A close friend of mine, too busy now with family and career for computer games, once revealed to me his secret weakness. “Championship Manager 2001/02,” he smiled wistfully. “But with present day data. I’d find time for that.”
Would it be dangerous for me to reveal the existence of a website dedicated to facilitating his dream? Yes, I rather think it would. But we do not fear danger here at The Set Pieces. We embrace it.
At ChampMan0102, they have made it their mission to keep the old classic relevant, painstakingly updating the data at regular intervals. Not only that, but they have also cracked into the game itself to make significant and pleasing changes to the match engine. And you can take advantage of all of this with just a couple of downloads.
Unfortunately, I am an idiot and the prospect of downloading, altering and burning stuff fills me with dread. I took advantage of their eBay offer and chose the lazy option of having them post me a disc with the game (now a legal free download from Eidos) and all the relevant updates. A single sheet of simple instructions explained it all so clearly that even I could make it work within five minutes of tearing open the envelope.
And so I dive straight in and it’s wonderful. It’s like bumping into a former lover in the street. It’s like blushing and stammering at them because they look so good. Different, sure. So much more modern than the pictures you keep hidden under blankets in the dusty attic of your mind. But good. Yeah. Really good.
It’s like going for a drink to catch up. It’s like staying out for more because you don’t ever want to say goodbye again. It’s like tumbling through the front door together. It’s like falling to the carpet in a fit of giggles and then making frantic love with tears in your eyes. My God, was it always so easy? You can assess your squad in seconds, not minutes. You can do pre-season in minutes, not hours. You can play out campaigns in hours, not days.
And your old flame has learned a few new tricks as well. The matches are quicker, the attributes are colour-coded, the short-lived ‘protected contracts’ have gone. And it’s not all cosmetic. The AI has improved too, its tactics are far more inventive and varied than they ever were in the past when you could slip by with two pre-set formations, one to combat a 4-4-2, another to stop a 3-5-2.
But something has changed. You’ve changed. You’re used to 3D highlights. Sure, you could get by on 2D highlights, but what the hell is this ‘reading commentary and using your imagination’ nonsense? How are you supposed to tell where it’s going right or wrong? And why can’t you shout at people? Why can’t you give your set pieces more structure than simply sending people forward or back? This was all fine in 2001. You were young, you didn’t know any better. But now you know that you can have more, now you know that you’re worth more…why go back?
And you know what? The more time you spend with your old flame and their new look, the more you distrust it. Why is the Community Shield played at the Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff? Why is Shane Ferguson on £45,000 a week while Steven Taylor is on £6,500 a week? And they can make all the colour changes to their attributes they like, but you can still see their Intertoto Cup.
You’re going to have fun if you get this. You’re going to do all the things you used to love doing and you’re going to do them until the night becomes the day and only the sound of birdsong can break the spell. And when you get to work, everyone in the office is going to know exactly why you look so tired and you’re not going to care.
But at some point, you’re going to remember why you moved on. At some point, you’re going to realise that it’s not 2001 anymore and that this just isn’t right. At some point, you’re going to remember that you’re supposed to be married. And yeah, you have to work a little harder at marriage, you have to put more in than you ever did before. But you’re going to take a lot out as well. There’s trust there, there’s depth, there’s a profound connection. You need that connection to access the automatic data updates from Steam.
Download this, immerse yourself in this, feel those old feelings all over again. But don’t kid yourself that it will last more than a few seasons. There’s a reason you two broke up, you know…
They are doing wonderful things at over at ChampMan01/02. Why not check them out?
Was Championship Manager 01/02 the greatest of the series or are you aghast at the idea of taking such a huge step backwards? What’s next? A crowd-sourced campaign to get ‘Carrier Command‘ rebuilt for the Playstation 4? Let us know by writing to [email protected].