Each year, developers Cyanide bring out a new Pro Cycling Manager for what is admittedly a very niche crowd. Produced in France, where the sport is perhaps most prominent, Pro Cycling Manager has been the go-to option for enthusiasts and management simulation fans for years.
It takes a lot of work to be the top title, and this year’s iteration certainly shakes things up with new features like the Armada online system and sparking 3D visuals. Of course, the meat of the game is the most important feature of all, and predictably, this is where things get complicated for Pro Cycling Manager 2012.
The user interface will seem like a formidable foe for gamers new to the series, even if they have experience in other sports management titles. Beginning your first campaign will involve a lot tedious work navigating these menus, so gamers can expect a slow start as they are forced to learn the ropes throughout a UI that could stand to feature some streamlining. Though the learning curve for this interface is remarkably steep, spending enough hours perusing through each menu will eventually lead gamers to the discovery that the menu itself is highly functional – albeit, the menu system itself shouldn’t be one of the most challenging aspects of the game. It goes without saying that purchasing the title on console should be avoided for just that reason, as sports management simulators just aren’t meant for a non-mouse environment.
Pro Cycling Manager 2012 has opted to drop support for LAN games, which might put-off a few enthusiasts who like to sit down and have a good session with like-minded buddies. However, the all-new online Armada mode offers a plethora of exciting challenges to those who want to bring their competition to the global scale. Much like the Ultimate Team mode of the FIFA series, players will be given randomly-selected Rider and Equipment cards to start the team off with. Racing in scheduled competitions against other player’s teams, you can win more cards by performing well in races or, if inclined, purchasing select cards through Cyanide themselves. While can’t enjoy a proper simulation with local friends anymore, Armada breathes fresh air into cycling simulators – and offers gamers a chance to ‘build their own empire’ with the cards they are dealt.
Of course, the bulk of the game – and its intricate inner workings – are centred around single-player gameplay. Career Mode allows players to manage a team for the long-haul. Sending players to train in an expensive five star resort or sharing bunk beds on a decrepit mountain lodge will be just the start of player choices, which range from scheduling races to investing in different types of equipment for your team. The team schedule will quickly becoming a complicated calendar, especially when intertwined with training dates and trying to keep sponsors happy without burning out your squad. Riders can become sick or injured at the worst of times, meaning players will be gritting their teeth as the fates push their team into unplanned territories. Of course, this is what makes management games a challenging experience, and triumphing over all of these things – and over upwards of 500 racers – will be an enjoyable experience for those who can achieve it.
When it comes down to raceday, Pro Cycling Manager 2012 has a chance to break-away from the complicated menu system and bring out some surprisingly phenomenal graphics. Gamers are given the option for a quick simulation, a more detailed run-through, or even a full 3D race where the player will micro-manage their racers from start to finish. While the visuals will certainly appease management fans, audio for both the announcer and the music get repetitive very, very quickly – one can only hear the same “And he’s attacking!” so many times within twenty minutes.
Despite the audio problems, the player management interface is easy to use and allows gamers to micro-manage efficiently, quickly jumping between squadmates and assigning different tasks and mentalities. Though bikers clip through bikers all the time, 3D mode presents a nice view in all other areas, including roads, the bikers themselves, and the surrounding landscape. Of course, players can just weight the odds and use quick management to save massive amounts of time, as races don’t exactly simulate quickly in 3D mode.
At the end of the day, Cyanide has created a formidable package which, regrettably, is far too intimidating for the average gamer or even most casual fans of cycling. The inclusion of a Track Mode for simple one-off races is a welcome break from this complicated system, but ultimately does little to bring user-friendly elements to a game that is clearly developed for hardcore enthusiasts – which, while not necessarily being a bad thing, does alienate a large amount of gamers.
While Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is certainly not for the average gamer, pro cycling enthusiasts will be in for an entertaining experience if they can prove their dedication and invest plenty of hours learning the ropes of the game. For the cycling fanatic, Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is virtually your only option out there, and thankfully Cyanide has evidently invested a lot of time creating a realistic and in-depth simulation system. If you’re not a hardcore fan, however, this is one ride that should get a pass.
Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Game Rant reviewed the PC version.
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