Continuing to put to good use the groundbreaking game engine of the now dismantled Championship Manager series, this freshly updated version remains the benchmark by which all soccer management simulations must be measured.

While slightly intimidating at first glance, it remains the definitive soccer experience for any fan. Take charge of any one of 5000 teams available, from over 50 countries and their destiny will lie in your hands. From there you can pretty much take the club in any direction you wish. The transfer system fully incorporates every aspect of professional sports management. If your team has underperformed in recent seasons then perhaps a clear out is in order. Bring in new players while scrutinizing existing ones as you decide who is worthy of staying and who can clear out their locker.
Take a good look at your reserve teams and youth academy, which you can either micro manage directly or hand the task off to one of your backroom staff. From there you can monitor the progress of fringe players and promote and demote throughout your squad at your leisure. As for that backroom staff, well they can't rest on their laurels either. The job center feature allows for a complete overhaul of coaches, physios, scouts and trainers, allowing you to search for specific attributes and bring in the staff you want that best suits your regime.
If you prefer a more long-term view and delight at the though of discovering the next Christiano Ronaldo in the lower divisions of Eastern Europe and molding him into a superstar, then the scouting system will be your paradise. Recruit scouts and send them anywhere in the world to take a general overview or search for a specific kind of player, you decide.
Team management is both extensive and exhaustive as you command everything from player wages and contracts to team tactics, formation and youth development. Address the team as a unit or council players individually as you learn how each player reacts differently to your style of management.
The training system allows group functions or the assigning of specific skill sets to focus on. Need a left sided winger and don't have one? Train a two-footed right-sided player to learn the position over a few months and see if that suits your needs. Want your star striker to learn how to play in goal? It probably isn't the best idea in the world, but it is just another option available to you in the detailed set up.
Interaction with the board is also an important feature and allows you to ensure that your vision is brought to fruition. Request stadium expansions, feeder or parent clubs, ask them to relay the field (were talking to you Wigan Athletic) or ask for more money for to play the transfer market or pay players. If you're very lucky then a takeover by a rich foreign cartel might just happen for your club. Careful though, they may hand you a vast war chest of transfer funds to spend, or they may equally decide you are not for them and terminate your contract.
Shiny new features this year build on the pre and post match press conferences, where the media will grill you about your team and your tactics, with the option to call a press conference to proudly unveil a new signing. Be mindful of what you say, the world and your players are listening. Also available for the first time ever is a superbly detailed 3D match engine for game day that gives you a detailed overview of the action like never before.
The sheer amount of fun that can be had with all these different options and set ups is just ridiculous. Picking a top team to start with is no guarantee of winning and choosing the worst team in the league doesn't mean failure either. The game genuinely does react to your input and you are largely free to do what you like. Run a club you don't like into a ground and destroy their dynasty if you want to. Don't like a particular player? Buy him and then send him out on loan to one of your feeder clubs, so he can rot in the Belgium third division.

Quite simply this game is as fun and as addictive as you are likely to find. Got a paper due tomorrow? Screw that, you have a tricky Champion's League qualifier away in Lisbon in two days to prepare for, better email that professor and tell him you're sick.

Format: PC, Mac

Publisher: Sega

Rating: E