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…
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.