I know this might come across as a bit dramatic, but you absolutely need to play F1 Manager 2023 if you’re a Formula One fan. It really is that simple. Frontier Developments’ second Formula One management sim is a substantial improvement on its last across the board, a game that was already ruining my life (in the best kind of way). It delivers on the deeper management systems and more engaging race day action it promises. Sure, it isn’t the perfect game. Although, it’s worth every cent you pay – and here’s why.
When it comes to explaining why exactly F1 Manager 2023 is such an impressive improvement on its predecessor, you really have to think about it like a Formula One car being prepared for a Grand Prix during a race weekend. Frontier Developments’ new game modes – Race Replay and Race Moments – are both excellent additions to the game. These are a little bit like a set of new sidepods, or a newly designed front wing. They’re both excellent ways to experience what F1 Manager 2023 has to offer, but they’re not really what makes this game tick.
What really makes this game an improvement on the last F1 Manager game, and another ‘life-ruiner’ (if you’re not careful), is the multitude of smaller changes and new mechanics that work together to deliver a richer experience than before; it’s a game that’s both more challenging and more rewarding than its predecessor. All of these smaller changes come together like the tyre camber settings and wing angles you tweak and improve throughout a race weekend before parc fermé and lights out to deliver an excellent experience on the whole.
For example, one rather interesting addition to the game’s suite of systems is the Pit Crew management mechanic. This, as you might expect, is something you need to keep on top of if you want to make sure your pit stops are as smooth as possible. However, mistakes happen and you can suffer from longer stops during a race if you’re not careful. The game, though, tells you what the issue was and you can tweak your Pit Crew’s training schedule to make sure that they’re putting the effort in to avoid the same mistake in the future. Although, some of these schedules will increase the overall fatigue of your Pit Crew – something that leads to a general increased risk of mistakes, regardless of the specifics.
So, you need to make sure you’re peppering in some rest weeks too – but, that means you’re not working on reducing the risk of mistakes. This sort of thing applies to your drivers too, and your staff. No one is safe from your ever-watchful eye in F1 Manager 2023.
As you can imagine, it becomes far too easy to obsess over a minor detail like this in a game like F1 Manager 2023 – which is full of minor details like this. While I wouldn’t say this one individual management system is enough to make this game a stand-out improvement on the last, it’s one of several that build on the already excellent experience on offer. Just like the new helmet cam camera setting that makes real-time racing even more thrilling. Or, perhaps, the new driver confidence system and ERS deployment options that place more importance on momentum and a good weekend going into a grand prix. Or, even the introduction of weight management when developing new car parts. This adds yet another layer of strategy and more risk-reward to this already-detailed system.
In a similar fashion to last year’s game, there are just so many moving parts for you to manage – for lack of a better word – in F1 Manager 2023. However, while it’s all too easy to see how this would be overwhelming for newer players, Frontier Developments’ new game modes are a wonderful addition for anyone looking to jump straight into the action without the fuss of car development and team management.
In Race Replay mode, you can choose any one of the ten teams on the grid to control during a race weekend that replicates the grid positions and conditions of the real race. If you’re frustrated that Danny Ricc got shunted at the start of the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, you’ll be able to jump into that very race as Alpha Tauri to try and avoid that and secure a points finish for the returning Australian. Or, you could take charge of Mercedes and help Hamilton take advantage of that pole position start.
This mode really does take the work out of F1 Manager 2023 and, if you’re finding yourself missing a race weekend mid-week, it’s the perfect way to relive the action.
If you’re looking for even more of an immediate challenge, F1 Manager 2023’s Race Moments mode will throw you into unique scenarios – more often than not situated mid-race – as a specific team with specific conditions and objectives. For example, you might be asked to push for a race win as Alonso at Monaco. But, the race is in the wet. And, everyone’s already made their final pit stops. Oh, and there’s only fifteen or so laps to go.
While there’s nothing to say that these sorts of outrageous situations won’t occur while you’re playing through a career mode save, the Race Moments mode throws you into the challenge in an instant. It’s a fantastic compliment to the wider experience and a great place to practice your minute-to-minute managerial skills when you’re faced with unusual situations and tough tasks.
Of course, though, F1 Manager 2023 isn’t quite the perfect game. It’s still missing some major features that could elevate the experience to another level.
For example, it’s still lacking any sort of multiplayer experience. Of course, this would be a tricky one to implement given the fact that players can control the speed of a race (ranging from real-time to 16x speed) and the preparations you need to make in-between race weekends can take quite a bit of time. However, Sega’s Football Manager series has managed to implement this in the form of ‘fantasy leagues’ and I think there’s scope for Frontier Developments to include something similar in the F1 Manager series in the future.
Another rather glaring omission from F1 Manager 2023 is the lack of ability to create your own Formula One team, becoming the 11th on the grid. I understand that there would be some logistical challenges to implementing all the features – like real race audio messages and real race engineers – into a mode where a player can create their own team, but I do think it’s something that’s possible and the next real step forward for the F1 Manager series to take. Codemasters’ F1 23 lets you create your own Formula One team, so it isn’t unheard of in a game based on the sport.
It’s also worth noting that the driver character models are still, rather hilariously, lacking in a lot of cases. There are some cases where they look quite good, with McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri and reigning champion Max Verstappen being great examples of this.
However, there are some instances where they’re just awful, such as the unfortunate Haas duo. Nico Hulkenberg is cross-eyed and Kevin Magnussen just doesn’t look like his character model at all.
This is only a minor detail, though, in the grand scheme of things. You only see these character models in the menu and on the podium, anyway. Elsewhere, namely during a race, the graphics are quite impressive – especially for a management sim. I still can’t believe that Frontier Developments has gone as far as to include small scratches on the driver’s visor, adding a rather unnecessary but appreciated level of detail to the helmet cam perspective.
So, is F1 Manager 2023 one of the best racing games out there right now? Well, while it’s hard to compare this to Codemasters’ F1 23 (which is one of the best Formula One games I’ve ever played), it really is an excellent game. It improves upon almost every aspect of this management sim and continues to deliver a unique, rich, and rewarding experience. If you want to be the one in the cockpit sending it into turn one, this might not be the game for you. Although, if you really want to be the one telling a driver to send it into turn one, this is the game for you. F1 Manager 2023 really does fulfill the Team Principal fantasy it promises, with all the caveats management of a Formula One team comes with – including appeasing the aspirations of the team’s board and your sponsors.
When you think about how much of this game there is to play, it really is fantastic value for money in an economy where triple-A games can cost upwards of $70. With the chance to play each session in real-time, you can quite literally spend a whole season’s worth of sport playing this game – if not more.
F1 Manager 2023 (PS5)
From the state of your team’s memorabilia room to how aggressive your drivers should defend in the final lap of a grand prix, F1 Manager 2023 is unique in giving you complete control of a Formula One team on and off the track. It’s a feature-rich, deep management sim with stunning race-day visuals that only improves on the incredible experience offered by its predecessor.