Most racing games plonk you behind the wheel, having you wrench a car around a track while bombing along at terrifying speeds. Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 has you in the relative safety of the pits, but it turns out having your car reach the finish line intact is just as tricky when you’re balancing the books and driver egos.
You start out at the bottom of the racing series heap. Your team lacks resources, skills, and drivers that manage to consistently point their car in the right direction. Your aim is to make it to the top – and it’s a lot of fun getting there.
The opening screen punches your face with options, but tutorials gently ease you into the game’s intricacies. What you get is effectively an elaborate balancing act between cash reserves, research, sponsors, supplier networks, buildings, and drivers.
Put yer foot down
As the weeks pass, you earn money from sponsors, add buildings to your HQ that unlock new skills, build parts, and then head to a race in the hope all your decisions will have been the right ones. It’s part Civ tech tree, part sports management; and there’s an awful lot of tapping and zipping in and out of various screens.
But then it’s racing weekend, and the meat of the game – at least in terms of excitement. Tracks are represented as tiny dioramas – slices of landscape you can peer at from every angle in AR if you feel the need. Then you start a qualifying session, and suddenly find yourself in a racing-themed game of blackjack.
This is one of the controversial new elements in Motorsport Manager Mobile 3. Tuning a car involves selecting cards with a number range (for example 4–8), which must fit into available slots. Go bust (by drawing a 5 when you've only 4 left) and you lose everything. But risks are often rewarded by boosts to lap times and therefore grid places. If the randomness irks, you can simulate the session instead. Personally, I thought it was a fun, mobile-friendly mini-game that made a complex area of motor racing feel breezy and human.
Vroom to grow
Finally, it’s race day. Your cars zoom about, represented as coloured discs (which entertainingly spin when a driver makes a major blunder). You’re at this point mostly limited to pit-stop strategies and managing tyres and engines. Yet this simplified take is tense. It’s exhilarating when you push a driver to the limit and they sneak over the line moments before their fuel runs out, their ride threatening to collapse like a clown car in an unfunny circus act.
The compulsion loop is strong. You can blaze through a race weekend in minutes, and will be tempted to have ‘just one more go’ the second the chequered flag’s waved. Mostly, it all feels like a management sim for the rest of us. There’s an immediacy that means anyone can pick up and play, yet enough depth and strategy to cater for gamers who want longer sessions, and to stretch their brains juggling cashflow, research, and abilities.
You do, though, quickly find the opening season was easing you in gently. Shortly thereafter, you soon realise how life is on the research treadmill, a driver wining when you’ve had the audacity to create a new component that wasn’t immediately bolted to their car. Sadly, there’s no way to respond to the ungrateful wretches with passive-aggressive social media replies in-game. Perhaps in Motorsport Manager Mobile 4.