Albion Club Manager PC CD-ROM Official Website
by Just Football
Developed by Smoking Gun Productions
Released: Out Now
Customised football games are certainly beginning to become popular. Not long ago we looked at Chelsea Club Football from Codemasters, which allowed you to play your way through a whole season with Chelsea and now we have Albion Club Manager, which allows you to take control of West Bromwich Albion and plot their swift return to the Premiership. These 'specialised' games can have massive appeal to fans of the clubs in question. However the football management genre is not one to enter lightly especially with the magnificent Championship Manager at the top of the pile. This review looks at the Albion version of Club Manager but there are many more to choose from such as Wolves, Arsenal, Chelsea, Norwich etc.
Club Manager is essentially club merchandise, souvenir software but it would be wrong to think of the game as having little substance like most club merchandise. The game has a good transfer system and the player database seemed to find most players that I searched for. You can train your players and either set them a balanced, physical, skills or rest training regime or you can create your own. What I did find disappointing though was that there were no scouts in the game and you couldn't save any customised training schemes.
The biggest problem with Albion Club Manager is that the match engine looks very dated and doesn't really give you satisfactory feedback on how your tactics are working. I'm not saying it's a poorly presented match engine just that it doesn't compare with the one in Championship Manager 3 let alone the 2D engine found in Championship Manager 4. The match is delivered by text commentary and instead of building suspense by delivering one line at a time it simply displays a paragraph at a time, which isn't so effective. You can either have detailed, normal or brief commentary and you can even skip the match altogether if you wish. Some might appreciate being able to go through a season so quickly especially if they have limited time to play. Despite what we've said about the match engine though it's still superior to the 3D game engines that certain games use.
There are other problems with the match engine too that are just plain silly. I decided to play the one fixture over and over again using different players and tactics. When conventional tactics were used I always got the same result (a 1-0 defeat) no matter who played or what conventional tactics I used. This kind of hints at the formations not making much of a difference, which is never good news in a football manager game. However I decided to get a little crazy and replayed the match again with no defence and no midfield as I pushed everyone up the field. I should have been hammered but instead I won 3-2, which is just plain silly. I tried to play the game again without a goalkeeper but you can't move him out of position.
Whilst feedback during a match might not be up to scratch it's certainly up to the mark elsewhere. You receive feedback via email type messages which helps keep you in the picture of what's happening at the club. It was good to see the chairman commenting on your match results. This feature used to be in the older Championship Manager games but the last couple have pretty much done away with it. In real life though you would get comments from the chairman and he wouldn't be pleased with silly defeats, much like in the game. The training is straightforward and it's clear to see who is progressing well and who isn't. In fact on the whole, outside of the matches, there is little to fault the game for.
Graphically there isn't much to shout about although to be fair that is a trademark of the football management genre. The games interface is nicely set out and the navigation panel runs down the right hand side of the screen. The developers sensibly chose to opt for simple text description rather than silly icons and it definitely gives the game a welcome ease of use. Throughout the various screens you'll find stadium pictures and photos of Albion players. However it was disappointing to find several players (10 out of the included 30) did not have their photos there and their pictures were replaced with a picture of the Albion shirt.
Football management games don't usually pose a problem for deaf gamers and Albion Club Manager is no exception. It does seem strange that they decided to include a voice that explains what each screen is for and calls player names during the matches though, as it's simply not needed and provides far less information than the text that is onscreen.
Your opinion of Club Manager will vary according to what you think of the current management games. If you appreciate the depth and scope (and let's be honest here demanding nature) of the Championship Manager games then what's on offer here will seem slightly shallow. However if you find Championship Manager overwhelming and are the type to only want to manage your favourite club then you'll definitely have your money's worth with Club Manager, providing you can put up with the crazy match engine. It's just a shame that not all of the player photo's have been included.
Game Rating: 5.0/10
If you just can't get to grip with Championship Manager then the Club Manager games might just be your (half-time) cup of tea. However there are significant problems with the match engine in both how the matches are presented and how they are played out.
No problems at all for deaf gamers.