The summer has become a busy time for Formula 1 gamers thanks to F1 Manager 2023. Arriving just as the sport goes on its summer break, the second instalment of Frontier's management franchise is looking to build on the solid work of their first game last year.
The pre-launch push has focused on added depth and more difficult decision-making. There is also a new scenario mode that allows for some quick-play action and highlights some of the tactical choices you can make.
So is F1 Manager 2023 a step forward for the franchise? Or has Frontier run out of ideas? Let's take a look!
Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by the publisher. Get your copy from Fanatical.
If you are coming into this game expecting radical changes from F1 Manager 2022 then I have disappointing news. Everything from menu paths to in-race decisions looks and feels the same as last year. Setups are still created with the five-slider mini-game mechanic, and it is a similar story for ordering upgrades to car parts too. If you don't use the visor cam, which is pretty cool for race starts, then there really isn't any new feature in your save to really sink your teeth into.
That's not a bad thing if you enjoyed last year's game, which we did, but it does lead to a very familiar experience even if you took a few months off before this year's title.
Those experienced in annual sports titles will know that similarity is to be expected, but it is still a little disappointing. However, once you get into your save some changes do become apparent.
While the game feels similar on the surface, there is a deeper experience waiting for you once you get going with your save. The introduction of the sporting director and pit crew training brings another detail to manage between races which is a welcome addition. Though pit errors are now far too common, it feels like something you can improve as you go, especially if you start at the back of the grid and really drill into the training calendar.
The changes to driver development can make life a bit of a struggle with a younger/less well-rounded driver. It isn't nearly as easy to fix holes in their skill set or pile points into a dominant attribute. That's good for long-term playability but it does mean that quality young drivers like Lando Norris are likely to be incredibly OP as the game progresses. It also means grabbing your favourite F2 driver right away will leave you with a bit of a dud for a while as they get up to speed.
Race weekends are also more in-depth. While the setup mini-game remains the same for practices, the introduction of sprint weekends (albeit in the 2022 format) and the occasional tyre-locked qualifying sessions are excellent to mix up the weekends a bit.
Within the race the AI teams are more challenging. They will push their tyres, use their ERS in interesting ways, and even take gambles on the weather and safety cars. I've seen Lando Norris let his tyres hit 17% before pitting in Imola in the hope of a safety car and even Lewis Hamilton get a puncture by trying to stay on worn slicks and wait out a period of rain in Austria.
These changes do seem to lead to more incidents happening on track, with crashes between teammates appearing a little too often in our playthrough so far. This can keep races feeling more alive too. The battle to get into the points with a slow team is a careful dance, where you can occasionally swipe a 10th place but being in the right place at the right time can lead to a huge score.
When F1 Manager 2022 landed last year it was pretty simple to develop a strong car, but tweaks to the game last year made it harder and this year it has moved again.
Thanks to wear rates for car parts you need to keep a bigger stock of spares lying around than you did last year, especially if you hire a young driver that is crash-prone (thanks Liam Lawson!). That eats into your cost cap and cash balance. Especially if you end up having to emergency produce parts on a race weekend. We had a moment in reviewing the game where we ran out of chassis before a race and had a very low bank balance. It's a situation where we just wanted to withdraw the car but couldn't, and also couldn't run an old spec of the chassis in order to compete.
The game forced us to emergency build one to go racing, which is a shame as we have seen teams withdraw a car due to a low number of spare parts as recently as 2022.
Bar that one frustration, the management of parts, upgrades, and costs is well balanced. We've reached Singapore in our playthrough with Williams and barely touched the cost cap maximum, but that is mostly down to the team having low funds anyway. With a bigger team that starts with higher driver salary and more cash on hand, it feels like you could come up against the cost cap in this game if you are reckless with your spending.
Where this game shines
The best part of F1 Manager 2023 is the Race Replay mode. This mode offers scenarios and one-off races that are based on real-life results from the 2023 season, but also a couple of fictional ones such as a wet race in Bahrain and an equal performance race at Monza. These scenarios allow for quick play that doesn't force you to deal with parts management and development and instead focus in on race day.
The races are good fun, but it is the mid-race scenarios that really pose a challenge. Can you beat Max in Monaco? Push Albon higher into the points in Bahrain? Salvage Piastri's home race?
These are endlessly replayable challenges, with more being added as the season goes on to let you flex your managerial might.
F1 Manager 2023 improves on last year's entry but in minor ways. Now that the novelty of the management game has worn off players are left with an experience that isn't perfect, but is definitely engaging.
You will sink hours into this game and bearly notice it. The ability to switch teams within your save will also greatly increase the length of playtime for players. Jumping from your all-conquering Williams team to bring Ferrari back to life will be a great experience, and certainly better than having to start again.
However, F1 Manager 2023 is unlikely to change the mind of those that didn't enjoy or felt short-changed by last year's game. There isn't enough of a difference to truly sway anyone that felt the game was too shallow or easy last year.
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