Review

Pro Cycling Manager 2012 Review (PC)

So here’s the thing; I have a lifelong obsession with management simulations, culminating in an uninhibited crack-like addiction to the Football Manager series. I’m perfectly at home with never-ending swathes of menus, stats and obtuse performance planning to gain that extra 4% in performance from my virtual athletes, and I can happily grind away an afternoon on a pre-season tour of Asia or scouting for the best additions to my vastly-inflated squad of ego-maniacal idiots. This is not a waste of time for somebody of my persuasion; it’s logical, relaxing and amazingly atmospheric once you’re fully invested.

If you substitute Pro Cycling Manager 2012 into that paragraph above, the concepts and mechanics still pretty much hold up, but the subject matter is decidedly more niche - even with Bradley Wiggins and Team GB blazing a trail of inspiration this summer. Cyanide’s simulation is not for the faint of heart, and unless you’re prepared to put in the time and effort to learn the incredible depths and intricacies of the sport, you’re in for an extremely rough ride. There are no tutorials here, so prior knowledge or regular wikipedia visits are an absolute must, and even with those in check, there are still moments where it’s all too easy to get utterly lost.

The London commute got busier every day

As an overview though, most players that are familiar with management sims will be able to plan their way through the broad strokes with a degree of familiarity. Your day is arranged around several key tasks, most of which are dictated by incoming emails that require immediate attention and some form of decision and planning to resolve. You’ll take charge of your squad of cyclists (most real-world riders and teams seem to be licensed, but there are a few omissions), and put them through their paces in training camps, upgrading equipment, booking them into hotels of varying costs and degrees of plushness, and then finally by dictating whom gets to race at the various events that make up the cycling season.

As per other sports management simulations, once you’re into the action proper you’ve got a choice as to how much granularity you want in your control. Players can watch a full 3D representation of each stage if they wish, giving riders guidance on when to push for a lead or whether to stay with the peloton and attack later on, or alternatively the race can be fast-forwarded, viewed as text and graphs, or simply simulated in the background in order to skip straight to the result. The animation and 3D engine is perfectly capable and looks decent enough even with masses of riders on-screen, so it’s certainly worth delving into at least a couple of times.

Helmets, uniforms and gear is all well-represented

In terms of presenting the available information and allowing quick access to options, Pro Cycling Manager 2012 does a decent job but smacks of a Football Manager release from maybe 3-4 years ago. Menus are logical enough once you know what you’re looking for, but good lord do you ever have to work to understand them if you’re new to the series. Tool tips and pop-up help boxes are sorely missed here, and it’s easy to get buried under the reams of text, statistics and graphs. With perseverance you can get to know the core options well enough, and once you’ve gotten your management routine down, the menu system is logical and well-designed.

As for the intricacies however; as somebody new to the sport in general, it’s almost impossible for me to judge just how much of an improvement 2012 is over its forebears, and just how many of the consequences of my decisions were realistic given the circumstances. All I can say on that front is that the decisions I made seemed to result in extremely logical reactions in terms of both individual and team performance, and that I now understand a whole lot more about the sport in general. My second save game seems to back that up, as my Team Sky campaign is going a whole lot smoother this time out.

The 3D Races can be great to watch

In terms of additional content, there are a couple of other modes worth pointing out. “Armada” attempts to fuse a card-based squad-building game with the regular racing engine, allowing you to purchase packs of new riders and upgrades with every passing victory. If you’re at all familiar with a Panini sticker book or Ultimate Team mode in FIFA then you’ll know roughly what to expect here, and along with a straight-up online racing mode, forms the basis of Pro Cycling Manager’s multiplayer suite. Unfortunately both of those options proved difficult to test as there were only a handful of other users online at the time of review, but both looked to be robustly entertaining should a critical mass of players ever head to the internet at the same time.

And who knows, following the heroic deeds of the cycling teams this summer, that may well happen in a post-London 2012 world. It’s just a shame that Cyanide didn’t have the foresight to include tutorials or tips for those of us that are new to the sport, as if ever there was a time to capitalise on the uptake, you’d have to think that this would be it. As it stands however, Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is difficult to recommend unless you’re absolutely determined to wade through those seemingly complex menus and navigate the learning curve with external assistance. There’s certainly a rich simulation in here for those that do so (and those already in the know), but getting there can be tough.

Best Game Moment: Figuring out some of the depth.

Platform Played: PC

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Comments

By Jasca_Ducato (SI Core) on Aug 13, 2012
Jasca_Ducato
Erm, right.....
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Aug 14, 2012
SirRoderick
My thoughts exactly