When the ten teams load up their trucks on Sunday evening after this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, it will officially mark the beginning of the summer break, with no races for the next three weekends.
Frontier Development’s F1 Manager 22 was a bold new title, the first officially licensed F1 management simulation game in two decades. Designed for consoles as well as PC, it was an impressive first attempt that provided an accessible management experience, even if it may not have been as deep or complex as fans of management games like Football Manager or even PlaySport Games’ Motorsport Manager achieved.
So does the first sequel in the F1 Manager series do enough to justify its £45 price tag just for the base game? Especially for those who played last year’s title?
It will be of little shock to anyone to learn that F1 Manager 23 feels incredibly similar to its predecessor. After all, this is not a massive overhaul but more of a season update, similar to F1 23, or NBA 2K23. From the menus to the controls and the fundamental gameplay loop, there’s a strong sense of familiarity when booting up F1 Manager 23. Even the amusing animations on the title screen where drivers make moody eyes at the camera are back, to put a smile on your face every time you load up the game.
Naturally, F1 Manager 23 includes all the teams and driver data for this new season, including reserve drivers. Unlike last year’s game, McLaren’s engineering roster is included with Tom Stallard and Will Joseph now present, while the Losail and Las Vegas circuits are fully rendered in all their night time glory.
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After the original game launched without some key features – such as the ability to un-lap behind the Safety Car – fan backlash led to many of those being introduced in a patch near the end of last year. Of course, all of these carry over to the new game, which makes F1 Manager 23 already superior to the original game at launch. However, there are plenty more enhancements to gameplay for the new title.
The first obvious addition is the arrival of sprint rounds, which were absent from F1 Manager 22. All six sprint rounds for this season are reflected in the game, however, some may regret there is no ability to opt out of sprint rounds from the calendar. It’s also important to state that while sprint races are in, they have been included under the 2022 rules – meaning that Saturday’s sprint race will determine the grid for the grand prix.
Team management remains fundamentally similar to last year, with the same systems around developing and manufacturing parts for your cars, managing the budget cap and building up your team’s facilities to enhance your car design, hire more staff and keep them happy. New for this season is the ability to set development focuses for your drivers and staff to target particular weaknesses, whether it’s their one-lap pace or their knowledge of ground effect aero versus overbody downforce.
On the driver, side. Formula 2 and F3 seasons are now fully simulated, allowing you to follow along both championships to see which young prospects are performing better than others. A key change from last year is that drivers’ skills and abilities will now begin to deteriorate with age, meaning that as the seasons go by, you’ll no longer see the grid dominated by an elite group of older drivers. Instead, once your drivers reach their late thirties and early forties, their abilities will begin to degrade – slowly at first and increasingly more so over time. Eventually, that will make veterans less viable options than younger drivers who may be lacking in some areas but will have a greater upside long term. And in one change that many fans are asking for, when you sign a drive you now have the option to commence their contract from the following season, rather than immediately jettisoning the driver that you’re replacing them with from your team.
On the track, there are many changes as well. Driver’s confidence now plays an effect in performance during sessions. Confidence ebbs and flows throughout the race, depending on if they make successful overtake or they lose a position or if they fit on a fresh set of tyres and began to blitz their previous personal best sector times. This will impact on their chances of succeeding with a late lunging overtaking move or if they are more susceptible to making a mistake. But you can also better micromanage your drivers during a race by advising them on how aggressive they should when attacking or defending as well as the previous set of instructions you could give them in last year’s game. While all the camera options from last year are available, the introduction of the new visor camera to the driver onboard options is a nice touch.
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After many players quickly got sick of hearing about their drivers tyre temperatures throughout races in last year’s game, those endless radio messages have been reduced. The tyre temperature system now including carcass temperature as well as surface temperature. Ambient circuit temperatures also have a greater impact on the state of a driver’s tyres, which means you’ll have to be mindful of the mercury when you’re planning your pre-race pit strategy.
Pit stops are also a major point of focus for F1 Manager 23. The introduction of the sporting director role has a big impact on pit stop performance. As team principal, you can set the daily pit stop. training programme for your pit crew, focusing on particular aspects of a stop to try and improve your pit stop performance. You have to be careful not to overwork your pit crew and leave them shattered by the time race day comes around and your team’s pit stop performance will be tracked every weekend against your other rivals. This all adds a different level of competition to your team management as you try to beat Red Bull for the title of fastest pit crew in the paddock.
Beyond just the main career mode, there is an entirely new gameplay setting to play with. The race replay feature allows players to take on real-world scenarios and races using the actual grid placings for every race of the season, with regular updates as the season goes by. This gives you the chance to take over any team and try and improve on their real life results during a race. Many of these also include a secondary challenge that takes a specific driver in a specific scenario from that race and allows you the sort of challenge of either trying to beat rivals that the real team never could or make better decisions than those on the pit crew made in real life. Examples include trying to taking Oscar Piastri to a points finish in Melbourne or seeing if you can take Fernando Alonso ahead of Max Verstappen when it starts to rain in Monaco.
If you buy the deluxe edition, you’ll also get a series of exclusive original challenges. These shake up the gameplay in a number of ways, like having all cars on equal performance or a race in Qatar where temperatures are well into the 40s. These smaller challenges do provide a refreshing change of pace, but while it is interesting to see real world scenarios reflected in the game, it sometimes feels like there’s little need for much input from the player. Winning the Silverstone challenge of getting Piastri on the podium when the Safety Car is deployed was just a simple case of telling him to push on his hard tyres at the restart while pitting Lando Norris onto softs rather than hards. So it can feel a little bit hollow at times and hardcore players are more likely to get more out of their main career mode saves.
Whether you’ll enjoy F1 Manager 23 is largely a matter of how much you got out of the original game if the gameplay loop and quirks didn’t grab you last year, it’s unlikely you’ll have your mind dramatically changed by its sequel. However, there are enough small adjustments and tweaks made to ensure that this game is definitely an improvement over the original. Frontier Developments have already confirmed that players will eventually get the option to switch teams they manage deep into their career mode when the feature is added in a later patch.
It may not be the revolutionary reinvention of a still young franchise that some will have hoped for, but F1 Manager 23 feels a bit like Aston Martin – a significant step up from last year, but perhaps not gunning for a world championship just yet.
F1 Manager 23
Platform(s): PS4/5 Xbox Series S|X, Steam, EGS
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Frontier Developments
Released: Monday 31st July (Thursday 27th July – Deluxe Edition)
Price: £44.99 (Deluxe Edition: £54.99)
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