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F1 Manager 2023 Review

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The divisive Christian Horner, stoic Toto Wolff, crazy Guenther Steiner. Whoever your Formula 1 team is, there’s something that is undeniable. Each is backed by the best of the best in motorsport management. The role of Team Principal is an essential one within any F1 team, from the unbeatable Red Bull Racing to the more modest Haas outfit. Do you have what it takes to take a team to the top in F1 Manager 2023?

For the second year in a row, the management sim branch of F1 gaming is here to put budding TPs through their paces. Once again developed by Frontier Developments – of Jurassic World Evolution and Planet Coaster fame – F1 Manager 2023 sees the player take on the mantle of team principal of a Formula 1 team. A number of additions have been made to the second iteration of this title, to better reflect the real-world workings of the fastest sport on earth.

We also see a considerable number of improvements to many of F1 Manager 22’s core features – some of which are pulled off to make this the far superior experience. Yet others still require a bit of time in the wind tunnel, if you catch my drift.

f1 manager 23 review 1
The McLarens at the front of the pack?

Upon booting up F1 Manager 2023, you’ll be met with two options – Career Mode, and Race Replay. Whilst at first we were a little disheartened to see just the duo of game modes to try out, search within and you’ll understand that both have an overwhelming amount of content. There’s nothing to fear in terms of replay value.

Many players’ first port of call will be that of Career Mode. Before immersing yourself in the nitty-gritty of all things F1, you’ll first have to pick a team from the ten on the grid. For anyone not in the know of current F1 affairs, iconic commentator David Croft will give you a quick overview of any team you wish, allowing you to make an informed decision as to who to lead. Additionally, you can pre-dispose your level of experience in F1 Manager to dictate how much tutorialisation you receive. ‘First time managers’ will be greeted with a particularly detailed tutorial, ‘returning managers’ receive the low-down on new additions to F1 Manager 2023, and of course ‘experienced managers’ will be left to their own devices.

Myself, as a closeted Ferrari fan, I believed it was my duty to return the legendary Italian outfit to past glory; to beat those damned Red Bulls. Did I succeed with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz tearing it up on the track?

As is the case with other management titles like Football Manager, your home dashboard will soon become your best friend in F1 Manager 2023. Being able to cycle between aspects of the job is buttery smooth, and the ability to address vital emails, vote on new technical regulations or to progress through the week with a simple press of RT has been a godsend. 

Not only must you satisfy the Board at all times, with them providing a number of objectives and reviewing your performance bi-annually, but a top TP must also maintain their Facilities. These impact every area of your team, from drivers to pit crew. A new facility can drastically better your chances of success. However, they’ll also slowly degrade, and require funds for refurbishment. 

f1 manager 23 review 2
How will you fare in the fastest of all motorsports?

Surprisingly enough, one of the most exciting aspects of F1 Manager 2023 is that of Scouting for new Staff and Drivers. In a book that FIFA Career Mode should certainly take a leaf from, being able to compare scouted staff members to an existing one (and to other candidates) has been incredibly simple to action. My first move was to get rid of Charles Leclerc’s low rated Race Engineer, and get in Peter “Bono” Bonnington – if he is good enough for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton…

Driver scouting is also equally simple to figure out: provided they are open to leaving their current team and you are prepared to stump up the cash, you can see all manner of F1, F2 and F3 drivers race under your colours.

Key members of Staff like Technical Directors and Race Engineers can be trained up in vital areas, helping your team flourish in all the right areas. Of course, the greatest level of development control is in the drivers, where you can boost individual stats to better suit certain race conditions.

But at the end of the day comes the money question. Especially as the cost cap must be so stringently kept to in the modern era of F1, finances are a notable part of Career Mode. As well as having an allocated base budget to work with, sponsors will also provide you with a certain amount of dosh based on race performances. It’s handy, therefore, that your total budget is always present on-screen, enough to make even the most hardened of TPs wince…

For many players, the actual gameplay of a race weekend will be secondary to the micro-managing found within the menus, but I’m happy to report that the thrill of a race itself is all present. Every session can be controlled in regular 1x speed, up to 16x speed. I found that things worked best when you instructed a certain driver on a certain tactic, and stuck it on 16x for a few laps to see how things panned out.

f1 manager 23 review 5
Keep an eye on the tyres

Whilst you can manage every Free Practice session and Qualifying session yourself, it is only in the race where your tactical nous can shine through. The game automatically sets your drivers up on the best car set-up and tyres for these prior sessions, so a quick sim through to the race was my personal preference. A first for the F1 Manager series here is the inclusion of Sprint Weekends, albeit in the 2022 format, in which the Sprint result sets the grid for the main race. In the real 2023 season, the Sprint is completely separate to the race; it’s a weird choice to not adopt this for the game.

But boy, can F1 Manager 2023 captivate for over 50 laps of driving around the same circuit! From the chaos of the opening laps, with drivers jostling for positions, all the way through to planning when best to pit for new tyres, the intricate chess game of real F1 strategy is perfectly replicated here. The new Driver Confidence system found within sessions provides a quick bit of feedback regarding your drivers’ performance, and this can be a useful tool in deciding whether or not to change your tactics.

The gamepad controls found within a race weekend are truly best in class for a management game on Xbox. A quick hit of a bumper at any time will allow you to switch between either driver, and from there you can scan through tactics, tyre degradation, and management of fuel and ERS. Pressing the back button on the controller will allow you to flick through every driver on the grid, so you don’t miss a beat of the entire race. 

