I’ve been following Christian West (@SirCoolbeans) and Motosport Manager since he went “the full indie” and setup Playsport Games in 2013. I was one of the lucky ones who got onto the TestFlight programme to test the development version, and took it away with me on a Wi-Fi free holiday to Wales! Needless to say it got plenty of plays!
The resultant game was a well-deserved runaway success for Christian, and he was tempted back into the publishing fold in late 2015 – signing a deal to partner with SEGA. That partnership led to the inevitable sequel, cunningly named Motorsport Manager 2. Originally a PC title (that I have also purchased), the team have slimmed it down and launched a version for mobile.
Not to say that the game is shallow. There’s far more depth and substance than the original, along with an added a dash of polish, an overhauled UI and a catalogue of striking FIA-esque transition animations, rendered car models and stunning visuals. Luckily, there’s not too much depth so that it takes forever to get to grips with it and progress. There’s still a pick-up-and-play element, and the built-in tutorial does a good job of hand-holding without being too intrusive.
So, into the game. Once you’ve named your team and tinkered with the novelty of changing the car colours and livery the real business can start. You’re presented with the main management screen where you can control ever facet of your team – take a look at the stats, finances, and manage the car, drivers, engineers and sponsors.
The role of the HQ has been expanded from the original – upgrading it enables you to develop new, and better parts for the car, whilst giving influence over other areas of the team such as driver and marketing development.
Drivers have a plethora of new abilities and stats. They also have “traits” where they may be sad, happy, motivated, in-form, etc. and they occasionally accrue improvement points through experiences and races that can be applied to improve their ability. There’s other stuff to manage – who is the team’s number one, does a contract need re-negotiating or if your driver is doing a Jolylon Palmer, you can look at replacing them altogether.
Engineers have similar stats as Drivers. Things such as leadership, and impact on race days can be viewed. An engineer can also bring part specialism with them – greatly increasing the performance of those parts on the car.
Sponsors are vital to your team’s income. They come and go, and can bring with them lump-sum payments, regular payments, or bonus payments depending on the performance of the team. Lose sponsors, then financially your team is in big trouble.
One you’re ready to progress time, the calendar ticks along and eventually you’ll reach a race weekend. In-between they’ve kept the “dilemma” dynamic – random incidents where you are faced with a decision to make. It could be a piece of PR that’s gone wrong, or a request to spend some of the budget on developing a new braking system. These have been made to be more realistic than in the original MM. The outcome from your choices can affect the cars, engineers and also the drivers – either in their abilities or “traits” as mentioned before.
The racing remains the brand and butter of Motorsport Manager, and an area in which the original stood out when originally released.
Christian and team have placed more emphasis on strategy, giving you far better control as the team boss, and a real feeling that your decisions are critical to the outcome of the race. Team orders can be given and there are a wider range of compounds available, from the sticky super softs, to the hard, erm, hard tyres. Combine this with the range of downforce settings, and, in some championships, refuelling, it really focuses the game on having to get the strategy mix right. Get it wrong, run out of fuel or end up on the wrong tyre then you’re in trouble and heading backwards along the grid.
The race is presented in a slick third-person view, allowing you to see a clear leaderboard, showing each driver, their split times and race tyre along with giving you direct control to focus on each of your drivers. Their tyre, car and fuel state can be monitored, and you can give them orders to back off, to coast, turn down the engine (if you’ve a problem with reliability or fuel consumption) and go full attack or “hammer time” as a famous tax-avoiding* driver states – this’ll quickly burn through a set of tyres and strain the car though.
With more spins, and crashes, safety cars and action, race day really is the fulcrum of the game and it’s where MM2 delivers the most. It’s exciting, and rewarding and at times you can be on the edge of your seat contemplating a risky strategy. Will the tyres hold, or the cars stay together long enough, will you run out of fuel – have you made the right decisions? Great stuff.
There’s a few niggles. Getting car downforce setups right sometimes feels like a stroke of luck rather than an informed decision. You don’t get any engineer or driver feedback to the handling and performance of the car, but instead rely on a random piece of social media announcement (one of my pet hates of the game – they are dull) that mentions the twists and turns of the track. The low/medium/high ratings for tracks in terms of corners and car speeds is just too ambiguous.
But, I’ve an even serious gripe with MM2.
It revolves around finances. It is very difficult to progress without spending huge amounts of money. Building parts requires the HQ to be updated at huge expense, buying parts gets more and more expensive. Even then, a bought or built part can only be applied to one car. I’m not sure that’s very realistic.
Neither is sponsorship. For example, I started a season with a team that won the first six races and the few original sponsors fell by the wayside and I couldn’t replace them. I’ve no idea how the algorithms work, or how much the driver marketability really affects the ability to attract them – but surely the team winning every race, sat on the top of both championship tables would attract the most sponsorship?
Making required spending decisions more than certainly will lead your team into financial trouble. There’s no other way to compete in the game. You’ve barely enough cash to see out a season, let alone then plough millions into next year’s car. Once you get into the red the bank manager begins to start scrutinising the accounts and you’re in trouble. If you are relying on sponsor bonuses every race just to break even the receivers are called in.
Even then the steps to relieve financial difficulties are bizarre. You’re made to sacrifice every single member of staff in order to balance the books. It makes no sense. Staff make the team viable, and are the only possible way for the team to generate more money in the short-term and long-term future. Without them your team goes backwards, less money comes and you may as well quit the game and start again.
It feels very unfair, and makes your finger waiver over the investment IAP that are on offer. You can buy your way out of a problem and bring in extra investment – in other words cheat. This feels wrong. IAP in games is coming under pressure and in MM2 the balance just feels as if the game has been engineered to lean towards this option. I like the ability to buy a game editor, to expand the original features of the game – but to alleviate what feels to be a fundamental flaw in the game, where financial rules don’t make sense? I’m not so sure.
In conclusion, there’s more than enough content to keep you engrossed and Playsport are continuing to update the game, and giving new content and for free. That’s commendable. It’s just the fundamental financial balance of the game that’s a little skew-wiff and does leave a slightly bitter after-taste in the palette. I’m old skool. I’d still prefer to pay more upfront for a game and removes the constant IAP devil that sits on many developers shoulders these days.
Motorsport Manager 2 is available now PC, Android and iOS from Playsport Games: