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December 2023

F1 Manager 2023

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Management
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: July 31, 2023

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'F1 Manager 2023'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Aug. 17, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

F1 Manager 2023 is the next instalment in the officially licensed Formula 1 management simulation series, with deeper management systems, more dramatic racing, and an even greater commitment to authenticity.

As was the case with my review of F1 23, I sympathize with developers who must come up with fresh ideas for an annual title based on a real-life sport. Last year's F1 Manager 2022 was the first time in a long while that Formula 1 had an official simulator game to its name, and even compared to contemporaries like Motorsport Manager, it brought new ideas to the racetrack along with official Formula 1 likenesses and voices. While F1 Manager 2023 has the same official status as last year's game, it doesn't have a whole lot of new parts under its slick design.

In the game, you are one of the 10 team principals on the grid and must guide the team from the start of the 2023 season. You start with the same car and drivers as the real team at the start of the season, but how the team is shaped and grows beyond that is entirely up to you. You must guide the development and overall design of the team's car, and you determine if you stick with your drivers or scout for replacements. In last year's title, I took over the struggle that was guiding Haas into a favorable standing in the constructor's championship, and this year, I jumped into the struggle bus that is (was?) McLaren.

As with last year's game, it is clear the developers have deep access to official Formula 1 assets. Not only are the likenesses of drivers represented, but their race engineers and other team personnel are also available. Drivers and race engineers also have their own voices in the game, so when you switch strategy options, it generally results in a voice line from that driver's real race engineer informing them of the change followed by a similarly real voice line from the driver confirming the change. Between all of the above and the official use of various Formula 1 art and music, the overall package would fit in alongside a broadcast of a race.

Much of the gameplay is the same as last year's game, so anyone who played it should be able to jump right into the new game. During a race, you must carefully manage your cars, including how hard they are pushing the tires versus how much tire life is left, how much fuel they are burning (and have left), and when to deploy the ERS system to get a temporary performance boost. Of course, a safety car can throw even the best-laid strategies on their head, and the smart team principal will keep a keen eye on the forecasts to see if a sudden dart into the pits for inters is a wise pivot.

There are some minor changes to the better for the ERS system; rather than last year's convoluted options, there are only four options. "Neutral" tells a driver to effectively maintain the battery level over the course of an entire lap. "Deploy" is for the times when extra power is needed, but it also has a checkbox to instruct the driver to only use it for battles and not when in open air. "Top off" has the driver try to gain just a tiny amount of charge lap over lap, which is useful to gain some power while you're stuck behind another car without giving up too much pace. Finally, "harvest" really slows the car's pace, as it has the driver not use ERS at all and only charge it.

With the new driver confidence system, you also manage the drivers to an extent as well. Driver confidence is affected by many things, firstly with it starting at a base level based on how well practice went. On-track events such as overtakes (or being overtaken) can raise and lower confidence, as can getting involved in race incidents or spinning out. High-confidence drivers make fewer mistakes and push the car harder, whereas low-confidence drivers are more prone to holding back and making additional mistakes of their own. You can now instruct drivers to increase how likely they are to attempt overtakes or to defend against cars behind, but doing so comes with a slight increase to the risk they get in an incident. Conversely, you can tell a driver to overtake or defend less often, which is less risky but results in potentially harming your position in the race.

You can now take a more direct role in the development of your drivers and members of the staff. By default, they work on all skills in a balanced way, but you can specify certain groups of skills to be prioritized to address weaknesses or build upon strengths. If your driver has issues with overtaking and defending, set their focus to "Driving Standards," and see those skills grow at a faster rate. The same goes for your other staff members; if an engineer is struggling in some particular skills, you can make them focus on improving them over time.

You also now have a deeper control of the skills of your pit crew. With F1 Manager 2023, you can establish the crew's monthly training routine, which has varying impacts on overall speed and mistakes. In theory, this feature is very compelling, but in practice, it doesn't explain itself very well or seem to matter much. The changes of each strategy are so minute that it doesn't amount to much across significant lengths of time.

The crew also has a fatigue bar, but it doesn't dive into how fatigue is countered or the impact of higher fatigue. They might make more mistakes, but the crew occasionally makes mistakes anyway, and unless you're crunching numbers on your own, it's impossible to know what the cause was. This is very much the case in reality, but in the context of a video game, it is nice to have a rough idea about the impact of a gameplay feature.

The new game has a couple of additional features in the form of "Race Replay" and "Exclusive Scenarios." Race Replay lets you take an actual race of the 2023 season with the same grid and weather from the real-life race, pick any team you want, and see what the team could have done under your direction. Meanwhile, the Exclusive Scenarios let you jump mid-race in a Grand Prix from 2023 with a particular team and a task to either re-create or improve upon the real outcome from the race. They can be fun modes to anyone who has ever said, "Pfft, I could totally have called that strategy so much better! Why didn't they bring that driver in on lap 27?"

The problem is that with a few small exceptions, we've reached the end of what is new with the new game. There are neat little things like the visor cam to let you see the action from that perspective, but given how often you'll use it, it's difficult to crow about it as a big new feature. The way cars move on the track and what incidents look like in the replays look more realistic compared to last year's release, but this is also a minor improvement at best. Obviously, the game can't invent new things that the real sport doesn't have, but to truly differentiate itself from the prior game, it would've done well to include even more information to help players understand how to use its features and their impacts.

Setting a focus on a driver's skill increases the rate at which they gain those skills, but by roughly how much? Does increasing pace always increase tire wear, or does that only happen when the temperatures are in the red? Does running a higher fuel setting increase the amount of wear on components? For that matter, give the player tools to be able to find out how much those things are increased, such as tracking those setting changes and rate changes in data that the player can refer to after the event.

If you didn't pick up F1 Manager 2022 but enjoy the idea of a game where you call the shots for a Formula 1 team, F1 Manager 2023 is in a very favorable position for your consideration. It makes strong use of its status as an official Formula 1 game and is ultimately a strong simulation game. The new features don't differentiate the new game too much from the old title. More than anything, the new game needs further refinement of the features it already has, along with enhanced feedback to the player over what the feature impacts can be. The game is far from a bad ride, but it's mighty similar to the one thatwe just had.

Score: 8.1/10

Reviewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia RTX 4070 Ti

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