Motorsport Manager Review – One Race at a Time
Motorsport ManagerNovember 9th, 2016
I've spent countless hours playing Motorsport Manager over the years and the original mobile game has featured in many a session on my phone. Now the developers, Playsport Games, in partnership with SEGA, have now released an infinitely more detailed PC version. One that has caused my current predicament: at the time of writing this, I haven't slept in about 36 hours. It's a fitting addition to SEGA's portfolio of management games, along with Football Manager, but also one that's immediately more approachable. I'm not a fan of Formula 1, being more of a Moto GP person, but I'm certainly a fan of being a motorsport manager.
Approachability is essentially what lets Motorsport Manager shine. It features a detailed, albeit boring to start, tutorial. But most of all, everything is open and approachable. Even the number crunching that goes on behind the scenes seems understandable. Each and every decision you make will have immediate, and sometimes far-reaching consequences, but you'll know exactly what you're doing. It's far from easy, but it's fair.
Tutorials seem to be a difficult thing to get right nowadays. I've mentioned it quite a few times in the past, but few games seem to make them fit in organically. Motorsport Manager certainly makes a better attempt of this than other recent games, but still falls flat. It's highly detailed, that much is certain, and any knowledge you'll need will get given to you. The problem is that it misses out what will essentially be the key factor in every future race: balancing your car. Ostensibly, it makes the first race one of the most pointless introductions to a game you'll find. Everything else, from the scouting and hiring of riders to the building new components and upgrading your headquarters is all self-explanatory. It's a minor gripe, but one I can't help but mention because It wasted fifteen minutes of my time. Any time I start a new game now, I simply turn the tutorial off and learn by reading the tooltips.
Reading will be your most valuable asset throughout the game. Everything from the hiring of your drivers and staff, the development of your cars and parts and even the choosing of your team's sponsors will require you to read the direct effects and then weigh up the pros and consequences. This aim for balance will be your primary goal in the early seasons of every game, particularly so if you do the same as me and choose the lowest team, in the lowest league, with barely enough funding to cover the food bill.
This aim for balance will be most noticeable with the drivers you hire. Each driver has the usual balance of stats you'll expect in most management games. Do you want one with high overtaking ability? How about someone who's just more consistent and adaptable? There's a number to choose from and it's only in exceptional cases that you'll find those who will meet most of your needs. Beyond the expected stats, you'll also have to think about the marketability of a driver, which can give a huge boost to your finances, and also their personalities.
It's with the personalities that Motorsport Manager feels that bit more personal. Perhaps they'll be like one of my riders who decided to enter a cycling race, increasing her fitness and marketability? There's also a chance that they could be like one of the other riders I unfortunately had, he had an intense dislike of the mechanic I assigned to him and struggled to improve, was poor in practice sessions and learning the car and eventually asked for the mechanic to be fired. He didn't get his way. These personality traits will impact every aspect of the game, from the races to even the financial vitality of your racing team.
Money makes the world go round. This is certainly the case in sports, and definitely the case here in Motorsport Manager. How you perform, your riders stats as previous discovered and your responses to the press should you decide to take part in interviews will directly impact the view sponsors have of you. Sponsorships will be a huge chunk of your income and will be in fixed lumps at the start of a contract, per race during the contract and also performance based. For example, one contract I signed early on paid out £100,000 upfront payment and £250,000 for each race I finished in eight position or above.
You'll need this money for the wages of your staff but also for other, more expensive, investments. Your racing team has its headquarters, the base of operations that the team is run from. Expanding your scouting headquarters will let you research more drivers at the same time, expanding your network and giving you access to better drivers, developers and mechanics. Building a tour center or theme park will give you direct monthly revenue. Most important will be improving such as the factory, design center and others to directly impact on your future car development.
It's the development of your cars that will take up the largest amount of cash over time. You'll set either a small, medium or large amount of money away for future investment as each season brings a brand new car. However, throughout the year you're also able to build new components to directly improve your car's performance. There are five levels to reach but in designing these parts you also have the ability to bend the rules to gain that bit of an advantage, hoping to not get found out with the checks performed after each race.
Though one of Motorsport Managers real interesting pieces is in the form of political voting. Throughout the year votes take place on the upcoming season. Will you vote in favor or a track change? Maybe you'd like to increase the time allotted for the practice sessions. There's also the chance you'll want to oppose an increase in pit crews, increasing race costs which will be more difficult for you to maintain if, like me, you choose a poor team. Thinking about these votes and saving up your voting power for more important elections actually turns out to be one of the more interesting and compelling aspects of the game, and makes it so no game will ever turn out to be the same.
The other and likely best part of Motorsport Manager are the actual race days. First, there's the build up from practice sessions. It's always best to directly take part in these instead of leaving it to the computer as you'll use them to perfect your car's setup. Going out, pitting, increasing the driver's knowledge of the car and fine-tuning adjustments until you get it perfect. Though there's always the chance you'll just not manage to get it right. It's the starting piece of what turns out to be the truly tactical aspect of the game.
The weather forecast says it's going to start raining in about two laps, predictions are that the water level will rise quite rapidly. Do you pit early or push just one more lap before swapping to intermediate or wet tires? When you make that pit stop, you can see a prediction on how long the pit stop will take but you can also see the seconds mount as you add in a refueling, the repair of a part that's suffering some wear and tear and also what position you'll be in when you come back out onto the track.
It's galling when you realize you've made a huge mistake in making a pit stop that bit too late, costing yourself valuable seconds. Even more so when you pit both cars at the same time and the second one is sat behind the first car, just waiting, nothing being done. The drivers have no qualms in telling you that they're angry, calling the decision stupid. The worst thing is, they're right, and you know they are. If you've made enough bad decisions, you've cost yourself valuable points that, by the end of the season, could actually cost you your job if you don't finish where you told the club owner you would finish.
Motorsport Manager is certainly a huge improvement over its mobile predecessor, that much is certain. At the same time, it still feels a little too distant and hands-off. Of course, your actions have consequences and what you do will inevitably impact on your successes and failures. The problem then is that there's only so much you can actually do. Even as you're building yourself up, the major decisions are always reactionary. You'll always base your real key decisions on the whims of the weather, your rider having a bit of a moan or the result of a vote.
All things considered, it's a great game. It took Football Manager years to get to the same level that Motorsport Manager has started at. I just hope the sales will reflect the quality of the game. Costing £24.99/$34.99/€34.99 respectively, it's not cheap, but it's also not the usual full price for a new game. If you're a fan of management games or a fan of racing, this is certainly worth picking up. The only problem is when you realize that you've not slept all night and you're completely knackered. Still, it's a small price to pay for such a good game.
Copy provided by publisher.
Although feeling hands off in the day to day running of the team as a company, the real joy of Motorsport Manager comes from your preparation for the races and the races themselves. Improving your cars but then watching them in the race, planning your pit stops and attempting to plan everything to the second makes for a tense and exciting, experience.
- Race days are incredibly tense, although reactionary they allow for great tactical decisions
- The political votes allow for games to be customized to you and every game will feel that bit different
- Each rider has their own personality, making them feel that bit more alive than you'd normally find in a management sim game
- The running of the team can become stale, particularly later on when there are no more HQ improvements to be made.
- The tutorial makes the first fifteen plus minutes of a game simply boring