Motorsport Manager Review (PC)
Text sims are called that for a reason; traditionally, games in this genre are mostly text and numbers. Even modern titles like Out of the Park can look like (fun) spreadsheets at times. For veterans, there is joy to navigating walls of information; for newcomers, everything might look too daunting or, frankly, boring.
Thanks, I think, in part to the rise of mobile gaming, we are getting more “casual” text sims on the PC: those simulations that may be a little more pretty, a little less deep, but just as fun as their more time-consuming counterparts.
A recent example is Motorsport Manager, which gets its PC release a few years after a successful launch on iOS. Now backed by SEGA, this game from PlaySport is one of the nicest looking simulation/management games available, even if its depth and fun aren’t quite as commendable.
"...this game from PlaySport is one of the nicest looking simulation/management games available"
I’m going to start here, simply because the game’s look and style are its best assets. From the opening movie to splash screens to menus, the game has a slick feel, reminiscent, oddly enough, of modern first-person shooters. This is most apparent as you enter a race via a vector-ish satellite map and bright artistic elements.
Races take place on a full 3D track, with a “tilt-shift” effect to give you a feeling of scale. Though you can’t zoom in too far, the cars look and move good enough, though I wish there was some better collisions and damage modeling. Still, information is presented very clearly; it’s never difficult to find out how your drivers or their cars are doing.
This clarity transfers to the management screens as well. Everything is coded, either with a logo or color. Even better, help text is always a click away. I suspect all of this is a remnant of the mobile version, where lack of screen space makes a functional user interface very important.
The only downside in the visual department is the use of oddly cartoonish character portraits. Where everything else is presented with a slightly stylized realism, these jarringly silly pictures stand out.
Like most games of this type, you are tasked with leading an organization to multiple championships and financial stability. To do that, you’ll monitor all aspects, from drivers, vehicles, facilities, staffing, and sponsorships. The game makes this easy by leaning on a helpful tutorial, clean interface, and handy tips. For better or worse, however, none of these systems are overly deep, so you shouldn’t ever feel bogged down by massive amounts of minutia.
During all of this management is when I found the game to be the most enjoyable. It’s fun upgrading a facility or designing (in the most basic way) a new part. Likewise, managing and building a competent staff is compelling. There’s a really neat “political” aspect, where you can vote on rule changes. Also interesting is the risk/reward of building an illegal part; I lost points and had a really nice engine banned after it helped get me to the top of the field.
On the track, the game teters between tense and boring. When you have choices to make, nearly all them dealing with pit stops, the game is enthralling. You have to carefully balance tire wear, track and weather conditions, driving style, fuel range and more, pretty much on the fly. Your best plans can be ruined by a faulty part or dynamic weather. It’s challenging to crack the podium, at least early on.
However, after your decisions have been made, I found the game to (ironically) drag. The fastest sim speed can still make a race take longer than I’d prefer; I wish there was a “jump to lap” feature. Nothing here is unbearable, I just found the races to be a bit too long to make it through more than 2 or 3 in a play session. There is also a bit of sameness to the events, even though the game varies things quite a bit between races. While you can’t sim, you can select race length at the outset of a career.
"There is also a bit of sameness to the events, even though the game varies things quite a bit between races."
In addition to racing, there is also a practice session segment that has you adjusting the car set-up before each race. I found this to be nearly as engaging as the races themselves. Essentially, you send two drivers out on a lap or two; then they provide feedback. You adjust and try again. Here’s where real gearheads might be disappointed: there isn’t a ton to adjust. Just six different sliders affect various aspects of performance. While this seems like a perfect amount to me, a relative racing amatuer, if you are hoping for a lot of under the hood realism and detail, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Motorsport Manager, in my opinion, fits nicely as an entry level management sim. It’s easy to use with a very friendly interface accompanied by stylish graphics. As a game, it keeps the minutia under control, allowing you to focus on bigger decisions and the thrill of racing. Plus, it is challenging without being punishing.
Yet I predict the two biggest complaints will be regarding its depth and repetitiveness. While the intentional lack of intricate detail is a selling point for me, I couldn’t help but feel a little bored at times. Because there isn’t this steep learning curve, you quickly get an idea what you need to do to be successful. The game throws a lot at you to keep you on your toes, from unreliable parts to drivers joining cults, but it can’t quite escape the fix, race, and repeat cycle.
In all, however, I think Motorsport Manager is a high quality game that fills an overlooked niche on PCs.
Score: 7.5 (Good)