It’s lap eight out of fifteen, you have a driver sitting pretty up front but he’s complaining of tyre wear. Bringing him in means you’ll drop to third but you’re confident so you make the call. Tyres will be changed and the fuel topped up to see things out to the finish. However, your pit crew slip up on the tyre change and he comes out in fifth and to compound things, three laps later, it starts to rain. You’re forced to bring him in again for intermediate tyres and eventually crawl over the line in tenth. You kick yourself for not consulting the weather forecast before deciding on your pit strategy and your sponsors are unhappy with such a lowly placed finish. Situations like this aren’t uncommon in Motorsport Manager, Playsport Games’ reboot of their rather successful mobile game. This reviewer has followed the game’s development since it was announced and was an avid player of their mobile game. It always looked like it would deliver but then screenshots and marketing material can only tell you so much. The only way to truly know whether everything comes together is to play the game and play I have.
Starting out you can choose to have a career, take on one of the game’s challenges such as guiding the worst team in the game to the top or a one off race weekend. Career allows you to choose to manage a team from any one of the three tiers of racing formula present in the game. Each have their own rulesets dictating everything from how the starting grid is made up to whether or not the fastest lap is awarded bonus points. Don’t worry too much if some rules frustrate you for as a member of the GMA (the game’s version of the FIA) you can vote on rule changes amongst other things. This allows you to exert influence and try to change the rules to benefit you and your team. For example you can make specific car parts “spec parts” meaning that they cannot be developed and are standardised across all teams. This can be crucial if your team’s development team would have trouble assembling basic furniture let alone a gearbox.
One thing that struck us having played the mobile version was the amount of additional detail and new features. Of course this makes sense as a direct port would just be folly. Even so the addition of things like practice sessions, rule changes, longer races, media interviews and so on really help flesh out the team you're in charge of, leading to fully-fleshed out attachments with them. Much like another SEGA-published management simulation, Football Manager, you’re encouraged to care and develop your team. You can bring drivers up through your development program scouting far and wide in the hope of unearthing the next superstar racer. Of course doing so requires you to build and upgrade your facilities to improve your cars to attract the best talent. This takes time and planning and Playsport Games deserve credit for building a game that cast out the quick fix nature of the mobile game for one of strategy and longevity.
The level of detail is fantastic but where something like Football Manager gets labelled as an elaborate spreadsheet Motorsport Manager seems to find a middle ground where there’s just enough detail but not too much so as to be a wall of numbers. Throw in the fun aspects like radio messages and the political undercurrents played out through GMA votes it adds an extra spice that really does make it fun to play. In fact the biggest shame here is that there’s no official license and as such all teams and tracks are fictitious although if you know your circuits you’ll easily spot nods to existing and past tracks. While this is likely down to either cost or the sport being uneasy at the prospect of a virtual Sebastian Vettel jumping ship from Ferrari one would hope this could be something acquired in the future at the very least for the tracks. Whilst the ones created here are beautifully rendered, true fans would no doubt prefer to be guiding their teams through the twists and turns of Spa or the unyielding test that is Monaco where we’re sure a fair few Red Bull Racing fans would like to make amends.
Speaking of the tracks, Motorsport Manager really excels in the graphics department. Each circuit is created with character from the goings-on around the circuit to the environment in which it inhabits. Equally depending on location they all present unique challenges in regards to weather. Hit a European circuit at pretty much any time of the year then be prepared for changeable conditions. Cars look fantastic when looking at them in relation to sponsorship but do lose some fidelity when flying round the tracks. There’s also a lack of speed when playing out in real time not to mention the Scalextric-like nature of the cars. They seem to hit a groove and move in straight lines which makes them look a little awkward rather than the machines of precision they’re meant to represent. Still this is nitpicking as overall the game looks superb since everything from the tracks to the menus are just glorious to use and interact with. Nothing is too many clicks away and everything seems to be logically laid out for ease of consumption.
Even with straightforward menus running a team isn’t easy as driver egos and the need to feel loved can lead to fallouts and feelings of resentment if you give one driver a newer part over the other. Balancing the happiness of your drivers along with your board and sponsor's desire for victories isn’t straightforward. When you add in having to improve your car either by building new parts or improving existing ones along with your team's facilities things can get confusing, fast. Thankfully during your first run through there’s an excellent in-game tutorial which will aid you in your first race and at other junctions during your first season in charge. It’s great to see such care and attention taken to the tutorial as there’s so much to do in Motorsport Manager that without one the daunting task ahead would be even tougher.
When everything comes together and you, hopefully, take your first win by executing a perfect strategy you’ll get a sense of pride in your achievement. Especially given all the micromanagement required on race day. Making the right call at the right time requires a fair bit of effort and could, for some, feel a little bit taxing. Still it’s no different in our mind from the myriad of other sporting management sims and very few present everything as well as Motorsport Manager. It takes a little getting used to but after a couple of races we knew exactly where to look for the information we needed and a small checklist of things to work out before making strategy calls.
There is room for improvement here but for a first outing it is a strong one. We would like to see official licensing for sure but more than that it would be nice to see different types of racing represented. While many believe Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport there are other types that could be added and provide even more depth to the career mode. That’s not to say there’s not replayability here as there is, but opening up to different types of racing would surely attract more players to the fold. In all seriousness though, the faults here are few. Playsport Games has created a game which is straightforward and simple which all the while belies a deep and complicated management simulation.