Championship Manager 2006

Last year's Champ Man 5 was the name with no game. Unrealistic and riddled with flaws, it was a pale shadow of its former self. So, Beautiful Game Studios (BGS) clearly has its work cut out if it wants to win back all those former fans.

The one selling point of CM5 was its speed, and this is something CM 2006 is poised to build upon. In previous CMs it was impossible to run every league in full detail. CM 2006 wants to change all that with its new 'Simulated World' option: a feat of optimisation that would represent a sea change for the genre.

"What we've managed to do," outlines BGS studio manager David Rutter, "is change the architecture of our game. This enables us to run every team and league, and have them running in full match detail." BGS claims they found very little slowdown in testing, even with all the leagues running.

There's also an all-new match engine, christened Gameplan, which is in full 3D and enables you to select different camera angles. 3D it may be, but it doesn't have motion-captured players, instead going for abstract little blokes with fat bases that look like they've escaped from Subbuteo.

Everything in the match engine is to scale, right down to the ball, making it a tad tricky to pick out as it's belted around the pitch. To fix this snag, BGS has added a glowing trail to the ball. This gives the match highlights the feel of an Andy Gray half-time analysis.

And speaking of the media, this feature has been revamped for CM 2006, with almost double the word count. The interaction between manager and team has been upped too, with players' attitudes now playing a greater role.

Finances have also been reorganised, with a new zero-inflation economy bringing realism to the clubs. You can tweak this by switching on the Club Benefactor option and giving your club its very own Abramovich. However, as Hearts fans will testify, sugar daddies bring their own baggage. "You will be expected to do better," explains David, "So it's not just a straightforward cheat." On the evidence of the pre-beta version shown, CM is trying hard to atone for the sins of CM5.