Motorsport Manager Review (PC)
The new Formula One season fast approaches, and as the teams unveil their new cars and we see the results of preseason testing there are enough reasons to get hyped. But if you need another reason, take a look at Motorsport Manager.
Motorsport Manager is developed by Playsport Games but published by SEGA, who are well-known for publishing the Football Manager Franchise. With that fact, combined with a love of Formula One, I was already excited about Motorsport Manager.
The game does take a fair amount of guidance from the Football Manager series, but mostly this is down to just UI design decisions. Anyone who has played a Football Manager game in the past decade will be instantly familiar with how the UI is laid out. Probably because it is the tried and proven method for doing so. The various departments of your Motorsport team each have their own window, with a tab bar along the bottom to switch between them. You can view your cars, drivers, facilities, finances, calendar and your own profile. Most of the navigation is driven from your mail box, as it is in Football Manager, with reports coming in from your various staff.
And while Motorsport is not Football, the role of manager has many similarities when it comes to the games. Your scouting department can be used to find either top talented drivers, or the potential superstars of the future. In the finance section you need to be choosing the right sponsors to fit your team. The marketability rating of your team is key for attracting the top sponsors, and various factors contribute to that rating. You need to keep the morale of your drivers in check. Each driver has a race engineer with whom they need to have a good relationship with in order to unlock bonuses. Drivers can also have a number of traits. These can be permanent, such as having a famous father, or temporary. Traits can give positive or negative effects on either the drivers skills, morale, mechanic relationship or marketability.
The obvious difference in Motorsport Manager is that your main asset is your cars. You can develop parts for your cars throughout a season. Again a number of factors come into play with how quickly you can develop parts, and ultimately how high in quality the parts will be. This is where your key member of staff comes into play, the Chief Designer. Their base skills drive the quality of the parts available, but again each available Chief Designer has a set of known components that can be available for parts. Scouting for a top Chief Designer will be key to building a winning team.
Furthermore, to develop the best parts you need to upgrade your teams Headquarters. Various buildings can be constructed and upgraded to aid this, mostly in the forms of R&D departments for each component type. Further buildings help with the development of drivers and staff, or help your team out financially. But buildings are expensive and take a long time to construct, so upgrading your HQ is the definite long game in Motorsport Manager.
At first I was a little underwhelmed by the contents of Motorsport Manager. I had expected the game to be a lot more in-depth in terms of the mechanics of the car. Yet as I played through the first season as Manager of Rosseta Corsa (totally not the Toro Rosso team in F1) I realised that Playsport Games have got the balance spot on. Now I’m a fan of Motorsports, but I don’t know all the technical details. I’m also a fan of racing games, but I don’t usually tinker around with the car settings. Yet the settings available to you in Motorsport Manager make it simple and intuitive enough that even without a sound technical knowledge you can still get the best results from your car.
When you are designing the components you get to pick from three choices per level of component. A fourth option can be made available depending on your Chief Designer, and the later levels need to be unlocked by having the right build in your HQ. Design is also done on iteration, so at first you can build an average part. Then a good part, and so on. A simple system, yet the choices on offer will still have you pondering for some time on what route to go. These decisions are often made more complex with the addition of Risky parts.
Some components come with an element of risk in terms of the rules of the competition. At the end of every race the car is scrutinised, and if you are found to have broken the rules you usually face a place penalty along with a fine.
During a race weekend you can choose to take part or simulate any of the sessions. The practise session allows you to find the perfect setup for the car. As mentioned above, this is done quite simply with sliders, and your drivers will feedback whether your making things better or worse in terms of Aerodynamics, Handling and Speed. Along with preparing the cars, you can also level up on bonuses to take into Qualifying and the Race by running particular stint set ups during practise. You can also gain a similar bonus for each tyre compound used in practise. However, going into Qualifying and again into the Race you can only select two bonuses for each driver. This is also where the mechanic-driver relationship comes in as they may provide a bonus of their own.
And finally, with that all said, you are ready to head to the track on Sunday and aim for the chequered flag! The race can be viewed in either 3D or 2D (again much like the Football Manager match engine), and can be sped up or paused at any point. You make the calls on when the driver should push or conserve their fuel and tire wear. You decide when they pit, and what compounds to go on. And you can see a forecast of the weather in case you need to watch for a change in circumstances. Getting the strategy right on the Sunday can really make the difference and it is possible to finish a race in a much higher place than you started.
And what to do with that prize money? Squirrel it away for next years car. Invest it in new parts or upgrades to your HQ. And of course, use it to pay your drivers and staff. Come the end of the season you might need to go in search of new drivers or mechanics, so having a bit in the bank helps with that. Investing in next years car is crucial for moving up the ranks. During the off season you get to choose which manufacturers to use for the various components on your car. Each of these comes with a level of performance, and a level of improvability.
It’s not just the F1 that is available in Motorsport Manager. In fact, technically, the F1 isn’t available at all. See there is no license here, so the top tier is known only as the World Motorsport Championship, and it’s leader is Ernie Hecklerock (not ex F1 CEO, Bernie Ecclestone). In the base game there are also two other championships and a promotion/relegation system works between all three. Aside from the career, two challenges exist that are aimed at rising through the ranks either as a single team, or just as a manager. Some recent DLC also adds in a GT style league for some variety in car types.
Aside from the lack of license (which if you look at the Steam Workshop content available can become a mute point) there is very little to complain about. What at first appeared to be a light management sim, very quickly became a major time sink. The balance of complexity is just right. If you’re looking for a light touch simulation you can skip practise and even qualifying or race days. Alternatively, you can sit in on all sessions in real-time, tuning the balance of the car just right during practice, sending your driver out at the optimal time in qualifying, and pulling off the perfect strategy during the race.
9 race wins out of 10