Motorsport Manager’s latest handheld release shakes up the formula enough to immerse hardcore and casual fans
Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is here in an attempt to put an end to stagnant train journeys everywhere, and first impressions are largely positive. So positive in fact, that I missed my stop this morning…
The reason, for once, wasn’t sheer stupidity or a late-week onset of mild morning hypersomnia. Instead, it was a dogfight over the final podium place in the Doha GP (read Bahrain, in all but licence).
My lead driver, Tracey Coulthard (of no relation to the granite-chinned ex-McLaren and Red Bull driver…) was running fourth, right on the tail of third, with that final place on the rostrum worth an additional $500,000 of sponsorship cash. That would fund my planned brake upgrade nicely.
With engine and driving aggression options turned up, Coulthard grabbed a podium on the final lap. Just in time for me to watch the doors on the Jubilee Line close and the train roll away from my stop.
That’s the sort of immersion these types of games create. However, I’ll openly admit to never being a huge fan of the Motorsport Manager franchise. When the original desktop version launched in 2016 it was too confusing, too in-depth and too long-winded. Granted, motor sport is all about the minutiae, but that level of detail didn’t make for an engaging game.
Instead, it felt more like work, having to repeatedly experiment with wing angles and suspension settings only to make tiny incremental gains after almost half an hour of qualifying. That micromanagement may well appeal to many, but it felt like work, rather than play.
Football Manager was, and still is, the benchmark for management simulations. It lets you get into the nitty-gritty of the game but never makes it feel like a chore. Sure, you had a variety of instructions that you could give to each individual player, but it never made you try and determine the ideal sock-to-short length ratio before sending your pixels into a game.
MMM3, however, is far more accessible, far more understandable, and far more enjoyable as a result. It’s a rapid-fire edition that retains a lot of the great bits about the original, such as full control of your car’s development and upgrades, as well as that in-race tension, and then simplifies the gameplay significantly.
Playsport Games’ latest release offers several different race formats, including the standard Formula 1-like single-seater ladder and GT racing and prototype endurance competitions thrown in. Each brings its own challenges – the endurance format is the most complex as you have to manage three drivers per car, plus fuel and tyres. Helpfully, races can be sped up to be finished in a manageable time.
Take my current GT campaign: the 70-minute commute allowed for three championship rounds, with time left over to sack a driver and sign a replacement.
You have total control over your team, from signing engineers and drivers, to deciding whether to concentrate its funding on research for next year’s car or blowing the lot on developments for the current campaign. Then there are the improvements to your headquarters, which often unlock new and exotic car upgrades.
The in-race focus is much improved and far more accessible. Qualifying consists of tuning via a new card-based points system. The better the engineer you have, the more points you can gamble on picking cards, each of which offers a performance gain. For example, if you have 14 points to spend and there’s a card that grants a 20 per cent performance increase, do you risk taking it? The catch is that the card could rid you of two, seven, or even all of those 14 points completely and leave you with nothing in the way of improvements come race day. if you run out of improvement points and go ‘bust’, none of those improvements apply to the car – much like blackjack.
Race management is straightforward in the sprint and single-seater categories – you can plan when your drivers pit and opt for split strategies if you wish, all the time managing your drivers’ aggression and engine modes. Weather is also a big factor, with the forecast never looking far enough, always threatening to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to tyre choice.
The endurance events tend to be more taxing, as you have to ensure each driver doesn’t exceed their maximum drive time during the race. It takes a mathematical and attentive mind to manage that well with six drivers on the go, and it’s certainly a challenge for the more dedicated player.
Superficial additions, such as the livery editor – giving you total freedom over your team’s colours and design – are welcome, but the cars appear as coloured dots on-track, removing any incentive to design the perfect livery. Still, your racing car looks fetching in the menus.
Augmented reality is also added (as yet only on iPhone/iOS) so you can watch the races taking place to the backdrop of your own lap if you wanted to, although the feature only tends to work properly when your phone is absolutely still, and it feels more like a gimmick than a useful function.
MMM3 takes the best elements of the original games and distils them to make an excellent mobile port. There’s more than enough here to entertain both the casual and hardcore fans, and it comes at a very sensible price too – just £3.99 from the Android or Apple app store.
The only drawback is that you may miss a couple of stops on your commute over the coming months.