Pole Position 2012 review

Any regular reader to Gamedot will know I love my management sims. Granted this is mainly football management sims, but I’ve been known to dabble in the management of other sports such as rugby in the past, and that includes motor racing. I came across Pole Position back in 2010 and felt that the game had potential with some quality features already included, meaning future titles had a very good chance of success as a decent basis of a game was already set. Two years later, Destrax Entertainment and Kalypso have returned with Pole Position 2012, but is it an evolution, a revolution or a complete dog of a game that needs scrapping, with all resources going to the next release?

The idea behind Pole Position is a simple one; take your team to the World Championship by managing everything from development, staff, drivers, financials and research. There are no licenses in Pole Position, so don’t be expecting to manage Red Bull Racing or McLaren, or handle drivers such as Vettel or Hamilton. In the world of Pole Position, you can be the manager of Sebastian Bettel at Blox Bull Racing, or Jewis Hamshire at Yodas Phone Schnitzer for example. If however you want to setup and manage your own team, you can by creating them in the editor before starting a new game.

The editor isn’t a deep tool where the tiniest of details can be decided. You can set the basic paint job of your car (and by basic I mean the base colour), the team logo, the technology you’ll start with such as advanced aero, a research rear spoiler or aerodynamics even being perfected. You also need to set the strength of your team with a rating between 1 and 5 stars, while starting capital and the number of fan clubs can also be set, with higher figures of course making it a much easier game. Your new team won’t start with any drivers – you’ll need to employ them from the pool of available drivers when you start your game, but you can also create a driver in the editor if you wish.

Not such a steep learning curve.

The first thing you need to know is Pole Position is not an in depth management simulation like Football Manager is. It’s probably not even as in depth as Championship Manager, which is certainly aimed at the more casual football manager wannabe. And that seems to be the case here. Destrax Entertainment seem to have gone along the route of catering for the more casual of manager, but in all honestly there are elements of the game that are crying for a bit more information to be given, with the player often having to second guess or being given no warning at all that an event has occurred.

At first glance it does appear as if there is a lot to learn, but most of the areas of the game you won’t actually enter all that often such as the financials and you’ll quickly figure out what you need to do, and that’s in part to the helpful text prompts that appear the first time you enter an section of the game.

Now for the nitty gritty of actually running and managing your team, which is likely to begin by signing drivers for the new season. Be warned though, if you get the negotiations wrong the driver will instantly reject your offer and you’ll have to look elsewhere – the world of Formula 1 is fast paced and Pole Position is no different. If you don’t hire drivers quickly you may end up with the dregs from the bottom of the barrel.

Branching out.

The one other major element of your team that will need your attention is the building of your car. The chances are your team won’t have any readily built parts so you’ll need to purchase the parts you want, both aerodynamic and mechanical, from suppliers. You can also research parts, and once these parts have been fully researched they can be developed by your handy mechanics.

The research element of Pole Position 2012 is one element that has drastically changed over 2010, and I’m unsure it is for the better. In 2010 you could research parts individually, deciding various aspects and pushing the boundaries of the regulations as far as possible. If you have a dog of a car during the current season, you could move all of your resources to researching parts for the new season. In 2012 the research element of the game is in the form of a tree which has different branches which will take you down different routes. One branch may focus more on the aerodynamics of your car, while another may enhance mechanics. This is a very restrictive way to plan for the future and doesn’t feel very F1. I’m not sure why this element of the game was so radically changed when the original worked quite well, and is a strange decision from the developers.

There are other strange decisions from the developers littered throughout the game, either unfinished features or those that don’t go into enough detail like a simulation game should. You have the option of setting up a Young Driver programme, entering a team into the Karting series or the lower open wheel racing series. You decide how much money you will plough into either of these teams, but the only information that you will get back is where your team currently is in the standings. There is absolutely no other interaction with these feeder teams. The race weekend also feels as if it’s not been completely thought through. You only have a 1 hour practice session, followed by a one hour qualifying and then the actual race. You will often find that your planning for the race goes into the qualifying session which can end up really hurting your tactics as your use of tyres carries over from the qualifying session into the race. The weather forecast, something that is probably one of the most important tools available to the teams on a race weekend, is pretty much nonexistent. You’ll have very basic information and an image at the top of the screen, but it doesn’t give you enough warning if rain is imminent, and the first instance that you’re aware of the rain is when it starts throwing it down around the graphic showing the race track in the middle of the screen. By then it’s usually too late and your opponents have got the jump on you because you didn’t change the tyres at the right time.

Potential never wins anything.

