Motorsport Manager for Nintendo Switch will grind your hope into dust and feed you a balanced diet of disappointment for the first few hours of every playthrough. You’ll languish at the back of the pack, race after race, as you choose the wrong tyres for certain conditions or fail to keep your drivers in a positive working relationship. You’ll fail to meet sponsor offers and lose a much-needed source of cash. It’ll feel like you just can’t do anything right to save your plucky racing team from motorsport mediocrity.
But then something clicks. Soon you realise that intermediate tyres work better when the track is damp, but wear out faster when used for too long on dry circuits. Soon you realise focusing research and development on a transmission upgrade will greatly benefit your cars when navigating a track with lots of sharp turns and meandering curves. Now you’re able to keep your drivers in better spirits, and soon you’re climbing up the ranks and securing more cash from big-name sponsors. Now it’s time to start thinking about challenging for a podium finish…
A port of Motorsport Manager Mobile 3, Motorsport Manager is a handheld roller-coaster of emotions. That’s mainly because the third entry in this mobile series is the first one in years to really embrace a sense of hardcore realism. There’s a mountain of systems and subsystems to juggle and even with a nicely designed tutorial, you’re really only scratching the surface of what’s to come when your career begins. Its presentation has been given a stylish makeover that makes it look something straight out of a Codemasters production, while the sheer depth you can delve into will often stress you and elate you just as much as driving the cars themselves.
The move away from a more casual approach does make Motorsport Manager a little less penetrable. By dialling back into the authenticity realm, it becomes a game most likely to appeal to either fans of the sport or those looking to scratch their management sim itch outside of Football Manager 2019 Touch. You’ll start at the very bottom of three distinct vehicle classes spread across nine tiers of racing leagues, and the more you immerse yourself in its intricacies and learn what works and what doesn’t in certain scenarios – just like a real team – the more Motorsport Manager rewards your dedication.
Even with a series of dynamic tips that you can access by pressing ‘Y’ whenever they systematically appear, there’s a frightening amount of plates to keep spinning before, during and after a race. There’s a Sims-esque element where you’ll need to make sure your drivers have a strong relationship with their mechanics and engineers, so you can research better parts and increase response times during pit stops. Making sure your drivers see eye-to-eye also makes a difference, especially when you need one to move aside to let the other pass.
During a race, you’re given a huge level of detail to track. You can see the weather as it changes, radio commands to drivers and even track their fuel consumption and tyre wear levels in real-time. All the while, each race will unfold in front of you, and you can follow the flow of the action – even when things go catastrophically wrong – with a top-down view. We encountered very little slowdown during races, and found using the touchscreen a great way to move around the course.
You’ll also need to upgrade your HQ, a centre that enables you to customise the entire breadth of your operation. Here you’ll define which parts you’ll be researching all the way the down to the economics of your team and how best to make money while you’re blowing it on everything from tyres to staff wages. The fact developer Playsport Games has managed to subtly weave extra mechanics in from other genres – such as choosing cards that provide certain buffs and improvements to your vehicles in qualifying – shows just how far the series has come from its casual roots on mobile.
As a port, Motorsport Manager is a technically robust feat. The impressive number of tweakable options on offer helps offset the ‘dirty mobile’ feel, and being able to use certain buttons to instantly bring up your Data Centre in a race, or call a driver in for a pit stop with a single press, makes the transition to Joy-Con a smooth experience. You can still use the touchscreen as and when you want, and despite the often small boxes and subsystems represented on-screen, it’s quite easy to navigate when playing in handheld mode.
Naturally, the authenticity of these simulation-style titles is of paramount importance; they're trying to accurately replicate the feeling of a real-world profession, so every little detail counts. It's a shame then that Motorsport Manager for Nintendo Switch lacks any real-world drivers or marques, a consequence of tiresome F1 licencing agreements (Codemasters has the F1 brand on lockdown these days). While this does dent the appeal of the game slightly, it has no impact on the gameplay or the mechanics. As long as you can overlook the fact that you're watching fictional drivers race around in fictional cars, then it's certainly not a dealbreaker.
Motorsport Manager for Nintendo Switch will chew you up and spit you out, but once you’ve learned the ways of its frighteningly deep systems and overcome its steep learning curve, there’s a brilliant management sim to be found. Even if you’re not particularly a fan of professional racing, the sleek presentation and impressive level of customisation will definitely appeal. The lack of any ‘official’ drivers or teams is one of the few areas the game struggles in, but even without those licences, it’s still another great example of how rewarding some mobile ports can be when handled correctly.