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F1 Manager 2023 game review: Does it still rain in Monaco’s tunnel?

The second official Formula 1 video game from the Frontier Developments studios builds upon last year's version, with the Race Replay mode being the stand-out addition.

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We enjoyed our time with F1 Manager 2022. It had all the sheen of an officially licenced Formula 1 game; combining approachability for the “Drive to Survive” generation with just enough depth to satisfy veteran F1 fans. 

For around 17 hours, it was an engaging experience to transform Ferrari into a proud Prancing Horse by winning both Driver and Constructor championships at a canter.

 

Was it a perfect game? Far from it, but ‘22 represented an encouraging first outing for developer Frontier Developments, building a solid foundation for this year’s entry. The question is, is F1 Manager 2023 a big enough improvement to justify another purchase? 

Out with the old… 

F1 Manager 2023 sees you assume the role of an F1 team principal responsible for recruitment, facility management plus car research and development. You’re also tasked with overseeing the team’s race day performance, making incisive strategy calls that can shape your team’s season. 

Race day screens have had a graphical spruce-up

Race day screens have had a graphical spruce-up

F1 Manager 2023 refreshes ‘22’s roster of drivers, teams and circuits as expected (including F1 Manager debutants Losail International Circuit and the Las Vegas Strip Street Circuit), with Frontier Developments increasing the F1 fever by adding more nuanced game mechanics like detailed pitcrew training regimes, the immersive 'visor cam' angle and an intriguing Race Replay mode, allowing you to right the supposed wrongs of the 2023 season.

However, don’t expect to see Daniel Ricciardo driving for AlphaTauri from the outset – Nyck de Vries still has the seat. Of course, whether you choose to give him a full season’s drive is entirely up to you – Helmut Marko’s not going to stride into your living room to tell you off, is he?(Is he?

The Formula 2 and Formula 3 paddocks are also embraced tighter in F1 Manager 2023, with feeder series results viewable in the game’s career mode, making it much simpler for players to scout future driving talent.  

Although F1 Manager 2023 isn’t the prettiest of games it still looks atmospheric at times

Although F1 Manager 2023 isn’t the prettiest of games it still looks atmospheric at times

Scouting is especially important in ‘23, as your drivers’ abilities will noticeably nosedive as they age – yes, even the mercurial Fernando Alonso’s powers will decline. It represents another small, yet realistic, upgrade over last year's game – you can even elect to sign drivers and staff at the end of the season as opposed to instantaneously, which was slightly immersion-breaking in the '22 version. 

Familiar Formula 

Déjà vu sums up initial impressions of ‘23, seeing as it retains the same music, fonts and menu layouts as ‘22. But hey, it feels like an authentic F1 experience from the outset – presentation was one of its predecessor's strong suits after all. 

However, the main menu has a couple of interesting new options; the aforementioned Race Replay and Exclusive Scenarios. The latter throws a spanner in the F1 works by creating entertaining challenges with outlandish themes; including races with equalised car performance. 

Available for Deluxe Edition owners only (three Exclusive Scenarios are also available for those who pre-order the game), they add a little more intrigue to the F1 Manager formula, providing short and sharp hits of race day action. Players forgo the minutiae of day-to-day team management tasks to focus simply on managing a race team in a contrived scenario.  

Théo Pourchaire is F1 Manager 2023’s hottest prospect

Théo Pourchaire is F1 Manager 2023’s hottest prospect

Standard Race Replays operate similarly but are grounded within real F1 storylines, ranging from simple “Starting Grid” scenarios for all teams (aim to beat teams’ real-world performance) to the snappier “Race Moments”, pertaining to a specific flashpoint in a race.  

One example of this is, “Fernando’s Gamble”, based on the Monaco Grand Prix’s lead battle as the rain intensified. If Fernando Alonso had switched to intermediates instead of mediums could he have won? You can attempt it yourself in-game. 

