Billed as the world’s first multiplayer F1 managerial game, iGP Manager was unleashed on the Internet towards the end of 2011, having spent three years in development. Which surprises me, because it is rife with bugs, quirks and various annoyances that should have been eradicated after such a long gestation period.
Put in the shoes of a team manager of an amateur racing outfit, the aim of iGP Manager is to become a racing powerhouse through hiring, training, researching and upgrading your way up the league table; from tail-end Charlies to all-conquering motor racing behemoths.
Pouring your resources into what can only be described as a rubbish vehicle and a team of dunderheads initially results in limited reward out on the race track. But, by prodding staff in the right direction and investing in research and development, things will/should eventually begin to pick up.
With success comes growth. Cash comes flooding in and that can be used towards constructing and improving facilities and, akin to a role playing game, experience points are awarded that allows the likes of DRS and KERS to become available. It also allows you to recruit more experienced members of staff.
Confusingly, you seem to be forced into employing groups of indivduals who have little or no effect on the team’s performance whatsoever.
Drivers, engineers, mechanics, technical directors and chief designers all have their place and their roles are self-explanatory – their contributions are clear to see. But, can someone please tell me what purpose the commercial manager, marketers and doctors fulfil, because from what I have seen thus far, all they do is claim a tidy salary for doing diddily squat?
So, while a trio of useless individuals are nothing more than a financial burden, the others at least play a part in what happens on track during each of the grands prix – played out on either a daily or weekly occurrence, depending on what the league host has chosen upon creation.
Prior to each race you are given five test runs to try and find the ideal setup, which basically entails moving sliders from left to right in the hope of stumbling upon the perfect setting for things like gear ratios, tyre pressure and ride height.
In the pursuit of a finely tuned vehicle, you are also handed weather forecasts. So, for example, if the game says thunderstorms for the race and you do your practice runs in similar conditions, you should in theory have a decent setup on your hands.
You would think that, wouldn’t you? Except these forecasts are more often than not totally useless, and without the ability to peer through your monitor and look up at the virtual sky, it is complete and utter guesswork as to what the conditions actually are.
Imagine my dismay when, for example, I took the advice given and fitted a set of wet tyres in preparation for an impending rain storm, only to discover that it was in actual fact gloriously sunny. Not only did I qualify on the wrong tyres, but I was also crippled during the first stint of the race as I had no ability to intervene and make the necessary changes. The word “frustrating” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
You see, unless you fork out on a subscription, you have absolutely zero control on what goes on during the race and you have to make do with gawping at a timing screen, wondering what the hell is actually going on. On an excitement scale it sits somewhere between watching a television test card and a page on Ceefax.
Premium users, however, enjoy a 2D birds-eye view of the action and the ability to make strategy calls during the race which puts them at a massive – some would say unfair – advantage over their freebie rivals.
So, the message here is that if you want to stand a good chance of winning, you better be prepared to cough up some money – £5.49 per month or an annual payment of £41.88 – because the likelihood is that you probably won’t ever be taking the chequered flag otherwise.
Shrewd or silly? I’ll let you decide that one. But after the debacle that saw the league I had invested several weeks in suddenly vanish following an ‘upgrade’, plus the various bugs that litter the game – my favourite being when you put your entire design emphasis on the following season, only for the upgrades to be applied during the current period – makes me very reluctant to ever make a payment as far as iGP Manager is concerned.
It has the potential to be great, but there are too many annoyances at this stage – too many for me to list – to make it worthy of your time, let alone your money, and the minimal input you actually have on the outcome of a race is frustration personified.
While an independently produced game of this nature should be applauded, it does feel incredibly amateurish – rushed, even – which is staggering given its lengthy development period. And so, unless the much mooted patch that’s due out soon can rectify its many faults, iGP Manager may well sink without a trace once the more polished looking F1 Online game by Codemasters is released.
Update 11/04/12: The Q1 patch was released a few days after the review above. It does address some of the issues I raised, most notably the inability to make any strategy calls during the race. Well, sort of…
There is a fundamental issue with these new controls, in that if you wish to deviate away from your pre-race strategy and bolt on a different set of tyres on your planned pit stops, you can’t just select the relevant compound for when your driver next comes in.
For example: if your pre-race strategy was to go for a two-stopper, opting to bolt on a set of intermediates each time because it was supposedly drizzling, but it is actually tipping it down, you’re in trouble. Because even if you bring your driver in early and send them out on wets, you can’t then select wets for their next scheduled pit stop because the game sticks rigidly to what you originally chose.
Instead, you have to force your driver to come in when you think the moment is right, which is near enough impossible to judge given there is (still) no way of knowing what the fuel loads or level of tyre degradation are.
Away from the racing, staff members still serve no purpose at all and apart from a new livery scheme design tool for paid subscribers, there is little evidence that progress is being made to address some of iGP’s many flaws.