Lando Norris has speared off the Spanish asphalt, hit the barrier on the outside of the fourth corner and retired. This has left us with just young Oscar Piastri (sorry Daniel, we traded you, too soon?) upholding McLaren’s honour who is currently sitting outside of the points in 11th.
This is crucial because the team’s sworn mortal enemy in this version of reality – Valtteri Bottas – is riding high in fourth place. Alfa Romeo sits 10 points ahead of the papaya-painted squad in the Teams’ standings, occupying the fourth place our board demands.
Time to lower the speed of the race from 16x, to real-time, and micro-manage the Australian’s route to a points-paying finish. Requesting to push on an in-lap, completing a switch to fresh tyres one lap early to undercut the Alpines and switching between Energy Recovery System modes, all with a fetishism of an overbearing boss. In the end, eighth place has never felt so sweet.
This is F1 Manager 2022 at its zenith, with you, the team principal of any of the real-world Formula 1 squads, overseeing your gang to glory – or in this case, four valuable points.
Your job is to not only make sure a race strategy reaches its maximum potential but qualifying performance and practice programmes too. Then, in-between races, you must allocate car development resources and appease the directors, be that through sponsorship objectives or building a helicopter landing pad at the headquarters.
Having the right drivers is key too, being able to scout for replacements, place your reserve driver in for free practice sessions and select from the entire current F1, F2 and F3 grids. The same applies to your main developmental team members too, who can be poached from rival outfits.
In essence, staying afloat is the main aim. Like Zak Brown with a potentially infinite number of drivers under contract, the pressure is real. Do something too egregious and you will be sacked.
Constantly judging resources, driver development points, cash reserves and even voting on future rule changes, the majority of gameplay is spent digging around in a menu before receiving an endorphin rush when new front wings have been manufactured – as a head-honcho simulator, analogous to Football Manager, should be.
Once you’ve skipped through the audio-based menu tutorial – which it must be said we encountered an impasse with, not able to progress and having to restart the career – the layout will soon flow and is well catered to either a mouse or a gamepad. Sadly, we couldn’t test the game on a console for this review, but we can at least say the menus are logical thanks to the shoulder buttons helping cycle through tabs and the non-PC versions have full feature parity.
The Ferrari Trento on the podium here, however, is that while you can stare at dots moving around a track map during a race, you can also watch a fully 3D-modelled race. The cameras pan in a TV style, or you can even hop onboard with any driver on the grid.
No, it doesn’t look as polished as contemporary driving games, but this is a management title. So, while some of the driver behaviour is scattier than a caffeine-fuelled teenager, you can forgive it because there are 20 cars screaming around a track that looks like the real thing.
Also screaming is David Croft, with additional analysis provided by Karun Chandhok. In addition, during a race, there is a bevy of real-world commentary clips (selected from over 25,000) used between driver and engineer, which all add to the authenticity.
However, it’s also these elements on the fripperies that need refinement. The portentous commentary calls during a race are repetitively simplistic and we heard the same exact lines from Chandhok post-qualifying at each event.
While the graphics are genre-leading, each car model is identical to each other, upgrades such as a newly designed front wing are not visually represented and the emails for upgrading facilities are identical each time. Once you’ve manufactured one of each upgrade, the whole process largely starts repeating, save for researching next season’s developments.
We’re sceptical as to whether the surrounding details will hold out more than a couple of seasons before they grow wearisome. Mind you, reaching a second season is a challenge, as one year easily takes over 20 hours despite simulating the odd practice or qualifying session. The grind is real, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.
While there is a noticeable trudge to the progression once you’ve got the swing of things and certain elements start to grate. Despite the races lasting the same distance as the real deal, there are no mid-sessions save options at present. We think that being able to create your own fictional team, or even some form of online co-op mode, would also add additional longevity.
The dynamic weather can really mix things up, though. Throw in functional safety cars plus red flags at circuits where historically there’s a greater chance, and just when you’re set for your breakthrough rostrum visit, you pit a lap too late for wet-weather tyres and you’re in 16th.
Another bonus of using historical data to create the racing is relatable performance. There was only one overtake in the whole race at Monaco, for example, whereas Azerbaijan was chaotic.
The mix of superlative presentation, deep team management and rewarding car development do enthral, but a lack of features, modes and a few bugs detract. It feels as if this is a great first attempt that the creators can now build upon.
The core, in-race strategic manoeuvres are engrossing enough to warrant a dedicated game. We can’t wait to see where developers Frontier take this franchise over the coming years.
|Release date||30th August 2022 (25th for digital pre-orders)|
|Available platforms||PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S|
|Best played with||Keyboard and mouse|
Congrats to Joshua Brooks who was first to email in. A copy of F1 Manager 2022 will be on the way soon!
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.