Unlike the severe hand-holding epidemic plaguing modern-day games, Pro Cycling Manager throws pages of data on-screen without any explanation to the player. If you are unfamiliar with cycling, I would recommend going through the manual provided outside the game on the Steam page, otherwise expect to have a painful experience. Never getting my hands on a management sim game before (unless FTL counts) and not following the sport, it is safe to say I was overwhelmed within my first ten minutes with the game. Even a bare bones in-game tutorial pointing players in the right direction could have provided some assistance to new players to not only the series, but the sport as well.
With the series originally launching in 2001, it wasn’t until 2005 when “Pro” was added to the game’s title with the release coinciding with the Tour de France. You’ll never feel the thrill of being in direct control of a cyclist competing across Europe; instead you will be in control of every aspect of a team of cyclists from responding to daily emails, setting training regiments, handling sponsors, booking races and choosing the right equipment on a per race basis.
I don’t want to dissuade newcomers to the series from trying Pro Cycling Manager Season 2013, but be aware that the interface isn’t user friendly, which will give major headaches in the game’s massive Career Mode. It may take a few attempts and a lot of trial and error, but eventually you will learn the ins and out of all the menus and how things work. The game will test your patience before you even see your first fully rendered race.
Being in complete control of a team of my choosing – which are fully licensed down to the last detail – I was finally ready to lead them into their first race of the season. The racing has been beautifully rendered, featuring a large number of individual cyclists all moving in real-time across detailed and varied landscapes. If you stare long enough at the sheer amount of characters on-screen you will notice minor annoyances, such as riders bumping into each other or unnatural sliding to the sides, but neither of these hinders the overall life-like feel of the races.
After some trial and error trying to figure out each of the on-screen icons, you’ll be commanding your team to maintain pace with the pack, attack (peddle their heart out), reach for the sky to refill their virtual water or use an energy gel pack. Not sure what they put in those energy gels, but hopefully it won’t land your team in hot water; Lance Armstrong style.
The career mode is certainly where you will be spending most of your time with Pro Cycling Manager Season 2013 as there are over 700 races to compete in, but Cyanide have also included an ambiguous online multiplayer mode, as well as single cyclist indoor Track mode. In Track mode, you gain more control over a single rider, as you race around a circular track at high speeds. The online portion of the game, named Armada, allows for you to take your team online and compete against players around the world in daily events and stages.
As someone that came into Pro Cycling Manager Season 2013 with zero experience with the game series and only basic knowledge of the sport (I know what the Tour de France is), I initially felt lost without a sense of direction. Perseverance certainly pays off, as watching the races unfold are a delight, even without any direct control.Note: Pro Cycling Manager Season 2013 was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.