I love me a ‘dad game’, if you’ll excuse the term. I have zero clue when it comes to Motorsport in general, but I do know a thing or two about management sims, and so when Motorsport Manager united those fronts, I grabbed the chance to be the next armchair Norbert Haug.
Arriving on Switch with a raft of new features, Motorsport Manager is exactly what you think: a game that gives you full control over managing your very own racing team. I’d once again like to reiterate that I know nothing when it comes to motorsport, but don’t worry if you’re in the same boat as me. Motorsport Manager has you covered with an in-depth tutorial through the opening stages of the game, to the point where I felt very comfortable despite being a motorsport newbie.
You start by creating your manager, giving them an appropriately superb name, look and a backstory which provides a bonus effect as you play – sadly you’re picking from options like ‘ex-driver’ or ‘financial’, instead of one where your parents were murdered and you forsook a life of vigilante crimefighting in favour of racing cars. You are then guided through the process of setting up your actual team, picking the type of cars you wish to race and what it looks like, to a certain extent.
You’re automatically assigned drivers and staff at the beginning, although you can fire them and get in new hires if need be. It’s not worth messing around too much while you’re trying to get a feel for the game, even if you see a high profile engineer in the potentials list. Instead you’re encouraged to get your guys on the practice track and start doing test runs so you can see what needs tweaking to get maximum performance.
Tweaking your car is going to be your prime focus because, as good as your drivers are, they do need the right tools. Like any big racing team, big money needs to be invested under the hood and in a game where you don’t directly control the cars, it’s even more important. Performance and reliability stats are your main indicator of how good your car is and these stats are augmented whenever you buy or make new parts. During my first season, I only had enough money to buy myself a nice new front splitter, and I then had to choose which of my driver’s cars actually got the part. This choice ultimately dictates which driver you will be focusing on at the start, so prepare for the possibility of infighting as drivers want to be number one, despite agreeing for an equal share in the glory. Man managing a driver’s expectations is key.
Each driver can level up and improve core stats like breaking, which makes drivers faster by breaking later, or smoothness, which makes tyres last longer. Improvement points are earned after races along with temporary traits depending on how well they did, which is a nice touch. My driver, Olga, has the ‘champion’ trait after coming first in a racing series, and this gave her plus one to all her stats while in effect. My other driver, however, has the ‘jealous’ trait because Olga had the better car, which sadly gave a minus one to all her stats, but could be removed by giving her the better car in the next race.
As well as managing your drivers, you also have to keep an eye on your staff. Mechanics are very important as they provide boosts to your drivers. The more a mechanic is used with a driver, the more their relationship will grow, unlocking better boosts later on. Meanwhile, engineers are extremely important when it comes to building new parts with each one having different specialties and bonuses, so having the right team of engineers is important.
Your HQ plays an important part of your racing empire. Large amounts of cash can be invested to build training grounds for your drivers, different centres for parts manufacture, and other facilities that let you increase financial revenue. New areas take a set amount of races to build, but really help with the running of your team once complete. There is some strategy with this, making sure you build the right parts at the right time to assist you with any issues you’re facing. Later on, when drivers are demanding more money per race, buildings like the merchandising factory generate a massive 500k per race, so are well well worth investing in.
Another way of earning that sweet cash is by keeping sponsors happy. The team sponsor appeal rating dictates who will approach you to stick their names on the side of your car. Good sponsors, who provide cash bonuses before and after races, will be the biggest generator of cash.
While you don’t directly control your drivers during races, you do dictate their actions as they make their way around tracks, telling them how hard to drive, how aggressive they should be and when to pit, which is probably the most import of all. Tyres wear out pretty quickly if you’re using super soft tyres, but will give you a slight edge in speed, and I noticed a lot of AI drives favoured super soft and then changed halfway through. Medium tyres are not as fast, but meant that I could pit later and gain an advantage. There’s a lot to it and managing races along with tuning your car gives you plenty to get your head around while never feeling as overwhelmed as some sim games can make you.
The bonus of this being on the Switch is the touch screen. Everything can be controlled via the screen and this makes some aspects much easier to manage. Motorsport Manager was originally a mobile game, so it’s easy to see why this works well. Being on the Switch just feels like a natural evolution, and along with the enhanced graphics of the newly 3D modelled cars and new tracks, it really feels like you are getting value for money. The inclusion of the game editor is a welcome addition albeit one that comes with the issue of trivialising the game altogether. You can use it to edit each driver and staff member to have max stats making hunting for top professionals pretty much redundant. It is nice though being able to set a theme for a team, so there’s that.