F1 Manager 2022 review: "Perfectly captures what F1 is all about"
Formula 1 is soaring in popularity, so it's no surprise that the video game adaptations are coming thick and fast. While we're used to seeing a yearly racing iteration arrive from Codemasters, Frontier has now stepped up to the plate to deliver a management sim title in the form of F1 Manager 2022. Heavily inspired by the classic EA F1 Manager titles from the late '90s, F1 Manager 2022 aims to be the perfect midway for the F1 fan that wants to earn their podiums via off-track politics. So, does F1 Manager 2022 deliver?
Play your way
If you've played a sports management sim game before then much of F1 Manager 2022 will be familiar to you. You're challenged with taking on the role of Team Principal for one of the ten teams in Formula 1. It's your job to manage everything that goes on in the team, including your drivers, car part development, and finances. All of your actions off the track can impact the results of race day, so it's vitally important that make the right decisions.
The game starts right at the beginning of the F1 2022 season. Here, you're asked to pick which team you'd like to take management of. Each team has their own unique characteristics, which opens up plenty of replayability opportunities. Of course, Red Bull and Ferrari have some of the best cars and the best drivers on the grid - the challenge is keeping them there. However, you might look to Haas or Williams if you're looking to try and push a struggling team to the front of the grid. F1 Manager 2022 lets you tailor the experience to how you'd like to play.
Winning by numbers
From there, you're taken to a series of menus that will serve as one-half of the F1 Manager 2022 experience. Laid out neatly across the bottom of the screen are a plethora of menus that let you overview every aspect of your team. While this initially looks daunting, there's a robust tutorial and help system that will keep any newcomer on track. You're walked through everything that there is to know about running a Formula 1 team. Most helpfully, emails from your technicians include relevant links to other menus, so there's very little fiddling with intricate UI systems. The game isn't trying to trip you up at any point - it wants you to succeed and streamlines its systems to make that as easy as possible.
That's not to say that F1 Manager 2022 is a breeze to be competitive in. While the tutorial system does a good job of explaining the importance of each menu system, it's up to you to tweak settings and make decisions that will benefit the team as a whole. There's plenty to have a say in, too. Whether it's upgrading your team facilities, scouting for new drivers, or tweaking the focus areas for your engineers on new car parts. All of this is while staying within your budget and the caps set by the FIA, so there's plenty to keep your eye on.
King of the pitwall
While it's satisfying to keep one hand on the wheel of the business management of the team, F1 Manager 2022 comes alive when you get to the race weekends. When Friday rolls around on the calendar, you're given the option to directly manage each practice and qualifying session as if you were a Race Engineer on the pit wall. Of course, if you'd rather just skip to race day, there are options to simulate these sessions at the expense of experience and potential race pace.
Managing a race is just as exciting as it is to sit down and watch an F1 race for real. With control over each of the driver's tyres, fuel, and ERS management, it's very easy to get bogged down in micro-managing each race. There's an option to speed up time in increments, maxing out at x16 speed. However, watching the racing becomes so intense that you end up wanting to watch things in real-time as you beg your drivers to attack and defend. I can recall countless water-cooler moments when my drivers were caught in a battle for position while I cheered on from the sidelines. Those moments when you nail the pit strategy to then go on and secure a podium bring an immense sense of satisfaction.
Broadcast quality presentation?
Overall, the presentation of F1 Manager 2022 is all that you could hope for. Of course, the on-track racing was never going to look as good as the Codemasters games, but Frontier has done an excellent job of making it look good enough. Especially in rainy conditions, the visuals are stunningly realistic with only a hint of artificialness about them. The only letdown in the facade is the occasional visual bugs that see cars clip through geometry. Combine these visuals with a menu system that's designed exclusively around the onscreen TV graphics from the actual races, and you've got an incredibly authentic game.
Music and sound design let the presentation down slightly, though not in all areas. For the most part, the sounds of the race cars on track are exquisitely reproduced with engines revving as they should, even through DRS zones. However, the main menu music quickly became grating to my ears to the point where I disabled it in the settings - I'd much rather listen to my own podcasts or tunes, anyway.
Voice lines are another disappointing area for F1 Manager 2022. The game uses authentic lines straight from the mouths of F1 drivers, and iconic Sky commentator David Croft has been drafted in to record much of the commentary. However, it's clear that there aren't a huge deal of voice lines included in the game as you quickly begin to hear the same ones over and over again. In addition, they're all incredibly generic with the same lines recurring for different situations, making the racing feel much less authentic.
Does F1 Manager 2022 take fastest lap?
Despite a few presentation fumbles, F1 Manager 2022 is an absolute delight for most F1 fans out there. It does a fantastic job of presenting its deep management mechanics in a way that's accessible for players with a middling knowledge of Formula 1. For veteran fans of the sport, there are plenty of opportunities to micro-manage to your heart's content.
Most of all, F1 Manager 2022 perfectly captures what F1 is all about. Fighting for points across a full season is a series of highs and lows, with each win spawning from the most bizarre series of events. Whether it's a spot of rain or a lucky safety car, this game had me cheering in my seat well into the small hours of the mornings. Even after all that, I'm still excited to sink many more hours into F1 Manager 2022 and take my team to the next level.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by PR for review purposes.