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In Review: Championship Manager 2010

Filed: Thursday, 24th September 2009
By: Staff Writer

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The virtual Scott Duxbury is now paying me in excess of 30k per week - which can't be bad....

Three years ago Eidos (the publishers) parted company with SI Games (the writers) after many successsful years together producing the Championship Manager series.

Whilst Sports Interactive Games nicked the name of the best selling football game of the early 1980s (Football Manager) for their new game and teamed up with gaming giants Sega, Eidos retained the CM monicker - although a replacement development team (Beautiful Game Studios) was required to produce what would effectively be a new game from scratch.

Whilst SI and FM went on to success after success, CM's first few versions were panned by the community, who derided it for it's countless bugs and inferior gameplay. But that might be all set to change...

FM, for all its success has become something of a chore to 'play' recently due to it's insistance on making micro-management essential, poor media and slider-ridden tactics modules.

CM2010 - which was initially released on a 'pay what you want' basis (that further reading revealed wasn't quite the case as a 2.50 admin fee would apply to every purchase) - has done away with many of the elements that have lessened the impact of FM to give us what could perceivably be described as FM-lite - an enjoyable, albeit simpler simulation.

In CM2010 you'll not have to worry about saying the right thing to the media - again and again - nor that if your striker is two notches out on his forward runs instructions that he'll go six months without a goal. Whilst it's still possible to make a mess of a half time team talk that can result in a second half capitulation it just feels more like a game - and not just a battle against unknown computer-generated odds.

Setting up training schedules and tactics couldn't be easier, although if you're not the kind of person who takes satisfaction from spending hours perfecting your formations and drills the busy community forum on the publisher's website provides plenty of (free) downloadable material to meet your needs.

With regards to gameplay, adding more of a 'gamey' feel to CM is that it's far easier to land the players you want. Whilst this is perhaps less realistic than some may like it is consistent with BGS's apparent decision to target a particular area of gamers - those who may not have hours and hours to spend playing and who want a quick management 'hit'.

The game itself also seems fairly easy to succeed at; using a tactic lifted from the CM forums I managed to steer West Ham to an FA Cup Final semi final spot (beaten by Charlton, of all teams) and third place in the Premier League during my first season. The virtual Scott Duxbury is now paying me in excess of 30k per week as a result - which can't be bad.

Sadly CM2010 also comes with a number of drawbacks. The newly-designed match engine is buggy and appears unfinished; I've lost count of the number of times my full back has passed the ball into our own area for an opposition striker to score - whilst the highlighted goalmouth incidents have a very samey feel (after you've watched a few games you tend to know what's coming). Some players - even the most fleet-footed of wingers - appear to have the turning circle of a North Sea oil rig whilst the slowest of defenders occasionally exhibit a turn of pace that would have Usain Bolt struggling to keep up.

In the unpatched version used for this review (an update has since been provided by the publishers which may cover some or all of the following points) is it not unusual to read that a player on your bench is apparently having a good game. Some games have also been reported to last for 900 minutes ... I stress this is not something this reviewer has witnessed (sadly). Training schedules - which are necessary to extract the best from your team - soon become dull to watch - although the 100m races are good fun, and not unlike those horse racing arcade games of the 1980s (place your bets please).

Where CM's match engine does score points however is in it's flexibility in terms of viewing options. If you want you can select to view goals only as highlights, or if you're more interested in specific elements of the game you can drill right down to select specific options (see all corners, all substitutions, on-target shots only) ... it's very well done and easily customisable.

The game's layout is clear and well-presented although suffers from a number of minor niggles. The menu system is cumbersome and it can be a pain navigating from section to section on occasions. Annoyingly there is no way to see which positions are filled during team selection in your squad page - to do so you have to right click on a player and then click away. Periods of inactivity are also longer than they should be - lengthy delays between 'continues' were something SI eradicated from FM three or four years ago.

But even with all those quibbles taken into consideration, it cannot be denied that CM has brought the 'fun' back into management games and deserves to attract a lot of interest from former FM stalwarts disappointed by the direction taken by Sports Interactive/Sega of late. As mentioned, the game is likely to sell well to those without infinite amount of spare time - whilst the post-offer retail price of just 14.99 will also attract many more.

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