Championship Manager 2010 from developer Beautiful Game Studios is a title which is set to revitalise the floundering franchise because thanks to a huge array of new features and other tweaks it ends up being a very entertaining alternative to the dominant Football Manager series.
The developer has clearly taken risks and attempted new ideas because the game is brimming with a plethora of new tweaks when compared with the management mechanics of previous versions. I still don’t think it is quite at the level of polish that the Football Manager franchise has reached but it certainly is catching up.
Since Beautiful Games have taken the reigns from Sports Interactive, the Championship Manager franchise has taken a beating from the genre leader Football Manager mainly due to the rather simplistic game play mechanics. It really was such a simple game to play and any veteran of football management simulations grew weary of the core gameplay in a short time. Thankfully in CM10 this has taken a turn for the better with an AI which is vastly improved throughout – there have been many times actually when I was so frustrated with the difficulty level that I almost put my foot through the monitor. ProZone for instance has mutated into a formidable and helpful tool which means you can analyse your performance and work out why you are getting beaten, or even how you can adjust your tactics or players to strengthen up specific zones on the pitch.
One of the biggest new facets to the game is the brand new match engine which is a huge step up from the archaic version in CM08. True to form however we don’t expect a ‘true to life’ engine in a simulation game and there are some weird occurrences, such as players bouncing off each other like bowling balls and players randomly kicking the ball over the out of play lines. To be fair however it is a massive improvement and there are very attractive sequences of play across the pitch – whether it is a striker dribbling past a defender to score a fancy goal, or a section of the midfield ramping up some impressive passing movements.
Some players will play the ball with both feet while others will shoot or pass with their stronger foot. Goalies are also more capable in the 2010 version as they walk from their lines more often to be proactive and will jump regularly in the attempt to save difficult shots. Fans of the last game will remember how inept they could be, by standing still at times when a shot was fired.
An important part of a sports game is the player animation and this is a very strong aspect to Championship Manager 2010 as the players will often perform characteristic moves such as dropping to the ground in horror if they miss an easy shot and will even play with their clothing, such as pulling up their socks. Whether we actually ‘need’ all this in a management simulation is open for debate but it certainly can’t hurt. The crowd are also an important part of the game as they will cheer and chant which adds considerably to the atmosphere and can increase the levels of frustration if you are getting beaten badly.
On an interface level the developers need to be praised because the user interface is very intuitive – I always appreciate an interface that can be collapsed and expanded when needing to get into statistic screens and other options such as camera modes. The interface enhancements continue into the main game area with little stat boxes that keep you informed of the leagues top scorers and league positions as well as the players getting rotating information tabs.
Other noticeable additions include the ability to test new strategies and tactics in practice matches and being able to ascertain if your daring new game play modes are worthy of being risked in a league match. Unfortunately however there is very little feedback as to how your training sessions are affecting your players – some overview on your progress and how the players are responding would help to tailor and adjust your tactics for maximum efficiency. It is very satisfying however to watch your unusual and risky tactics coming to fruition in a competitive match.
Buying players is also a more lifelike approach with some players just refusing your offers, regardless of the amount. Negotiations for instance are also more delicate as the agents attempt to wrangle the best deal for their players, even if this means changing their stance at the very last minute. Thankfully the developers haven’t been too stingy with their funding so you are in a position to pay for several high ranking players, even in the early stages of the game. Even the media and scouting aspects of the real life industry are catered for and they add a lot of realism to the overall experience. The more you scout and the more you invest in the scouting facet of your structure the more accurately you can judge the players individual abilities. This means that you can use your scouts as an accurate means of selecting new players rather than just using the player database as the basis for a possible purchase.
Championship Manager 2010 is the best version in the franchise to date, by a long shot – all the additions make for a more rounded experience and help simulation fanatics enjoy the virtual life of managing a high profile and successful team. I still feel that Football Manager is the stronger of the two simulation titles, but credit has to be given to the developers for taking previous criticism onboard and making noticeable adjustments and enhancements to all areas of the game. If you are interested in this genre then this title finally deserves your time and money.
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