As well as the top-down camera, cinematic camera and more, a new addition to F1 Manager 2023 is the Visor Cam, which puts you near-enough in the driver’s seat. Perhaps this is due to the real-world Visor Cams not being of pixel-perfect resolution, but I seriously could not tell the difference between the real-world Visor Cam that is shown on TV every other weekend, and the game’s replication.

I’ve also seen considerably fewer of the clunky crash animations that plagued the previous game, which were guaranteed to take you out of the action. The same can’t be said for some of the voiceover glitches during a race weekend, where certain lines from Crofty or Karun Chandhok are just plain wrong. I don’t think a top-3 of seasoned drivers should be met with “he’ll be delighted to get his first ever F1 podium”, for example.

f1 manager 23 review 4
The helmet cam is superb

And then, whether you claim a historic 1-2 finish in the race, or do a Haas and limp home in last, all eyes are on the next race, and especially the drive to develop better car parts. The design, research and manufacture process of car parts is a lot more involved than any other aspect of the game, and is likely the one to scare off amateurs to the sport. 

I would have liked a bit more explanation regarding what improving your Brake Cooling does to your race pace, or why exactly my Low Speed stat needs to be improved for the next weekend, but the game does a decent enough job of showing you where you should improve your car for upcoming races. Put in the effort, and I’m sure the improvements will start to show in your results, but it’ll be a slow and gradual process. Ultimately, the core loop of race-development-race in F1 Manager 2023 is captivating, and for many that’s all they need to hear to pick up a copy.

The hallmark new feature for F1 Manager 2023 over the previous entry in the series is that of Race Replay. This secondary mode connects dedicated players to the real-world F1 season, updated following each race weekend. Split into Starting Grid and Race Moments, each comes with its own unique set of challenges. 

Beginning with Starting Grid, and this sets up a full-length race that replicates the grid positions, weather conditions and tyre allocation of every team. You can choose to play as any team on the grid, and are tasked with bettering the race result of the real-world counterpart. Succeed with any one team, and you’ll be rewarded with a shiny trophy icon in the menus.

It must be said – and this is unavoidable given the unpredictable nature of an F1 race – that it can be incredibly simple to emerge victorious in some Starting Grid races. With Ferrari starting P4 and P5 at the recent British GP, yet only picking up three points due to car inconsistency, it was a simple matter of setting things to 16x speed, pitting when my strategists told me to, and I bettered their points haul by 19! Fred Vasseur who?

f1 manager 23 review 6
We see a touching of cars here…

But again, it’s hard to level any considerable criticism towards Frontier for this – some real-life races just include proper screw-ups from certain teams, and this is all-too easy to overcome in replication.

So where the real challenge exists in Race Replay, therefore, lies within Race Moments. Each week you’ll receive a new Race Moment which focuses on a certain team on the grid. To be awarded with another trophy to your name, you’ll need to satisfy a certain objective within a dozen laps or so. For example, the opener in Bahrain instructs you to manage Alex Albon to see out the race in P10, getting a valuable point for the team. Further still, the Spa Race Moment focuses on the turbulent Alpine. In light of a major staff shake-up that saw the real-world TP depart, you must gain at least seven points, which will likely require you to guide both drivers into the points.

At first, I was incredibly excited to flex my tactical muscles with unique scenarios, but was quickly met with a critical issue. In every Race Moment, the time intervals between drivers is stuck at zero seconds for a good few laps. Whilst things usually correct themselves, how can one defend against a sudden attack if they don’t know if they possess DRS? 

I hope that this is fixed in a future patch, as it could be that Race Moments is struck by an early retirement despite being a real draw for replayability. Additionally, a lot of the more bizarre and exciting scenarios are locked behind pre-order and Deluxe Edition bonuses.

Another sticking point is that there’s no real sense of progression. It would be great to see better representation of your achievements – victory in Race Replay gets you nothing but an icon, and incentive to improve. Similarly, a trophy cabinet for your Career Mode team can’t go amiss.

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F1 Manager 23 all depends on your love for F1

The key takeaway with F1 Manager 2023 is that your enjoyment of the game will differ immensely depending on your knowledge of F1. What is here, as long as you are a real F1 nerd, is capable of captivating for hours on end. However, with niggling issues within Race Moments, a lack of sense of progression, and the engineering side difficult to get to grips with, F1 Manager 2023 is the nichest of niche titles.

But perhaps that’s what Frontier knew all along, as when you really get stuck in, F1 Manager 2023 sings. Best in class when it comes to controls, a new Driver Confidence system that works a dream, and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the detailed engineering side of things should you wish, there’s no better way to fall in love with F1 on Xbox.

I may not have been able to overcome Red Bull and win a World Championship in Italian red, but hey, both Ferrari and Frontier should know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Console controls work superbly well
  • Menus are seamless to navigate
  • Race Moments provide true replayability…
Cons:
  • …if that damn bug is fixed!
  • Little sense of progression
  • Engineering could scare off many
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Frontier
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 31 July 2023 | £44.99
Fin
Finhttp://www.thexboxhub.com
I'm an avid gamer who will play pretty much anything... but stick an open world or adventure game in front of me and I'm more than happy.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Console controls work superbly well</li> <li>Menus are seamless to navigate</li> <li>Race Moments provide true replayability…</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>…if that damn bug is fixed!</li> <li>Little sense of progression</li> <li>Engineering could scare off many</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Frontier</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 31 July 2023 | £44.99</li> </ul>F1 Manager 2023 Review
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