Pro Cycling Manager 2012 – Review



Title   Pro Cycling Manager 2012
Developer  Cyanide Studio
Publisher  Focus Home Interactive
Platform  PC
Genre  Racing sim, simulation, management
Release Date  21st June, 2012
Official Site  http://www.cycling-manager.com/pcm/

Being a cyclist must be difficult. All that spinning of wheels, gripping onto the handlebars, falling off from exhaustion, and not to mention the sore arse you get from all the bumps in the road. Being a manager of a cycling team, however, seems much easier. Sadly, most of us aren’t able to round up a few cyclists and make them enter tournaments for us. But that’s where Cyanide Studio’s Pro Cycling Manager 2012 comes into its own.  As you might have guessed from the addition of a date in the title, the Pro Cycling Manager series has been in production for a few years now. The game gives you the opportunity to take control of your own cycling team and take them to glory, or just enter single races and see how you fare. The single races are nice little additions, but they don’t last very long, and serve only as sideshows from the main event.

The meat of Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is in the Career mode, which will probably be your first port of call. You can choose from 81 real-life cycling teams or go ahead and make your own, which is what I chose to do first time round. With your custom team you can pick a name (in my case, Team Bacon), the colour of their jerseys (pink, of course) and then all the riders you want on your team. You’ve only got a certain amount of cash, so you’re unlikely to be buying any big name cyclists, but you can scrape together an average team with some good riders in there to help do well in events.

From there you go straight to the calendar, where you can throw your hat in for races you want to compete at. You’re already selected for some lesser races, but you have to be accepted onto the bigger named races. I felt like I should stagger my events a little, so as to give my riders plenty of time to recover between races. Which, as it turned out, was the biggest mistake I could have made.  Each day you’re presented with a bunch of emails telling you what’s going on in the world of cycling, or you’ll receive advice from your staff, information on your riders and so on. But a large amount of what you get is totally irrelevant to you, and after a while you’ll tire of reading about a young rider who is being followed intently by a big name team or some such.

After you’ve dealt with the emails, you can see how your team is doing, how your sponsors feel about you, and a whole plethora of other things. There’s a lot to look at in the management screens, and you can use it to attend training camps across the globe so your riders will get better or buy better equipment for your riders. This side of things is great, and you can see that Cyanide have put a lot of effort into the statistics and information.  Beyond that, there’s nothing left to do but click the “Next Day” button. The game then simulates any races that have happened and presents you with new emails. Nothing else. You can’t move any faster than a day at a time either, so if you’ve got a long wait until your next race, you’ll be perpetually clicking that button, reading irrelevant emails and drumming your fingers against your desk until you finally get into a race. Worse still, you might get turned down for a race if you’re playing as a custom team, and be waiting months to start your next one.

Even then, the game doesn’t pick up by much. I’m a total novice when it comes to cycling, and it turns out that Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is not a game for those unaware of what a “peloton” is. You can choose to do a quick simulation of the day’s stage, which allows you to assign tactics to your riders and then gives you a results screen, or a detailed simulation, which runs the stage in real-time and gives you text updates (sort of like Football Manager), or if you really want to get involved, a full on 3D race.

Choosing to race it yourself is a dichotomous affair. On the one hand, you have the ability to control your rider’s tactics and speed in real-time, and you get a good visual sense of what your racers are actually doing. This allows you to whip out your own brand of tactical genius, and race the way you want to, which could make it more likely that you do better than just simming it based on your rider’s statistics. The action never gets particularly tense, it is cycling after all, but it can be fun to just make your rider break away from the pack and maintain a lead early on, even if it’s not a good idea.

However, there’s no tutorial to speak of, so you’ll likely spend half your time clicking random buttons hoping good things will happen, without any real sense of accomplishment. And since the game’s running in real-time, these races can be very long and very, very dull. My first race took place on a circuit that the riders must have done about twenty or thirty laps on, and once you’re in the lead and the computer decides to be nice and not fight you too much, you settle into watching your rider just keep on going on circles, which is not fun. You can always increase the speed of the race to up to 8x real-time, which helps speed things up and has the bonus effect of making the whole thing almost farcical. All it needs is the Benny Hill theme.

Speeding up does mean that you don’t get much opportunity to take in the game’s visuals, but you’re not missing out on much. It’s impressive that the game can render around 200 riders and simulate their AI all at the same time, but the cost of that is a bland expanse of flat grass with the occasional hill and maybe the odd river or two. Even the town sections are dull, with just the same few buildings apparently copied and pasted to fill up the gaps. Thankfully, the management screens are cleanly presented and well laid out, and all the graphs and statistics are easy to read and understand. Obviously, since the focus is on simulation, it’s to be expected that the 3D races wouldn’t be as good looking as the menus, but it’s a shame that some more attention wasn’t paid to making the races look just a little more interesting.

Sound wise you’re treated to the same three or four quiet electronic tracks looping eternally, which are thankfully not very intrusive, but you may find yourself switching off the music at some point. The only other sounds you’ll hear is the commentator in the 3D races, who occasionally shouts out interesting titbits of information during the race, but if you’re playing at 8x speed you won’t hear him at all, and there’s a text-based information system already in place, so his contribution is essentially pointless.

Pro Cycling Manager 2012 isn’t exactly a great game. It’s slow, sometimes ugly, and very unwelcoming to newbies. The simulation on show, however, is fantastic, and there’s clearly been a lot of effort put into the management side of the game. There’s also a multiplayer aspect, but unfortunately my copy didn’t allow me access to those areas, so I can’t say whether that improves the game at all. For fans of cycling and management sims, it might well be something you’ll love, but for novices like me, it’s not going to win you over.

Pros
  • Great simulations of races
  • Well laid out UI
Cons
  • Highly unfriendly to newcomers
  • Progressing one day at a time is very slow and pointless
  • Bland environments and riders in 3D races
Summary

At its heart, Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is exactly that: a game that simulates being the manager of a cycling team, and it does the simulation quite well. However, if you’re new to cycling or management, then it’s going to eat you up and chew you out, and while you’re there you’ll be treated to dull graphics and long waits between races. Ignore the 3D races and you’ve got a solid management sim, but then it feels like a wasted effort. Probably not worth a look unless you’re big on cycling.


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2 Comments

  1. Ian says:

    I’m a mad keen cyclist as well as a gamer and games of this ilk are dogshit.
    Though to be fair, live coverage of the Tour is pretty fucking dull too.

  2. Edward says:

    Another great review, Ric!
    Bit sad it wasn’t more fun, but kudos to you for actually playing the game rather than instantly dismissing it like so many others would.

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