Championship Manager 2010
For The First time since Beautiful Game Studios took over development duties, the Championship Manager series poses a threat to Football Manager's dominance. Instead of the usual 12-month development cycle, Eidos gave BGS two years to create Championship Manager 2010, and the extra time has certainly paid off. An all-new 3D match engine has replaced the bowling-pin players of CM2008, resulting in a far more immersive and believable experience.
Visually, CM2010's match engine trumps FMOVs, though there are still some question marks hanging over match realism. Games are best watched in the highlights mode, during which exciting passages of play help mask the engine's full match deficiencies. There are a few glitches on show here too, such as players sometimes hoofing the ball into touch for no apparent reason, goalkeepers parrying shots half a foot in front of their limbs and players bouncing off each other as though they're made of rubber. However, there are also many thrilling and tactical moments to enjoy, with playmakers putting their foot on the ball before making that killer pass, oafish centre halves knocking the fillings out of the opposition, and skilful players embarking on mazy runs.
Goalkeepers have also hugely improved since the hit-and-miss CM2008, no longer resolutely sitting on their lines as strikers charge towards them in one-on-one situations, but instead rushing forward to narrow the angle. These net-minders also leap impressively for shots and crosses and as a result are far more believable than FM09s bag-of-spuds 'keepers.
Not A Rip Off
There are hundreds of excellent player animations to enjoy, ranging from players pulling up their socks, burying their heads in their hands and peeling off towards the crowd to celebrate goals. The full-screen action is further improved by varying stadium and weather effects, while a collection of excellent pop-up tactical and information tabs allow you to quickly change strategies and keep an eye on the myriad of informative statistics. Training is another area that lias received an extensive revamp. You can now watch your squad being put through its paces on the training pitch, which allows you to test new tactics, formations and line-ups without fear of getting the sack. The tactical match analysis tool ProZone is also far more useful this time around, thanks to the game's increased challenge levels and more tactical match action.
Tine new media feature is another plus point, providing you with short news reports about the latest transfer activity from across the globe. And speaking of transfers, CM2010 allows you just enough leeway to buy star players, but some robust negotiation features and greater player demands ensure that singing them is never a foregone conclusion.
When it conies to issuing individual and team tactical instructions, there's no shortage of options. You can set your team's formation both for defensive and offensive phases of play and create player feeds and runs, while an easy to use drag-and-drop tactics chart lets you target specific opposition weaknesses.
After many years of slavishly copying Football Manager, BGS has broken with tradition by attempting to innovate. A prime example is the new scouting system, which forces you to scout players several times before you can ascertain their abilities. The more times you have them watched, the more accurately their stats are represented. You can also set up scouting networks across the world to find undiscovered talent, which you can then hopefully snap up for pennies.
While CM2010 is far from perfect (navigation remains a problem for one) there's more than enough here to warrant a closer look. It may lack the complexity and sheer, unrelenting hardcore realism of Football Manager. but if you've been hankering for a fun, innovative and forgiving alternative to Sports Interactive's behemoth, then Championship Manager 2010 could be just the ticket.
Download Championship Manager 2010
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Hang On a minute? Weren't we talking about Championship I Manager 2009 back in issue 207? Hmm, let's see... aha, yes! We were. Don't worry, though, it doesn't mean Beautiful Game Studios have thrown away the promising code they'd previously unveiled to the world, it's just that, with a release date now scheduled for sometime in September, the game runs into 2009/2010 season time so BSG have changed 2009 to 2010. Silly, but understandable.
As you'd expect, you're not going to be able to tell what's changed in CM2010 by looking at screenshots. It's all about what happens behind the scenes, as it were, and in this specific case, what's happening in the game's match engine.
Before you get to the matches though, you've got tactics, squad selection, training, scouting and all the usual gubbins to go through before you can begin watching people kick a ball around a park.
Everything is done up in a-swishy blue Sky Sports style, with tickers, information panels and such offering a more pleasing aesthetic than Football Manager. Some people will prefer the starker nature of FM, but CM2010 provides an adequate middle ground between that and the low-brow styling of EA's FIFA Manager.
Elsewhere, there are hundreds of little things to talk about with regards to the workings of the game, far too many to adequately address here, so I'll just restrict myself to the more pleasing additions.
One of the first things is the player comparison tool, which is much easier to interpret at a glance than its counterpart in Football Manager, with attributes broken down into Physical, Attacking, Mental etc. and a little summary at the bottom of each column telling you which player in a pair has better overall stats in this section.
Status lozenges (ie the bits next to a player's name on the squad screen) are also better done than in FM, cycling through each one rather than placing one thing above another and potentially keeping critical information from the player. A quick pointer hover also lists all the lozenges at once, which is welcome.
The scouting system is well presented too, but one thing that did annoy slightly was that new reports were produced every game day, with player positions not highlighted in the said list, meaning you had to click through each player to find out how useful they'd be to you.
Start Your Engines
And so to the matches themselves. After you've wasted hours fiddling about in the amazingly fun set-piece editor, you'll move onto the team talk screen. This is more comprehensive than FMs equivalent, with different tones and individual criticism or praise to dish out. For example, you can tell a defender he's doing well when the opposition is failing to score, or you can tell him he's doing badly because the opposition is getting too many free headers and/or shots in, even if you haven't conceded any.
The match engine itself looks lush, with more detailed and better animated characters, crowds and stadiums all adding to the experience. In my first friendly in control of Liverpool, Ryan Babel did a neat little step over to bamboozle a Portuguese full-back; Andriy Voronin got done for pushing the keeper while a goalmouth scramble was taking place; and Fernando Torres obeyed my instructions and got booked for 'going to ground' too easily in the box. These little touches are all, of course, present in FM, but you can actually see them getting played out now and go "Ah, yeah, that idiot Voronin just shoved the keeper over," rather than watch a load of stickmen have a bit of a jostle and then a free kick be given.
A couple of words of caution before you start whipping yourselves into a creamy froth of excitement - the engine isn't without its problems (at the time of writing). The way players move and/or interact with the ball looks a bit strange at times and, especially when trying out moves on the training ground, they do some really daft things. Things definitely improve when you go into a proper match, with players reacting to the ball's movement and, generally, producing slick games to watch.
The question of whether the engine itself is as robust as FMs is still unanswered, but certainly the signs are there that Sports Interactive might have a genuine contender to'their top dog football managernent status.