The major challenge that’s faced the football management genre since Kevin Toms’ beard first adorned the packaging of Football Manager back in 1982 has been this: how do you come up with a visual representation of a match that a) has some purpose and b) doesn’t bore the gamer to tears. Many have come close – Graham Taylor’s Soccer Manager on the Amiga springs to mind – but it might just be that Eidos’ Championship Manager 2010 has gone and cracked it.
For if you take away some artificial intelligence niggles, its match screen gives you pretty much what you need. There’s a scaleable game (which we suspect you’ll quickly knock down to major highlights only), visuals that make some sense and a real impact when you make tactical changes. It’s not always an impact for the better, but you will see that the decisions you make will influence what happens on the pitch. And that’s pretty much what you need.
It’s the big selling point for a franchise that’s desperately trying to get out of the shadow of the all-conquering Football Manager series, and yet elsewhere in the game, there’s simply not enough in the tank to do so. For much of the time, Championship Manager 2010 follows a fairly similar template to Football Manager, yet feels a step or two behind it.
Take, for instance, the implementation of media functions in Football Manager, where the press can be used for and against you, in a convincing manner. Here, there are lots of press stories and suchlike, but they feel like a sideline to the game rather than something you need to be actively on top of. Likewise, while the interface is smart, it lacks the zip and polish of its rival. It doesn’t help too that Championship Manager 2010 seems to spend a greater amount of time doing its calculations, and thus keeping you away longer than you’d like from the business of actually playing matches.
All of this makes, admittedly, for quite a harsh assessment of the game. For the nuts and bolts of Championship Manager 2010 are absolutely fine. You take on your team of choice and then battle through the day-to-day challenges of football management, trying to balance the books, win matches and keep everyone happy. It’s a challenging and involving game, and Championship Manager 2010 is a fine strategy title that’s easy to use and can happily take away weekends in no time at all.
But, even appreciating the strength of its match screen, it’s still not a match for its main rival, and given the months that tend to get invested in playing football management titles, it’s hardly the kind of genre where you keep two games on the shelf.
As such, while Championship Manager 2010 marks the highpoint of the franchise in recent times – certainly since Sports Interactive, CM’s original developers, split with its code to make Football Manager games instead – it’s still some distance behind its rival. And that means, unless you’re looking for a change, that football management fans are best giving Football Manager their money as usual for another year.