While not every new feature is a runaway success, CM10's bold attempts to try something new must be applauded. Real-time training and drills are a perfect example. Being able to test new tactics during practice matches and having the ability to watch your players carry out your orders without the risk of jeopardising your job is certainly welcome, though more feedback as to how your drills and training sessions are affecting your players wouldn't have gone amiss. And while the set-piece creator could also have benefited from clearer feedback, this is somewhat offset by the intuitiveness with which you can craft your own set plays, and those rare, ecstatic moments when your training-field master plans actually come to fruition during a competitive game.
Since Beautiful Game Studios took over development duty from Sports Interactive, the Championship Manager series has struggled to define itself. Its watered-down, feature-thin gameplay was far too easy for any seasoned management gamer, while its attempts to appease this very demographic with hardcore analysis tools such as ProZone were made futile by the game's simplicity. Let's face it, why would you analyse the minutiae of your team's performance when you've just won ten matches in a row by a cricket score?
In CM10, that's all changed. This is a game with a new steeliness, a game that will genuinely challenge you without ever making you want to cry from sheer frustration. With matches more realistic and with the challenge levels ramped up, ProZone has now been transformed into a useful tool, especially if you prefer watching matches as highlights and want to ascertain which players are coming up short.
Buying players is also now subject to more lifelike variables, with some players simply refusing to join you and negotiations more protracted and precarious than ever before. But some very generous transfer kitties ensure you still have a fighting chance of adding several top-quality players to your squad.
The revised scouting and media systems are two further quality new additions that help add colour to your management career, with the former particularly noteworthy thanks to its use of player and regional knowledge. The more you scout a player or the more you invest in a country's scouting network, the more accurately you'll be able to gauge a player's exact ability. This results in you having to actively research the players you want to buy rather than simply picking them from an already comprehensive player database.
For the first time, the Championship Manager series is a viable alternative to Football Manager. While it may still be lagging behind in a number of departments - most notably match realism and its almost non-existent player, media, fan and board interaction features - CM10's attempts to innovate must be applauded, and the majority of its refinements are either solid additions or real winners. The game is not without its faults and glitches and only just scrapes an 8 - but if you're looking for an entertaining and slightly different skew on the Football Manager template and an experience that's more forgiving and accessible than FM09, then this might be exactly what you've been waiting for.