For whatever reason, we've never seen the excellent Motorsport Manager on Xbox before, so the arrival of Frontier Developments' brand-new F1 Manager series is a huge breath of fresh air for the genre, and we've been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since it was announced earlier this year. The good news is that F1 Manager 2022 is an impressive first entry that boasts a highly immersive 3D race engine, enjoyable management tools, and pretty much all the official F1 licenses you could hope for... but it also needs some balancing tweaks at launch.
The idea behind F1 Manager 2022 is that you take control of an F1 team beginning in the 2022 season, and it's your job to manage everything from the way your drivers perform on the track, to building and researching new parts for your cars, to even controlling things like staff development and the state of your team's facilities. All the non-race stuff is accessed via a well-designed user interface that's quite reminiscent of the aforementioned Motorsport Manager, and it's all easy enough to access with an Xbox controller without much fuss.
Race weekends are the obvious focus though, and that's where you'll spend the vast majority of your time with F1 Manager 2022. It begins with the three practice sessions, which are dull by design, but keep you invested via a car setup mini-game in which you constantly tweak sliders to improve your drivers' confidence in their cars. Qualifying is fairly straightforward, with the main strategy centring around when to send your drivers out on the track, while the races themselves require you to manage pit strategies, aggressiveness, fuel load, ERS and various other aspects in order to try and get an advantage over the competition.
Somewhat surprisingly, all of this is handled via a graphically impressive 3D engine, and although it's not quite on the level of an F1 22, it's amazing to see a management game with this kind of detail when compared to the likes of Motorsport Manager and even a game such as Football Manager 2022. Keep in mind it's just a visualisation - so you do get a few odd maneuvers and crashes sometimes, along with plenty of graphical imperfections and instances of pop-in - but for the most part the 3D engine does a fantastic job at engaging you in each race, while a top-down overview of the track is also available for when you want to speed up the action a bit.
We've found ourselves getting really immersed in the action, to the point where we'll find ourselves punching the air when we pull off a crucial overtake on the last lap, or putting our head in our hands when our star driver crashes into a barricade on a wet surface. The developers have clearly put most of their focus into replicating the drama and excitement of a real-world F1 race day, and the superb 3D engine is a big reason why it works so well.
So what are the main negatives right now? Well, F1 Manager 2022 is definitely in need of some balancing improvements post-release. The type of tyres you use, along with tyre wear itself, appears to make barely any difference on the track at the moment. DRS also seems too impactful, with long DRS trains proving very common, and we've already run into a car part development exploit that lets you boost your stats much higher than you should be able to. The AI isn't always as smart as it should be either, sometimes holding you up during qualifying and making strange choices about which tyres to stick with in wet weather conditions specifically.
For a management game that prides itself on realism, these issues really need to be fixed fairly soon. The good news is that it seems like they're all pretty patchable, and Frontier has already been engaging with the F1 Manager community on Discord and Reddit about their feedback, promising multiple updates in the coming days and weeks. There are some other things that we aren't so keen on, such as the inability to save mid-race (fortunately Quick Resume does work on Xbox Series X and Series S), but these are minor grumbles in the grand scheme of things.
For the first entry in a brand-new series, Frontier has done a great job with F1 Manager 2022. The 3D race engine is consistently engaging and visually stunning for a management game, the user interface is well-designed, and even the controls are easy enough to get to grips with on Xbox. There are definitely balancing issues that need to be ironed out at launch, but if Frontier can add some updates pretty sharpish, we'll happily bump this review up to at least an 8/10.