When it comes to hardcore management games, it’s obvious that the genre is focused upon die-hard fans of the sport or niche that the game is seeking to emulate as much as possible on the computer screen. Indeed, players love just how in-depth and complicated such games can be and that brings us to Pro Cycling Manager 2013, the latest entry in a franchise that has been around since 2001 and which is certainly the king of the cycling management sim (not that difficult considering it’s one of the few games out there that has anything to do with biking). It’s inevitable that the game will be compared to the likes of Football Manager (perhaps the most famous and best of all sports management games) and unfortunately it’s somewhat of a mixed bag, although there’s no bad moments per se, there are many elements that need work and as such we are left with a game that doesn’t do much to bring the franchise further into the mainstream.
As soon as the player starts they are pretty much thrown into the deep end of the game with minimal assistance as to how the interface works and just what they should be doing, which is frustrating considering how huge Career Mode is with nearly seven-hundred stages/races. This isn’t an issue if a game features an intuitive interface, but Pro Cycling Manager isn’t one of those games and you’ll find yourself struggling to get started. Furthermore, it’s very much focused on micromanagement to excruciating detail, with the player having to book races, training schedules and regimens, the wheels of their bike and many other tiny details that are actually really fun and engaging for the player. The problem is that being able to enjoy such details is impeded by the interface and it’s not until many repeated plays that you’ll be able to understand how these things work let alone try to act upon your knowledge. This is a shame because there is a lot of fun to be had underneath all the confusion and if they had just included a basic tutorial, there’s little doubt the game would have been strengthened significantly.
When it comes to the in-game licensing, players may be disappointed by the lack of real riders within to manage and instead having to make do with the likes of Bradley Woggins (instead of Bradley Wiggins). Considering that the game wants to bring the real world of cycling onto your computer, it ruins the immersion slightly to have to manage fictional characters which contrasts with the large amount of licensed teams which are impressive in the detail that has gone into them. This can be seen in the best part of the game, the actual racing, which is rendered with lovely graphics and manages to replicate the feel of real life racing to a tee. There are some glitches, such as bikers clunking into each other, but these are more than offset by the atmosphere that the game creates. Indeed, it’s quite thrilling to see your rider build on the strategies you’ve trained so hard to perfect within a race and become a real contender and it’s hugely satisfying to see all your hard work pay off.
As a whole, Pro Cycling Manager suffers from too many elements that are closed to the player unless they’re dedicated to uncovering the confusing interface. Indeed, the game can’t be recommended to those not willing to spend hours trying to come to grips with the huge amount of detail within it. That said, those who put plenty of hours into the game will be rewarded with an addictive and satisfying experience that is well worth working past the flawed and mind-numbingly difficult opening that most players are sure to have.