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Motorsport Manager: PC Review

After backing this game on a Steam Greenlight promise that was delayed, then subsequently implied to never know when the release date was; it may come as no surprise to say that after 3 days, Motorsport Manager has forced me to clock in 36 hours.

Formula One is my all-time favourite sport, which is why it bugs me to hear that there are only a handful of ‘good’ F1 games and saddens me to hear that there are even fewer ‘very good’ games.

Motorsport Manager on iOS is one of the games that fell into the ‘good’ category. It was simplified, yet strangely detailed. Training young drivers in your Young Driver Program could- in time, become your World Champions. Progression was painful, but an ingenious race strategy with a careful eye on the weather would have you rewarded regularly. It was a game that required your time and investment to win- Motorsport Manager on the PC takes these very same ingredients, yet bakes you a very different cake.

Unlike the iOS version, where the team was yours and you were judge, jury and executioner, MM now has you answering to a Chairman who will take a huge pleasure in firing you if you don’t meet your season objectives at the end of the season, or if you are doing hopelessly poorly during the season. It creates this constant tension during the season where you find tiny amounts of solace after a race to see you have matched or bettered your expected position and your job goes from ‘at risk’ to ‘secure’. 

Be prepared to experience pressure in your first few seasons of Motorsport Manager. Yes, it’s very tempting to take over the best team in the best championship, but you’ll quickly find yourself falling to the bottom of the food chain because you haven’t learned the basic mechanics and insider tricks this game provides. A stress-free life isn’t guaranteed at the bottom team in the bottom tier either. Frustration will occupy your seasons to begin with and filling the back of the grid until you learn race strategy will be your destiny.

This game doesn’t reward risk either. If you’re ever tempted to spend without an eye on profits, your Chairman will flush your dreams down the toilet. Don’t think that trying to make up a 20second gap after the last pit stop will improve your chances at a better race result either. Ripping your engine mode to maximum and driving style to attack just increases your chance of the engine blowing up, your tyres not making it to the end, your fuel running out or your driver spinning off the road. If you don’t, there’s almost no chance you’ll make that gap anyway.

Which brings me into the actual racing of Motorsport Manager. It’s one that forces you to use your head, rather than use your heart. Yes, you have five minutes left of practice to perfect your set up, but is there a need to risk losing valuable data for a 5% set up improvement? Every time you are tempted to risk it all for another position, you realise it’s not wise when set against your better judgement. Sometimes 10th is a good result after a botched strategy and sometimes 3rd is all you need for a few extra points over your rivals.  Glory in Motorsport Manger is never your friend. A good result It is either expected or an over achievement.

Race weekends are dependent on your championship rules. In the European Series, the lowest tier you can race in, race weekends are split into Practice and a Race with grid slots depending on your championship position. Take a vote (more on that later) or graduate to the Asia-Pacific Championship, qualifying is now an expected session for you to take part in. In the highest championship, The World Motorsport Championship, you are rewarded with the full English. Long practice sessions, qualifying and a Race makes up your weekend. It’s a game about not just being fast, but about being consistent.

The length of the races depends on your settings and the Championships themselves too. Set the game onto the longest race length and you’ll find that this game rewards dedication. In the shorter race formats, you can switch off for a bit after the last stop because you’ve either pulled off a fantastic gap, or you can’t do any more between now and the end.

Outside of the racing, Motorsport Manager has more to keep you occupied. As a member of GMA, you and the other team bosses get to vote on rules for the next year. So far, I’ve had a chance to vote on race lengths, specification parts, race tyres, locations and calendar changes, points and wealth distribution- amongst other things. It creates a system of tactical voting, where you can vote just to spite your enemies, abstain because you know a motion will pass or vote against to protect your interests or because what they propose is ridiculous (i.e. why are we having a race in Belgium in the Asia-Pacific championship?)

But such silly proposals presents one of the saddest points within Motorsport Manager. It’s the race calendar. Whilst the 16 locations offer a decent variety of scenes and 15 offer differing track layouts, all of the race championships go to the same places. Whilst this saves you from just saving a set up and running it every time you make the trip over, going to the same locations year in, year out gets tough to digest, especially when you realise that they could have used the different track layouts for new locations; whether that is for us to vote on to race them, or if they are incorporated into a mega long, 21 race calendar like F1 does now.

The second problem is that this game is not for the uninitiated. Because I had dedicated 50+ hours to the handheld, I knew that hotter weather is better for harder tyres and making money during the season is almost impossible.  I also knew that having the best drivers in the championship can win races even with the worst car. I also know that due to years of pre-race F1 coverage, undercutting is a great way to jump people in the pit stops, but will leave you high and dry come the end of the race.

Conclusion
It’s a game that will feel familiar to the analytical race, deeply satisfying to those who love goals and micro-achievements and for the realists, moments of pleasant surprise. It is a game where the typically poor markers of a game; such as a steep learning curve and ‘grinding’ are it’s better points, where rewards come after hours of dedication, learning and observation. It really is a game that falls firmly into the ‘easy to learn, tough to master’ category of gaming- yet it doesn’t take away from it’s immense value for fun.

  • Date published: 23rd November 2016

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