Every so often, something comes across my desk that I am simply grossly unprepared for. When I was asked to review Pro Cycling Manager 2012, I didn’t really know where to start. Outside of the already intimidating menu system and micromanagement needed for any manager type game, I know absolutely nothing about cycling. So after spending a few days with Pro Cycling Manager 2012 and more than a handful of trips to Wikipedia, I’m tasked with informing you, fair reader, if this is worth your time and money.
Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is a very in-depth cycling simulator where you take control of your favorite team of riders and propel them to new heights. You’re in charge of everything from booking training camps, upgrading equipment, scouting riders, all the way to deciding what strategy your riders will use during a race. This is all handled through a fairly complex series of menus revolving around the daily emails you’ll receive regarding the day to day activity that goes into running a team. During races, you have the option of either watching a 3D simulation of the race, reading an abbreviated summary of the race, or jumping straight to the finish line.
I don’t know anything about cycling. OK, that’s not entirely true. I know there are bicycles involved, Lance Armstrong is considered some sort of a badass in the sport and competitors wear shorts tight enough to inform the viewer of their religion. However, none of this translates into any actual working knowledge of the sport. Pro Cycling Manager 2012 does little to help this and assumes you already have a passing education on the ins and outs of professional cycling. There isn’t a tutorial to be found in anywhere in the game, and I spent a vast majority of my time simply guessing on what I was supposed to do. I can’t fault a developer for assuming that the player will have some sort of knowledge on the material, especially a sporting title as in depth as this, but having to alt-tab into a search engine so I could understand what I just told my riders to do was more than a little taxing.
While I was on one of my many fact finding missions trying to teach myself enough about the game to play it, I noticed a few discrepancies in what was being presented. It appears that Cyanide Studio wasn’t able to procure all of the licensing rights leading to some creative changes. The Tour of England has been renamed the Grand Prize of Lombardy for example as well as Radioshack being renamed Radiocash. Now, while these are certainly not major issues that impact gameplay, and I have to assume some dedicated players will simply modify the database in order to preserve the realism, it’s worth noting. I spent a decent chunk of time trying to find out who Carbonara was before realizing that this was a modified name for Fabian Cancellara. On the plus side, I learned a few new spaghetti recipes.
The user interface is absolutely intimidating to new players; however, with a bit of perseverance, I was able to learn what I was looking for. I may not have known exactly what I was supposed to do with all of the information being presented, but Cyanide Studio made it readily accessible. Someone with a better understanding of the sport of cycling will certainly be better equipped to navigate through this than I was. Though, if I were forced to find something to complain about regarding the main UI, it does seem fairly cluttered at times. This is a result of the absolute plethora of information available to you at any given time and, all things considered ,I have to doff my cap (I’m already using British slang) to Cyanide Studio for how they handled this.
The 3D simulation of each race gives you an overhead view of the entire pack, as well as a few options you can assign to each rider. For example, telling your rider to attack at a crucial point could change the face of the race, or (as was often my case) simply cause him to tire out and fall out of the pack completely. The races can be extraordinarily long, so thankfully Cyanide Studio has included an option to increase the game speed up to 8 times, though this comes with the cost of not being able to make key decisions in the heat of the moment.
The graphics are passable considering management simulators are less focused on the actual events as opposed to what goes on behind them, but there is something inherently creepy about some of the character models. While celebrating on the podium, racers and trophy girls come off as something less than human. Maybe it’s the blocky character models, or the repetitive animations, but it’s not something I fully recommend staring at late at night.
There is an online component allowing you to compete in online track racing, but I have not been able to connect with an opponent. I’m willing to assume that this is due in part to the fact that the fan base of a title such as Pro Cycling Manager 2012 is more likely to be found on the other side of the pond and scheduling with them from the WGTC bunker is a bit tricky. If I’m able to successfully complete a race, I’ll be sure to come edit in my impressions on it but, as for now, I can’t say anything about how it plays out.
Alongside the online track racing, there is also an Armada mode that plays out as a collectible card game. This game mode broke into the mainstream with EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden series, and little has been changed here. By competing in races, you’ll be able to purchase new cards, allowing for better riders and equipment to use in races, so that you can purchase even more cards. It’s a vicious cycle. Again, I was plagued with a lack of user inactivity, and was unable to successfully complete a game. However, based on my previous experiences with similar game modes, this could easily suck the life out of a dedicated cycling fan.
One other small thing of note is that, when I had installed Pro Cycling Manager 2012, I was informed that my license had four uses left. I take no little amount of offense to this level of DRM since simply changing your computer’s hardware can be enough to cost you another use of your license, but Cyanide Studio makes it clear that players are able to “recycle” their uses by filling out a few forms. Perhaps I’m getting a bit ornery in my old age and am getting bent out of shape over nothing, but it’s an issue players should be aware of before buying in.
It’s been a few days since I first installed Pro Cycling Manager 2012, and I can’t say for certain that I’ve made any real progress in the game. I’ve been forced to deal with sick racers, angry sponsors and irate team managers belittling me for my unconventional approach to racing, yet I’ve only been able to see the glory of victory from afar. I cannot in any way recommend Pro Cycling Manager 2012 to the average gamer that has no understanding of the sport; however, I can fully understand why cycling fans will be able to lose hundreds of hours to the title. This is an absolute cop out in the world of video game journalism; however, I don’t think I’ve ever played a title that demanded this mentality more. I can’t foresee myself really spending any more time here and, at its current asking price of $39.99, I don’t think there’s enough here to satisfy any but the most ravenous of fans.
This article is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us for review purposes.