Manchester United Club Football 2005 REVIEW

Manchester United Club Football 2005 Review (PC)

Codemasters brings us Kuju Entertainment’s 2005 edition of the "Club Football" series, re-branded as "Manchester United Soccer" for your home PC. Manchester United is the New York Yankees of England - people either hate them or love them; and there's not much middle ground between the two. However, they are the standard of excellence in club football. How does the video game bearing their name stack up? Well, let’s just say that I have found a soccer game that I like less than "FIFA".

The graphics aren’t too shabby. The facial expressions of your goalkeeper as a striker blasts yet another shot from five feet out are priceless. The field and stands are of a slightly lower standard, however. They're reasonably detailed and the fans look decent, but they are “flat”. The real graphical problems lie in the players themselves. The faces are wonderful, but the rest of the body is very blocky and can sometimes look like almost no effort was put into giving the players a shapely form. There don't appear to be many different body types or player models, either. The ball doesn’t seem to really touch the player's foot when kicked. It isn’t that noticeable on the pitch itself, but in the menus it's pretty obvious.

While you are able to field teams from numerous European sides in the Exhibition mode, your career is coming straight out of Manchester. Needless to say, this is a major departure from the standards of sports games, and is not particularly better or worse when you get down to it. However, since I can't stand United (go Bayern!), I wish I could have selected another squad. Then again, I suppose that Man U's name is on the cover for a reason…
There’s a create-a-player mode, which actually has some promise. Creating a digital version of me was easy and there is a nice array of options available to choose from. Unfortunately, you'll start off with very limited abilities and the only way to increase them is to play as your player. Why should I start myself in midfield and watch me be a total liability the whole game? It would be nice if I could improve my player through a series of trainings games or skill tests.
The primary weakness in this game is the control on the field, while similar in execution to both "FIFA" and "Winning Eleven", feels sluggish and unresponsive. Players don't stop, plant, and then run in another direction. Instead, you'll run around in a large circle to head the other direction; like a car driving in a cloverleaf interstate exit. Add to that a sketchy player-switch button and you’re looking at a recipe for headaches. It can be utterly frustrating selecting and maintaining control of the player you want. The game had a very different opinion of who was the closest or most useful player than I did. As if these problems weren’t enough, add a brief pause to player’s movements when control shifts between AI and human control and you won’t be getting to the ball half as often as you think you should.
Passing the ball works very well, so long as you don’t get ahead of yourself.
The game employs a very logical sort of move "buffer", allowing you to queue up your next pass before the first one has arrived. This makes it possible to run quick charges up the field, so long as your aim is on and the AI gets into place and you don’t want to change your mind at the last second.
The buttons seem very sensitive on both a keyboard and a game pad. Many times the ball will go somewhere totally different than planned because you seemingly double pressed a button. There is a distinct rhythm that you need to get into in order to effectively pass the ball. Get out of that rhythm, and you’re lost. This becomes particularly important with the short passes around the opposing team’s goal while setting up for a shot. Frankly, I really don’t care for the shooting in this game. It’s too difficult to get a good strong kick off that doesn’t go sailing over the net. There is a precision-aiming button you have to hold that will keep your player moving relatively steady in whichever direction they were facing at the time - so you can maneuver into a straight-on shot without turning obliquely to the net. That sounds fine, but it’s also jittery, and can’t be used effectively on the run - meaning you can’t pull off any full breakaway shots. Hard, line-drive punch shots are very difficult to kick.

The AI doesn’t offer nearly the challenge the controls do, with some truly strange behavior displayed as it sets up close to the goal. It scores easily enough, but only if you can’t get your own players under control well enough to get the ball away; never because it does anything particularly tricky. Sadly, your own AI behaves much the same way, never quite in position, being picked off all the time, straying far into the backfield and crossing paths instead of going for the ball - that sort of thing. The whole thing could use a bit of an overhaul.

The sound is odd. I kept running into a strange issue in which the commentator’s voice would run through every single one of its cues before and after the match, reading off the whole list of pre-game and post-game banter including all the potential scores. Aside from that significant bit of oddness, the announcer’s voice sounds great. I only wish I didn’t have to listen to so much of it at once.

I have found a game that I like even less than "FIFA" and I really didn’t think that was going to be possible. Codemasters' first mistake was limiting their game by limiting its scope (one team in this case). Their second huge mistake was implementing a poor set of controls - which is essential in a game like football where you must make split second decisions. Codemasters does their best work in the racing genre - some of the better work in the industry, as a matter of fact - and unfortunately, "Manchester United Soccer" simply doesn't live up to that standard.

Manchester United Club Football 2005 Score
out of 10