Pro Cycling Manager 2023 (PCM 2023) is yet another entry in the enduring series that has been captivating fans since its inception as “Cycling Manager” back in 2001. It positions itself within the simulation & management genre niche, aiming to provide a comprehensive experience for those passionate about professional cycling management. Yet, as with many games that prioritize depth and authenticity, PCM 2023 may seem inaccessible to the average gamer, creating a divide between dedicated fans and newcomers.
Micro-management and unexpected hurdles
The complexity of PCM 2023 is evident from the outset. Micro-management tasks, combined with a plethora of decisions and choices buried in expansive menus, are still reminiscent of the simulation and management games of a couple of decades ago. Players don’t just manage; they actively participate in simulated races, directing a team of racers through diverse tracks and stages.
This title requires an immense time commitment. Whereas some games gently guide players through their initial phases, this one expects a significant level of commitment and patience. It’s not just about mastering the basics; it’s about delving deep into the game’s mechanics to understand and strategize effectively. This, paired with its complexity, can make the game feel overwhelming, even for seasoned gamers familiar with simulation titles.
Beginners may find themselves dedicating not just hours to gameplay but also to learning the nuances and strategies through multiple developer guides and a plethora of videos and articles created by the avid community. However, even for those familiar with the game’s predecessors or the sport itself, the challenges abound, as noted by seasoned players on specialized forums. Many have highlighted inconsistent AI behavior, leading to unexpected difficulties and frustration even when the player seemingly has the upper hand.
Time to ease the learning curve?
Comparatively, I was reminded of the “Motorsport Manager” series, especially the 2016 PC release, which offers a smooth transition between management tasks and races, receiving praise for its balanced learning curve. In contrast, PCM 2023 requires meticulous attention to the minor details. Every aspect demands precision, from racers and trainers to scouts and sponsors. Such intricate micro-management can be daunting for the less-inclined, akin to the precision required in fine-tuning a Swiss watch.
While the developers have undoubtedly provided comprehensive guides, more accessible in-game tutorials and a gentler learning curve would significantly benefit newcomers. Although exhilarating, the game’s racing component is also ruthlessly demanding. It takes extensive hours to master each track type & terrain and understand the optimal use of every team member’s skill set and strengths. Still, every second counts, and any momentary lapse can compromise a flawless strategy.
The game presents two main modes alongside a few others: Career and Pro Cyclist. Diving directly into the Career mode can be daunting, as it immediately immerses you in a complex environment requiring knowledge of various strategies tailored to different tracks and terrains. While Career mode thrusts players into the complexities of managing an entire team, the Pro Cyclist mode offers a more focused experience, charting the journey of a single cyclist. For novices, the latter mode is recommended. Not only does it provide a streamlined management experience, but it also introduces racing basics. This ensures that players can learn advanced strategies effectively as they progress. The Pro Cyclist mode is an excellent training ground to grasp the intricacies of the game concepts and apply them across various cyclist, track, and terrain types.
Visuals and presentation
The game’s visuals are noticeably dated, with the management menu being overly intricate and challenging to navigate. Furthermore, while there are some graphical tools like charts and plots to assist the player, they often fall short. Race graphics also lack the finesse and realism seen in current-generation racing games, exhibiting issues like floating characters, missing gear, overlapping 3D models, and awkward animations. While I anticipate the developers addressing these issues with patches, given the game’s legacy, these shortcomings and the overall lack of polish are both surprising and disappointing.
Currently, the game’s drawbacks appear to overshadow the benefits. Considering the game’s annual release pattern, featuring only minor tweaks and an updated roster, many argue its current price tag doesn’t offer fair value. For a title that’s been evolving for over two decades, its loyal fanbase expected and deserved more from PCM 2023.
That said, PCM 2023 has an undeniable charm for all its imperfections. The allure of its steep learning curve keeps fans, including myself, coming back. The Pro Cyclist mode, in particular, offers an engaging experience, allowing players to dive deep into races without the overwhelming aspects of team management.
When PCM 2023 functions seamlessly, it’s a testament to why the series has endured for over two decades. The rewarding cycle of learning, improving, and witnessing growth is nothing short of addictive. And while the game has areas that need polishing, its core essence remains a delightful challenge for those willing to invest the time.
I hope the developers will promptly address the current issues and ensure that future iterations receive the polish and refinement they deserve.
Pro Cycling Manager 2023
While Pro Cyclist Manager 2023 stands out as a commendable attempt in catering to a specific audience, its barriers to entry are undeniable. It's a game that requires persistence and a willingness to learn, making it a gem for simulation enthusiasts. Yet, the game's overwhelming complexity and steep learning curve can deter newcomers. Further, its outdated visuals and unintuitive user interface detract from its appeal. These aspects, when juxtaposed, highlight a game teetering between profound immersion and potential inaccessibility. However, when it hits its stride, the game is genuinely captivating, underlining why this series has retained its popularity for so long and is truly an unforgettable experience.