Again the potential for a very good F1 management game is here, but the development team just haven’t progressed enough with the good features from the last game, and in fact have taken a step back in others. The game needs more detail, feedback from engineers after the race weekend, and a complete overhaul of the weekend so that it is in line with the current F1 format wouldn’t go a miss either.

As a casual management sim, Pole Position 2012 isn’t a bad title to pick up and play. As long as you don’t expect too much from this then you’ll find a game that is fun to play in short bursts. However if you’re longing for an F1 management simulation that is full of data and stats, with hundreds of decisions to make just like a real F1 team manager, then I’m afraid you will have to continue to wait. Hopefully Destrax Entertainment will learn from the comments from the community and develop a more in depth title next year.

  • Daniel

    Oh God, here I thought I’d finally be rid of this disaster. Well, I thank you for warning other people away from this game Liam, because it doesn’t deserve much praise.

    From the very beginning, even before the game was released in mid April, the game was totally neglected by the publisher. All of their current games but this one have their own sub-forums in the official Kalypso forums. Instead they renamed 2010′s forum, well hidden in the legacy category, to include the latest release of Pole Position.

    The game itself looks rather nice for a management simulation, it’s definitely easier on the eyes than some of the best titles of that genre I’ve ever played. While design is definitely a plus, the predecessor from two years ago had a number of other weak spots that should have been addressed instead.

    Starting out with your team has been okay for me too, mainly because there were a number of differences and I was happy to discover new ground in the game. Soon though, it all turned into a really bad nightmare. Only 1 hour of practice is not enough, but one could live with it. The truly terrible thing is what else comes with it: there is not a single bit of driver or engineer feedback in the whole game! Not for setup purposes and not for development. In fact, there’s nobody in your whole racing team you can talk to or who would talk back. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some guy in a German fan forum (rtm-base.de if you’re interested) was able to create an universal setup which works on all tracks in all conditions. No matter if you’re driving in 40 degree heat or in only just above freezing rain, the same setup will work just as well for you.

    Yes, I liked some of the new ideas that have made it into this year’s game, which is already the third in the series in the span of six years. A tech-tree where you must dedice for one direction of research and against another, that’s brilliant. I like that you have the option of cultivating a young driver program by finanzing your own teams in lower racing classes.

    Unfortunately, taking all my experience of PP2012 together, there is too much wrong with this game that I’d ever consider installing it again. When I bought the game about a month ago, there wasn’t an update available yet. After patch #1 didn’t help much and only improved minor stuff, I decided against waiting, because I already knew that I’d be disappointed in the end. Maybe some of the biggest disappointments have been or will be fixed in the next few patches, but I don’t hold my breath anymore. It was the same with Racing Team Manager and Pole Position 2010, after all. All of those games had incredible potential, but wasted most of it.

    • http://www.gamedot.co.uk Liam

       There were quite a few other things I wanted to put, but it would have ended up as one big slagging off of the game and I’d already gone over the word limit. For example I don’t understand if you have the race highlights on you need to see every single little pass or mistake by other drivers, there should be the option to just see things that effect your team.

      The most frustrating thing is the game clearly has potential, it’s a massive shame that potential hasn’t been realised with poor decisions by the developers. I hope they take a couple of years to really build on this and expand it into a proper management simulation game.

  • John Panzer

    I would have to disagree with one point. Its a brilliant sim. I’m stunned at the accuracy of effects each component adds to the car. The car i built in this game displays a complexity of handling at speed with the same physics of mass in motion my Formula Atlantic car had. What’s annoying is you have to be a racecar driver to use this game, not a gamer. I would like to add more front brake bias so my car is neutral under hard braking as i turn into corners, so I can add power without snap oversteer – the game has that feature – what this game doesn’t do is prompt you with available features and how to get them in the car.

    You don’t like the game fine, it’s clunky, but your review is why I’m a racecar driver and youre a gamer.

Game details

Game title: Pole Position
Reviewed on: PC
Available for: PC
Publisher: Kalypso
Developer: Destrax Games
Strengths: You can create your own F1 team. Fun if you're not expecting too much.
Weaknesses: Not enough depth. Too many half finished features.
Score: 5 out of 10

Racing Blind is an iOS game for the iPad developed by Sam Butterfield and his son Asa, and was created to pass ...

The sound of an Achievement unlocking is a droplet of pure pleasure rippling through the circuits of my 8-bit heart. And yet the ...

The launch of a new generation is a very strange time that makes people do very strange things. For years now those involved in the videogame ...

The story of Markus ‘Notch’ Persson is a modern day fairytale, and yet it’s so much more than that. Not only did this one man achieve ...