The new 3D match engine

One of the most notorious time burning titles ever: the 'Championship Manager' series has been responsible for countless failed exams and even broken relationships can be attributed to its addictive qualities. Although some gamers less enthused by the world of football refuse to call the endless stat-tweaking and number crunching a game at all. Needless to say the potential enjoyment you may get from football management sim be it 1996 or 2010 depends enormously on your interest in football. The 2010 edition has some new tricks in the kit-bag and a shiny, user-friendly interface to make it appealing to the modern audience.

Rather than the text-based action of old, 2010 boasts, for the first time a 3D engine for match simulation. A bit more sensible soccer than FIFA '10 the proceedings are neither realistic nor charming but serve as a functional tool for the manager keen to spot every near miss, probing cross and defensive mistake to help them with there future management decisions. Long-term addicts fear not: the series' signature bright, team-coloured action messages still flash up at the bottom of the screen letting you know which players are screwing up and which are performing.

Talking of performance one of the advantages of this type of game is the system requirements are not too huge and any incurred frame rate drop isn't going to ruin the game play. Loading time can be hefty but for the more creaky PCs out there they can be reduced by limiting how many countries you want domestic matches to be simulated for, from the lot, right down to the one you are playing in.

The level of management detail is immense. Player wages, contracts, team and individual training routines, team talks, transfers and scouting are but a few of the managerial tasks you can control. But thankfully just about all these tasks can automated by assigning them to your trusty assistant manger meaning how deep you wish to delve into the nitty-gritty of a football manager's world is up to you. Although unnecessary to veterans of the game (who will be able to familiarise themselves immediately) text tips provide a tutorial to the uninitiated, although you might have to turn to the manual or more likely mess around with options to complete understand the myriad of options. That is part of fun though / that's what makes these sickos tick.

If you really want to get hands on with training 2010 has the wonderful addition of a set-piece editor, the results of which can be trialled in the training ground straight away. Place your players, issue their orders from a corner of free-kick: move, pass shoot etc, then witness your expertly planned, never-before-seen genius-move go horribly wrong in the 3D engine. Tweak. Repeat. This training ground simulator has virtually no-loading time, is never the same twice and could be a mini-game in its own right.

Other additions new to the 2010 edition include the scouting network where the player is able designate funds to scouts who can target specific regions or countries to find new talent at a bargain. Regular reports on players who the scouts deem fit to play for your club will now be sent to your inbox. More funds given to scouting means quicker and more detailed information on the prospective players. The number of statistics for each player will be eye-candy to football freaks but tiresome and overwhelming to others, but I think we all know where you stand if you have read this far.

So we know the core of this game is a solid database of player statistics and a match results generator. Arguably like all video games; under the hood just a bunch of numbers right? I can't help but feel a little more character could have been injected into proceedings somehow. Championship Manager really knows is audience; cut scenes, animations and frills in general have been omitted because they slow things down. Why watch a grpahical representation of fabricated events take place when there are scouting reports to be scoured through? The blue tabs and drop-downs are intuitive to use and even include a web-browser style 'back' function, but do feel a little sterile. Like you aren't so much playing Champ Man 2010 but doing some work on Football Manager for Windows. Maybe that is all gamers with a real passion for the sport need, the major events in their favourite club's fantastical future re-enacted crystal clear in the player's head. Maybe that is a joy I will never know.

This is the return to form Championship Manager fans will love. All the latest statistics applied to the winning formula and a familiar, intuitive interface. The 3D match simulator might not be of huge concern the the truly hard-core fans, but it is good addition to keep up with the times and draw in new players. For me the set-piece editor is the stand-out addition to a really solid and improved 2010 update of one of gaming's most simple but addictive franchises.

Designing set-pieces is surprisingly fun