becomes repetitive and you're basically left with a dull, hard to read football management game that simply hasn't been anywhere near worth the wait.

Championship Manager 2 logo

Price: £29.95 Publisher: Eidos Interactive 0181 636 3000

You see it advertised at football grounds around the world and, at last, you can play it on your Amiga. If you have a lot of time, that is...

When the annals of computer game history are written and the list of long delayed games are drawn up, the Amiga version of Championship Manager 2 will be way up there with the likes of Jet Set Willy and TFX. At least two years late. With all that development time this has got to be pretty good, right?

This was always going to be a challenge. The PC version requires a Pentium to run at decent speeds and comes on CD-ROM. Even the saved games eat up an absurd 22 Mb of hard drive. How could this be made to run on an Amiga? The original code was horrendously unoptimised. Compared to Champs Man 1, it doesn't do enough more to justify the system overhead. Extract the core algorithms, redo the code in a nice compact, efficient Amiga sort of way, re-code the database structure and yipee.

Sure, it'd require a little extra RAM and would crawl as little on a vanilla A1200, but most of us have extra RAM and CPU power these days. Not everyone has a CD-ROM drive yet, but if you skipped all the extras, it could fit on a few floppies and install on your hard drive. Sorted? If only.

The Ref's blind
Hard drives, apparently, aren't common on Amigas. As for accelerators and extra RAM, the tiny minority of users who have these add ons are surely not worth the effort. As for CD-ROMs, the CD32 died out years ago, didn't it? The gospel according to Eidos.

The result is that they asked coding house Sterling Software to write it for the most basic machines going. Ok, so it is quite nice that it will run for pretty much everyone. If the price is that it runs like a dog even on the most souped up Amiga, it isn't worth it. Therein lies the rub. Yes, it is CM2, and yes, it has almost all the features the PC version has and one or two it doesn't, but it runs far too slowly. For those of you familiar with the PC incarnation, cast your eyes to the PC vs Amiga box which explains the differences. If you are not, then here is the run down.

CM2 is a football management game in the classic mould. You can take charge of any football club in the land, You have to cope with the bottom line of all football clubs - success, on the pitch and in bank.

You need to whip your squad of wastrels into fighting shape for the season ahead, selling the duds and buying in the stars as you go. The world goes on around you with the four leagues, the Coca Cola cup, the FA cup and all those irritating internationals your players come back injured from all played out. Just about the only thing missing is the Auto Windshields cup, which no-one but a Shrewsbury Town fan would miss.

The principles are the same as every footie management game since Kevin Toms. Each player has statistics which specify the level of various abilities, from shooting to speed to flair. Theoretically the purpose of the stats are to allow you to get the right combination of players, but in practice they are just as important to inspiring reasoned debate along the "10 shooting for Berger? He should be at least 18! Are these people S%@£!ing insane" lines. Once your eleven players are selected, you just do your tactics and off you go to gory or defeat.

Over the moon
The implementation of each of these elements is what normally makes or breaks a fotie management game, and in CM2 the implementation is excellent. The player data is if anything a little too complete, it can take a while before you have a sense of the strengths of your players. On the other hand this means that it is very in depth, and should have stat fans drooling.

The tactics screen is a model of how it should be done with custom formations easily set out by dragging players to where on the pitch you want them and dragging bars to where you want them to run.

The player database has an excellent range of search facilities which allow you to hunt through the very sizeable lists of home countries and overseas players in ay way you like. Want to search for all players called Baggio? No problem. Looking for a 15-18 year old European left sided attacker valued at less than 500k with a speed o greater than 15 and a flair of between 12 and 16 who are interested in a move? Just select the combinations and the search will be done in moments.

This is the feature that CM1 most obviously lacked and CM2 does it brilliantly. The database contains some 3400 players, not only most of the league players in England but also loads of big name players from Scotland, Ireland, Wales(?) and abroad.

Unfortunately the database is outdated, about right for the end of last season but don't expect to see Paolo DiCanio at Sheffield Wednesday.

Once the game is at hand, you will get to to find out whether all that hard team picking and tactical trickery will work. The game runs well, with a reasonable indication of what is actually taking place. There are a couple of flaws in the routines, which means that the text concentrates heavily on cycles of promising balls in, followed by defensive clearances.

There are also the rather $ corners. If you think a player crossing the ball in for himself was spectacular, you should see the headed corners, they're really special. A minor point, as there is enough in the game to keep you on the edge of your seat and when the game ends you are presented with enough stats to keep the worst football anorak happy.

Sick as a Parrot
So where has it all gone wrong? Speed. When I said that this was a slow monkey, I didn't really drive the point home. It is slow with a capital S-L-O-W. It could be overtaken by a stuffed tortoise and would eat dust in a race with a concrete breezeblock.

Calculating all the actions of all the other teams takes an absurd amount of time. Fire up your game and you'll be going a good hour and a half before you get to see your team in action.

It's not just the between game calculations which suffer. The game is full of odd little slow downs. It takes a fraction of a second to click on one of the names on your team sheet to examine their stats, but return to the team page and expect to wait as it thinks hard about nothing relevant.

On the player search screen, click on a but as they take on a ton to change a single word of text and it redraws the entire screen. The problem here is that the original code was too bloated. PCs generally have silly specs and this means programmers can get away with writing code 10 times less efficient than it could be.

Actually Sterling have done a good job in certain areas. The database searches take about as long on a 14Mhz '020 as they take on a 100Mhz Pentium, and they've implemented virtual memory paged from the floppy drive to bolster the minimal 2Mb of the Amiga.

When we got wind of all this, we strongly recommend Eidos do something about the serious lack of support for modern spec Amigas. There has been some work on the game since, so that it now takes advantage of extra memory if you have it, but really the game needs to be tweaked and recompiled in an Amiga friendly way.

In its current state, the game doesn't significantly speed up with acceleration, but with recompiling, it would actually run at Pentium like speeds on an el cheapo 68030.

What is more, it could be hard drive based. Sterling Software indicated that if there's sufficient interest, they'll consider selling a patch disk which will correct all this but both Eidos and Sterling would have to be persuaded that it is worthwhile first. Check the info pages at the start of the game for more details.

It is an excellent game but unfortunately it was never going to work on a basic Amiga with a full rewrite to the code, which Eidos did not seem to want to do. Despite this it was written without taking advantage of the hardware most Amiga gamers have these days, turning a great game into one which is almost unplayable.

PC vs Amiga

There are a number of differences between the two versions, mostly changes to reduce memory usage, but some tweaks make the Amiga version little nicer. Apart from the changes mentioned elsewhere in the text, other changes worth knowing about are:
No full Scottish league, no managing interational sides, Playing histories ahve been cut out, as have all the backdrops. You can no longer access the top player lists although the player search screen can simulate this. Players can be bought immediately rather than having to wait for negotiations to take place in subsequent weeks. Right mouse click selects "done" wherever the mouse is on the page, making navigation easier.