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F1 Manager 2024

F1 Manager 2024 Preview: Third time's a charm

Frontier is elevating its simulation experience with a few key additions, all of which will make your life as a team principal more challenging.

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I often find it difficult to get excited for sports games, simply because many tend toward an annual release format where there are only marginal improvements to be found each year. This is perhaps most apparent in the FIFA/EA Sports FC series, the Madden games, and generally speaking EA's overall portfolio, although the folks at Codemasters often look to buck this trend with quite different F1 games each year. There must be something in the F1 water, perhaps a desire to keep iterating and innovating like the sport itself, because the simulation masters over at Frontier Developments also manage to create and introduce meaningful and exciting improvements for their annual F1 Manager titles too, and this year's game, F1 Manager 2024, their third in the series, is following suit once again.

I've had a chance to dive into a bit of F1 Manager 2024 as part of a preview session, to be able to test out and put many of the new features through the ringer for a few hours. While there are clearly still a few quirks that the series has struggled to iron out ever since its inception, this game does have the potential to be great, as the new features and systems are game changers in many ways.

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At the top of this list is the Create-a-Team game mode. This isn't anything new to the simulation or F1 space, as we've seen it used elsewhere, but what it does do is throw a massive spanner into the simulated works and open the doors to newfound personal opportunities at the same time.

You can create a team from scratch. You can choose your livery, name, colour scheme, logo design, sponsors, driver line-up, racing suit design, how the car is built to operate... if you can think of it, you probably have to take responsibility for it in this mode. It's a lot to manage without a doubt, but it's also very pleasing to have complete control over a team, and F1 Manager 2024 has all the tools in place to allow you to do this. If you want to start from scratch, you can have a low budget and fight your way from the back of the pack to the podium over several seasons. If you're more pressed for time, you can have a big starting budget, pay for the best parts, employees, drivers, and facilities and immediately fight for pole positions and wins. The choice is truly yours, but you have to be smart regardless of your budget, as if you select two veteran drivers (like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso) for example, both will be expecting to win races and anything less will lead to frustration and intra-team rifts forming.

This brings me onto the new mentality system. If you thought managing a multi-million pound sports team was hard enough, now try doing it while keeping all of your employees happy. That's the concept of the new mentality system, where every employee, including your drivers, will have an emotional status, one that changes depending on how they are treated, their performance, team performance, contract status, how much they're being worked, and so forth. The difficulty here results from attempting to please sponsors and generate funding for your team all while ensuring everyone is able to work without frustrations and without feeling burnt out. Oh, and rival teams attempting to poach your staff doesn't make things any easier either.

It should be said here that Frontier has designed a new sponsorship and contract system for F1 Manager 2024 that provides players with more control over these areas of the simulation. More control does mean more effects to manage, and it can become difficult to keep tabs on everything at once, but that is the point of the game at the end of the day, simulating the career and life of a busy F1 team principal.

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F1 Manager 2024F1 Manager 2024
F1 Manager 2024F1 Manager 2024

If the business and management stress wasn't enough, then the race day problems will no doubt push many over the edge. Frontier clearly thought that players had it too easy during a Grand Prix, as mechanical faults have been introduced. Essentially, the more wear and tear your respective car parts take, the more likely they are to break. As you only have a certain legal number of each part during a season (with more available at the cost of penalties), you have to attempt to make each last for as long as they can, but more often than not that comes with a major risk.

In the preview session, I had the task of getting through the entirety of the Australian Grand Prix as a Red Bull team with two cars with engines about to kick the bucket. By the end of the 58 laps, both cars had either completely broken or significantly damaged ERS modules (making energy recovery and usage basically impossible) and battered gearboxes too, and the only reason both made it to the chequered flag was because you can instruct drivers to keep off curbs to reduce damage opportunities, drive in clean air to help cool the car down, slow down or take less risks to conserve fuel, and so forth. Needless to say, considering I started this race around the middle of the grid, I didn't win it, but I did see massively different results for Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, with the former finishing in third and the latter around 13th. I was just happy that neither car actually broke down, as was the case with three other vehicles on the grid during the race.

F1 Manager 2024

The mechanical fault feature, matched up with the Create-a-Team mode and the new more detailed management systems do mean that F1 Manager 2024 is shaping up to be a truly big step forward for this series. It isn't perfect by any stretch yet, and I noticed a few issues with the logo and customisation suite being a bit of a nuisance to use, and car models during races clipping through each other and being generally clunky (as has been the case with the series since its inception). I would expect a few of these problems to be ironed out before launch though.

F1 Manager 2024F1 Manager 2024
F1 Manager 2024F1 Manager 2024
Bottom left: The Mentality Suite. Bottom right: The new Helicam viewing angle to keep a better tab on the action-packed racing.

But otherwise it does seem like Frontier is looking to get the jump on Codemasters with the F1 series here. There's a level of detail in this game that the more racing-centric series cannot match, and I'm not just referring to the simulation elements, but in how the drivers and team employees talk to each other to share vital information using the voices of their real counterparts, for example. The best way to describe this game and this series overall is that it's made for true F1 fans to realise their dreams in the motorsport, and this year's edition is looking to take that to a new level. Bring on launch this summer.

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