The moment F1 Manager 2022 was announced, I’ve been hooked on every update and gameplay trailer.
It’s not just because I’m the racing nerd of Laptop Mag, reviewing both F1 22 and Gran Turismo 7 alongside the Thrustmaster T248 (and probably boring all the team with my rants about Ferrari strategy). But also because since Motorsport Manager in 2016, there hasn’t been a hardcore racing management sim to scratch that itch for me.
And on the face of it, with highly authentic production values, a tonne of data and menus to sift through and tactical race day action, this seems to tick all the boxes. Let’s put that to the test, shall we?
F1 Manager 2022 performs admirably across all the systems I tested. On my Asus TUF Gaming F15 with 12th Gen Intel Core i7 and RTX 3060, the game ran at a rock solid 60 fps on Ultra settings.
But this is not just one for the powerful systems, as my old Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 with GTX 1650 and 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen 5 also pumped out a 60 fps frame rate on high with some small stutters.
There is one more question to answer: how does it run on Steam Deck? And the answer is "pretty good!" On medium settings, you can hit a solid 50-60FPS easily, and I've soaked many hours into this on the numerous train journeys across the country.
However, doing so has revealed one issue that Steam Deck and console users can't escape — manager games on consoles are a little clumsy to control. That menu and data-centric gameplay is simply superior with a keyboard and mouse. And it doesn't really matter how clean and simple the UI is with controller button shortcuts, making your way around on a pad still feels pretty clunky.
All about authenticity
So, you fire it up and step into the shoes of a Team Principal. You’re welcomed by the impressive authenticity of the whole experience. On the visual and audio front, you’ll really enjoy the attention to detail.
From voiceovers by the drivers and team members (plus some commentary from Crofty) giving you a real sense of immersion, to a better visual presentation than you’d expect from a management game, this is a brilliant looking and sounding package.
Particular shoutout to the character animations that really hammers home the emotion felt by the crew when your plans pay off or go horribly wrong.
And this extends to all the things you have control over (which is far more than the game’s promo alludes to), as menus and options are well presented. The UI is intuitive with easy access to everything you can do and clearly laid out data.
You can really tell this is a passion project for the team at Frontier, throughout the impressive level of depth and stakes to every decision you make.
Stat nerds, rejoice!
The mission is largely simple: grow your team, try to win races and keep the team’s board of directors happy. The ways you do so are delightfully focussed on stats that will keep any management sim fan happily hooked on extracting every drop of potential by keeping a watchful eye over every aspect of your team — be it car performance, upgrading your facilities or keeping your team and drivers happy.
It’s a game that rewards being strategic with your goals over all manner of time frames. The short-term is important in watching time splits and telling your drivers to hold back and harvest ERS energy before executing a perfectly-timed overtake.
But the medium and long-term matters just as much, as you need to ensure you’re working on improving the current car, while looking ahead and researching for next year’s car. All of it is presented with a wealth of data that gets into the specifics like downforce, grip, speed, temperature and durability.
When you’ve got a grip of everything you have to do and you really start to see all your plans come together in a competitive car that starts to rise up the ranks, it’s an immense feeling of achievement that no other genre of game can really match.
Not quite pole position
But while there is a lot of fun stuff to sink your teeth into, F1 Manager 2022 does stumble slightly in some key areas.
Firstly, while there is a pretty decent tutorial for the basics, the learning curve is VERY steep. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the level of detail and the fact you have to spread yourself across short, medium and long-term plans does lead to a huge sense of accomplishment when your strategies do pay off. But I can appreciate how newcomers to the genre and even experienced players who aren’t well versed in the sport will feel a little overwhelmed.
As for the other problems, I’m about to get really geeky, so bear with me.
Let’s start with AI race logic. It starts with some strange driver behavior, particularly under safety car conditions. During my weekend in Monaco, I was informed of a multi-car pile up, which just turned out to be the Red Bull car of Sergio Perez just stopping on track for no apparent reason.
And it goes into the AI team strategies too. The excitement of F1 races beyond the on-track action is watching how teams react to one another — switching the plan on-the-fly to pit your driver and try to perform an undercut, or coming in for some fresh soft tyres under the safety car for example. Largely, outside of adverse weather conditions, this doesn’t happen as all the competing teams follow one of a few rudimentary strategies. I’d love to see more reactive AI, which would push you to do more than simply follow the strategy you set up at the beginning of the race.
And finally, driver regression. Even the legends drop off as they get older, but this doesn’t seem to be present when looking across the likes of Alonso and Ricciardo. With the wealth of experience giving them a bump in stats, this does mean that older drivers can be pretty overpowered, even though their talent should be slowly dropping off with age.
Frontier did address this in a recent Reddit post by rebalancing retirement ages, but this may compound the problem somewhat, as the time drivers call it a day will be solely based on age rather than ability.
This is a problem that FIFA has already tackled, as players slowly regress once passing peak age, but in its current state, without an age-based cap on driver ratings, there is an imbalance that can make some elements slightly redundant until retirement is announced, such as scouting new talent.
A lot of these are symptomatic of one thing: this is Frontier’s first stab at an F1 Manager game. The team have done well to listen to a tonne of player feedback and suggestions, but there’s just too much to do to perfect a racing management sim on the first go.
At the beginning of this review, I talked about craving a hardcore racing management sim to scratch the itch. F1 Manager 22 scratches it to the point that there is no skin left (gross analogy I know, but you get the point).
There are problems — some of which come with the territory of being a super in-depth management sim like a big learning curve. Others are not so, such as some of the weird on-track AI behavior and a somewhat lacking sense of on-the-fly strategy calls on race day.
But if you’re looking for the best bits of Football Manager blended with the excitement of Formula 1, F1 Manager 22 is a scarily addictive sim and it sets a strong precedent for the next iteration.