If Championship Manager 2010 will be remembered for anything, it’ll most likely be publisher Eidos’ decision to release a big-budget title on a pay-what-you-like scheme.
Available for the princely sum of £0.01p provided you pre-order online before September 10th (subject to a £2.50 service charge), there is certainly potential for an insane amount of value to be found here. Fortunately for those tempted over from Football Manager, the two-year gestation period looks like it’ll ensure at least a partially smooth transition.
Judging by the newly improved interface that oozes polish from every pore, the Champ Man development team is showing distinct signs of tiredness after standing in the shadow of former glory relocated, with a suite of new features and well thought-out additions to the core engine leading a substantial charge into a new era.
Chief amongst these is the brand-new 3D engine, which matches and even improves on the efforts seen in Football Manager ‘09. The adaptive player AI on display in the beta code does occasionally throw up a few comedy situations that might seem out of place or even buggy, but as a first iteration there is little to fault with the detail on offer here. Player animation is smooth, ball movement consistent for the most part, but most importantly the match engine has the capacity to sell you on the experience. You’ll quickly forget it’s existence, which is probably the highest form of compliment coming from somebody weaned on text-bar commentary since CM ’94.
Tweaks to the underlying code also ensure a much-improved representation of the diversity and nuances of real-world football, with the overhauled tactical engine providing ample opportunity for those Ranieri-esque mid-game tinkerings. Indeed the connection between formation design, team strategising and on-pitch action is more pronounced than ever, with players visibly holding to a line or embarking on manager-specified runs with regularity. This new-found synergy makes for a pronounced sense of ownership over each result, and comes as testament to listening to fan feedback after the lacklustre offerings in CM 08.
Adding to this sense of individuality is the new set-piece designer, which seems to do a good job of providing opportunity for those of you with a penchant for artistic expression on the field. It’s a simple system that provides various areas on the pitch and defensive wall setups as starting points for player runs, passes, crosses and shots of your own design; however outlandish they may be. Seeing your own move come to life in training matches and on the park is an excellent addition, even if you do run the chance of shipping goals on the counter-attack sometimes.
Elsewhere, the scouting system has been almost completely overhauled, with player skill attributes uncovered via a system of investment in country-specific networks and direct reporting from your staff. It’s a deep and rewarding mechanic that naturally favours those clubs with access to financial resources, but doesn’t unduly punish managers with the time and patience to discover fresh talent from the ever-expanding player database.
Speaking of which, CM10 is also set to feature a Fifa-esque ‘Live Season’ system which promises to update player transfers and staff changes at regular intervals for a small fee. Such roster updates will likely result in the requirement of a new game to be started, but could prove invaluable for those of you that like to keep up to the minute detail rather than reminisce over the simpler times at the beginning of every season.
As with all pre-release titles, some bizarre visual bugs still remain, with overly-foggy pitches occasionally obscuring the view almost completely, or the numerous occasions we witnessed players producing animations completely at odds with the ball movement, but those are the things you expect cleaned up before release.
If Eidos polishes those few loose ends and manages to be successful with the user-defined price point and digital distribution, we could find ourselves with a title challenger for the football management crown for the first time in years. And as any football fan knows, any championship that comes down to the wire is worth keeping a close eye on.
Originally written for StrategyInformer.com