DON'T YOU JUST love it when a game pleasantly surprises you? Seeing as it was only a year ago that the once great Championship Manager franchise was floundering on the brink of administration (thanks to the abysmal CM5), it's impressive to see just how much it's improved in such a short space of time.
Before we begin, let's clear one thing up. This isn't Football Manager, a game that's a far more detailed and accurate representation of the real world of football management than this. However, Championship Manager 2006 is still a decent sim, one that approaches the world of management in a slightly less hardcore fashion than its illustrious rival, yet still proves entertaining and stimulating in its own right.
CM2006 only has around half the leagues of FM2006, but the ones that are there are fairly accurate. Player stats are mostly solid, while results (save for the odd ludicrous one) generally reflect the real world. An option to inject more funds into your team is an excellent addition, allowing you far more freedom in the transfer market than in FM2006.
The new match engine is also a success, with players making intelligent runs, keepers fumbling stinging shots and tricky wingers bamboozling defenders. It's often a pleasure to watch matches, despite the ball pinging around with a little too much gusto at times. Strategically, there's also been a leap forward, though your tactical changes during a game don't always seem to make all that much difference. Overall, the game looks and feels about 70 per cent realistic.
There are plenty of nice touches on display, including performance reports (for players you've shown an interest in), player politics and pre-match articles that introduce your forthcoming games. What's more, the debilitating crashes of CM5 now seem to be a thing of the past.
However, the game is still far from perfect. The interface is the major problem, proving horribly unwieldy and confusing, while there are still plenty of glitches on show. The tactics board is also a bit of a mess and doesn't always correspond to your team selection.
Ultimately though, Champ Man 2006 is still a massive improvement over its predecessor, providing an enjoyable if occasionally frustrating management experience. If the series carries on improving at this rate, maybe next year we'll see it back in the big time.
Mid-table Championship rather than Premiership
- Fun new match engine
- Leagues are detailed
- Excellent transfer options
- Clunky, unwieldy interface
- Still a few irritating bugs
- Nowhere near as detailed as Football Manager