There are quite a few sports games that are released in yearly cycles. EAFC (formerly Fifa), F1, Madden. Then, there’s management games such as Football Manager, F1 Manager and Motorsport manager. Football Manager is probably the game that I spend most of my time with on a yearly basis. Pro Cycling Manager is to the cycling world what Football Manager is to the football world. However, where Football Manager is a yearly purchase for me, I can’t say the same for Pro Cycling Manager. It doesn’t usually draw me in as much and I feel like the changes between each iteration are not nearly as big as they could be. Is Pro Cycling Manager 2023 the version that changes this formula? Find out in this Pro Cycling Manager 2023 review.
The developers of the game (Cyanide Studio) have already stated that Pro Cycling Manager 2023 will not be a massive change from last year. It is expected that they will provide big changes in next year’s version, whereas the changes for this year are mostly to add a few requested changes and going deeper into what was already available.
For newcomers to the series, there is plenty to offer with regards to game modes. It is possible to complete a single race without having to start an entire career. You can also start as a single cyclist at the start of your own career, looking to make it big in the world of cycling in the Pro Cyclist mode. Whether you start as a single cyclist or take charge of an entire team, career mode is advanced and very time-consuming. In comparison to Football Manager, there are quite a few decisions you need to make at the very start of the career in order for the season to progress correctly. You get specific bonuses for your racers if you play all the races in 3D mode, but this takes up quite a bit of time. Instead, a simulation system makes it easier to progress through the smaller events in order to get to the more important ones. I enjoyed managing races fully in the beginning but I found myself simulating more often than not. Of course, I would continue to do the full races for the bigger events of the year. There is plenty to micro-manage if you are looking to tweak everything. You can set specific fitness goals, decide which riders are sent to each event and a lot more.
The presentation of the menus is extremely outdated. It contains a lot of information, which is not a bad thing, but the sheer amount of clicks to get to anything substantial is too much work and it never looks great. Where Football Manager is known as a game that is similar to looking at spreadsheets the entire time, at least the presentation is done a lot better than Pro Cycling Manager 23 manages. There is a slight improvement to the user interface with regards to last year, as the race results are definitely easier to read and the training system is more readable as well but it all just feels outdated.
And continuing with things being outdated: The match engine. There is a promise of a graphics overhaul happening next year, but the game looks mostly the same as last year in 3D mode. Even then it wasn’t considered a good looking game. I do hope that Cyanide Studio is able to offer a big improvement in next year’s iteration. You’ll still see the same bugs you saw last year as the game struggles fitting the cyclists on the track together and doesn’t seem to care much for collisions in the models at all. It’s something that veterans of the series will have seen thousands of times before but if you look at it objectively, still leaves a lot to be desired.
Improved Match Engine
There are definitely some improvements in the match engine, but those are related to the AI. The difficulty has gone up a notch and the AI seems a lot more responsive to your actions, but also to the upcoming sections of the track. Previously, leaders could be at full strength at the foot of the pass only to be completely out of energy way before the actual finish or end of the stage. This would make your decisions quite a bit easier as you could overtake at the end of the sprint with relative ease. This seems to have mostly been resolved in this year’s version. We did notice that other riders would still draw on their reserves a bit too much at times and would still have the same issues as last year. There is definitely progress in how the riders manage their energy, but it is still not perfect. Another integration into the game is the Gruppetto. It basically means that you can assign riders to a slower group that doesn’t fully commit to the climbs in this race, so that they are more refreshed for the upcoming races. This could also mean that you save somebody for a mountain type race the next day.
Going back to Pro Cyclist mode, there are definitely some changes from last year to be found here. After you create your rookie rider, you work on the training schedules and go to races, but you are also given specific objectives by your manager. If you want to continue being a pro cyclist for a while longer, you have to make sure to complete as many objectives as you can, in order to receive a new contract. You also have to manage rest periods to ensure that you don’t exhaust yourself over the course of the season. It is a fun game mode to venture into if you’re looking for a change of pace during the year, but managing a team is more fun and definitely more involved in my opinion.
Overall, if you are new to the series or haven’t played in more than 3 years, Pro Cycling Manager 2023 might be a good time to become a manager of your favorite cycling team once more. Otherwise, it seems like there aren’t nearly enough changes to make it a worthwhile purchase. There are certainly mods that can give you updated rosters on last year’s game if you want to continue playing that one. Pro Cycling Manager 2023 is a game that has a massive amount of depth and can entertain you for many hours if you are willing to accept the downsides that are there and have been there for many iterations.
- A LOT of micro-management
- AI improvements
- Outdated graphics in 3d mode and menu screens
- Not enough changes since last year
- AI still has some issues