The story of the split of Football Manager developers Sports Interactive, and publishers Eidos has been told more times than Top Gear gets repeated on that daftly-named Dave TV channel. For a fair few years now, Beautiful Game Studios have attempted to step into the Championship Manager shoes left idle by Sports Interactive, and take the series back to the heights it enjoyed during the 1990s.
This year's version has already gained huge publicity thanks to the publishers, Eidos, decision to allow gamers to purchase a digital download copy of the game for a price point of their choice. Some have seen fit to praise this choice as an example of just where the games industry can next explore. Others, some of the more world weary critics, have used it as ammunition towards proof that the this series is still a long, long way behind the Football Manager games. In any case, it was only for pre-orders, so those of you reading this will have to pay full price.
To say the latter would prove a harsh view of the talents of the development studio would be an understatement. Instead of take on Football Manager head on, BGS have seemingly decided to create a title for those disenchanted with the former series' obsession with micromanagement, and attempt to inject a little fun and fast-paced action back into the genre.
First impressions are, sadly, poor. The user interface is astonishingly unwieldy, with far too little in the way of shortcuts. The number of clicks required to get the information you desire, in almost every situation, are far too numerous to be intuitive.
Thankfully once you dig beneath this unattractive surface there's a wealth of statistics and figures to tuck into. The number of manageable teams, in England for once, are higher in number than the Football Manager series with another tier down available to take control of. A handy inclusion for those who adore the challenge of taking a minor local club through to Champions League glory.
Similarly, the transfer system has much more to it. Back and forth between clubs happen with much greater fluidity, and teams seem much more willing to tweak their desires and wants in order to clinch a deal. However, players are another matter. Despite being offered long-term deals that would make their bank manager dance with glee, players can still quibble over a fraction of a signing-on fee that can ultimately be worth far less. An odd situation when it occurs, and one that can frustrate accordingly.
The addition of creating set pieces, and witnessing them tried out on the training pitch is a brilliant inclusion, but again one that doesn't stand a true test. While you can craft some wonderful ideas, the players seemingly can't sometimes comprehend what you want them to do. They lack urgency, slowly ambling to their marks, and playing slow terrible passes, even with the greatest players in the world.
Out on the pitch for real things aren't that much better. While players certainly look much more impressive than those in their genre rival, they still suffer from some distressing decisions. Players will still play a ball back into midfield despite being through on goal, and some will blatantly ignore the opposition, allowing players to drift into the box unnoticed.
Despite the flaws, Championship Manager 2010 still has its plus points. For one, the sheer speed. Remember those days when you could breeze through a few seasons in a weekend off work? Well, they're back with Championship Manager 2010. Once again you can blast through an entire career in a week of gaming, and that's a major plus for those bored to tedium by Football Manager's insistence at taking you incredibly slowly through a single season.
While Championship Manager 2010 isn't a triumphant return to the glory days, and it certainly has a hefty number of flaws, it still provides a reasonable amount of fun. No it's not a real rival to Football Manager 2009, never mind the soon to be released sequel, but it still provides a decent quantity of shallow entertainment.