F1 Manager 2023 Gameplay Preview: A deeper experience

While the afterglow of F1 23 is still strong, there’s another Formula 1 game right around the corner in the shape of F1 Manager 2023. Frontier’s second release of their officially licensed management franchise will be a key one for the future of the series.

Last year’s first instalment was a great leaping-off point. We poured hundreds of hours into our saves, but there were plenty of fans left disappointed by a perceived lack of depth in the game. So has Frontier addressed some of those issues in their latest title? We had the opportunity to get hands-on with the game and try it out.

We were given a build where we could try out the new mode, Race Replay, and attempt to get Fernando Alonso a Monaco victory. We then jumped into a Mercedes save for the British Grand Prix and were able to try out all the aspects of the new game. But before we get into our takeaways from F1 Manager 2023, Frontier had a big new feature to announce…

Changing team comes to the game

After much disappointment last year and many requests, Frontier is officially adding the ability to change teams within your save for F1 Manager 2023. That means after you’ve turned a team into a world-beater you can switch to another team and try to do it again!

Hamilton and Verstappen go wheel-to-wheel at Silverstone in F1 Manager 2023
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It’s a great addition as you can remain within your universe, with your results and achievements and not have to start over. We’re a big fan of that mechanic, but we couldn’t investigate it within this gameplay preview. It may well reveal a few shaky decisions from AI-controlled teams, but then again what people love about this game is taking a backmarker to the top, and teams aren’t at the back of the grid without some poor decisions!

With that feature now confirmed, it should add some extra life to the game and give you a chance to move from Williams through to Red Bull or Mercedes, or just conquer everything and then move to the back of the grid again.

So with that confirmed, let’s move onto the game itself.

A similar vibe

While the new headline feature is exciting, the biggest question players will have is how much has changed in the actual game itself. Our preview gave us a look at the race replay feature as well as race at Silverstone.

Of course, it’s impossible to get a sense of the full journey of a management title in a brief preview, but we did test out things like contract negotiations, car development, and as much of the wider game as we could.

On board with Lewis Hamilton in F1 Manager 2023
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So what is F1 Manager 2023 like? Well, it’s very similar to last year’s game and this is as expected. If you played the game last year you will know where everything is from pitstop to pace commands and know how setups work and how to order up fresh parts.

Those who hated the layout last year will feel some disappointment, but it still all works. It all flows pretty well, with everything you need readily available.

The similarity continues on race day, with the camera angles and feeling of the game. But there is a deeper subtlety to this year’s offering. When you do go a bit deeper and consider things a bit more thoroughly, the experience is richer than last year. It is an evolution of last year’s title rather than a revolution.

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A more nuanced experience

Everything is a little more detailed in F1 Manager 2023 than it was last year. Part development forces serious compromises between different aspects of performance. You can’t create all-powerful improvements, but instead have to pick between areas to focus on. This should mean that low- and high-downforce pieces are needed if you really want to maximise overall performance.

Driver development is trickier, with the need to pick a group of attributes to improve rather than just an XP accumulation that you can dictate exactly which attributes go up.

F1 Manager 2023
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Likewise, contract negotiations are tougher. We went to extend Lewis Hamilton’s deal only to find that he was much more stubborn about the contract than he was last year, when we could add him to Haas without much difficulty.

Within the races, these added points of depth are present as well. Things like tyre temperatures in the race have a more obvious impact on pace, and the Pirelli rubber needs to be bought into their range more carefully. That means no immediate push out of the pits but allowing some time for the temps to come up.

Driver confidence is a mechanic that won’t show its value over a single race, but the hit that a failed overtake attempt makes to it should see your driver change dynamically through the season. We didn’t have anything catastrophic like a Q1 crash happen so couldn’t examine the impact that could have, but it should be a mechanic that allows for driver form to impact the season far more than previously.

First impressions

There are definitely going to be parts of the community that are disappointed at how similar it is to last year, and that are still frustrated at “how it should have been”, but taken on its own merits F1 Manager 2023 looks like it will be great fun.

As ever, there are some questions around the game’s difficulty and replayability that can’t be answered within a game preview, but the additions of race replay and moving teams will add a lot to this title.

Race replay offers a quick play mode that lets you itch your need for F1 without feeling like you have to fully focus on every aspect of your team. While the scenario mode within it is an absolute winner with us. The ability to test out theories here and watch it burn (we ended up 8th with Alonso, rather than 2nd) and not have it impact your actual save is great. You can re-try these endlessly and the use of real races to create scenarios and challenges is a nice touch.

The game itself has plenty of similarities to last year, but develops on the right lines. How that impacts things once you get a season or two deep is impossible to say after our short preview, but if you enjoyed last year’s game you’ll enjoy this one. Frontier is making moves in the right direction and F1 Manager 2023 looks set to be the game we sink our summer into!

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