Plan for success 

One Exclusive Scenario – titled “Tactical Masterclass” – sums up the new game mode perfectly, seeing you take control of Mercedes as they find themselves under attack from the freshly-shod Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez around Interlagos. 

George Russell starts off in the lead on heavily worn tyres, with veteran team-mate Lewis Hamilton close behind on part-worn mediums. 

Russell is about to receive the dreaded “Fernando is faster than you” message…

Russell is about to receive the dreaded “Fernando is faster than you” message…

Given his fading rubber, we immediately decided to make Russell a sacrificial lamb, instigating a position switch that lets Hamilton loose out front. Instructing the younger British F1 driver to defend his position aggressively via the tactics menu, we hoped he can hold off the Red Bull onslaught long enough for Hamilton to sneak away. 

It worked, although Russell effectively ruined his race to see Mercedes win. As the team principal, sometimes you need to make tough calls. Thankfully, it paid off (this time). This is F1 Manager 2023 at its best. 

Frontier Developments promise to release new Race Replays after every grand prix weekend throughout this season, allowing players to experiment with their own strategic takes on the most recent F1 action. 

Just like in ’22, drivers keep their gloves on after the race. Odd.

Just like in ’22, drivers keep their gloves on after the race. Odd.

Smooth operator 

Although the game was mostly a smooth experience, we encountered one or two bugs in our 20-plus hour play-through. The Monaco tunnel glitch is a disappointing returnee from ‘22 (rain appears inside the tunnel as well as outside), while we encountered a game crash just after we’d secured our first points of the season with McLaren, which ultimately led to my dismissal – the other 10 terrible races were just bad luck, of course. 

Frontier has already announced a patch will release on the 27th  of July to combat several known bugs and game stability issues, but the Monaco tunnel retains its micro-climate, sadly. 

Car movement has been tweaked but retains much of the skittishness of ‘22, making wheel-to-wheel battles a difficult watch. 

Also, it’s still not possible to skip to the end of a session if both of your cars have retired. Would Toto Wolff hang around to watch the end if both of his cars were out of the race? No, so why should I? 

Rule one of F1: never hit your team-mate. Rule two: refer to rule one.

Rule one of F1: never hit your team-mate. Rule two: refer to rule one.

Final lap  

Although F1 Manager 2023 represents a slight improvement on its predecessor it still inherits much of ’22’s structure and feel, with minor increases in difficulty and complexity. The big takeaway is the intriguing Race Replay and Exclusive Scenario modes, both of which add an interesting new way to play the game in bite-size form.  

Even if they were designed with the Drive to Survive generation in mind, we found them to be great fun and free from the career mode’s constrictive cost-cap shackles. 

It’s gone really well so far…

It’s gone really well so far…

Undoubtedly, F1 Manager 2023 has a few quirks; it still takes too long to manage a whole race weekend, for example. Sure, you can simulate practice sessions but this leaves your drivers short on set-up confidence and track knowledge, making micromanagement essential to success.  

Without it, your drivers’ confidence rating – how proficient they’ll be at overtaking, maintaining pace and minimising mistakes – will be too low to achieve optimal results. 

Crashes are handled with much greater authenticity this year.

Crashes are handled with much greater authenticity this year.

On the other hand, fine-tuning your pitcrew’s training schedule is the kind of detail F1 fans requested for ‘23, with tyre temperatures requiring constant monitoring during races – just like real-world F1. 

Is it a big enough improvement on the previous game to warrant a purchase, though? Possibly not, but if you missed out the first time around, F1 Manager 2023 is the definitive way to unleash your inner Guenther Steiner.

F1 Manager 2023 is available to pre-order digitally now, complete with three exclusive Race Moments as a pre-order bonus. The Deluxe Edition is also available for pre-order, offering 12 Exclusive Scenarios and early access gameplay on the 27th  of July.  

F1 Manager 2023 will release digitally on the 31st of July across PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and PC. 

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