Pro Cycling Manager is a series with an almost two-decade history. Put out by Cyanide annually since 2001, the games task players with managing graphs, analyzing statistics, and taking part in real-time races to further their career. The latest game in the series, Pro Cycling Manager 2019, makes this process of crunching numbers and making statistics fun, accessible, and satisfying to engage with.
From the outset, players will have the choice of choosing the career of an individual rider or managing an entire team. While both choices have small idiosyncrasies unique to each route, the basic loop of the game remains the same. Players will spend most of their time in menus, tracking everything from finances to rider performance to training regimens. At its heart, Pro Cycling Manager is a game about extreme micromanagement, and the tools given to players in this entry make that a snap.
Micromanage Your Way To The Top
This micromanaging culminates in races that players are tasked with taking control of. While the game does offer the ability to simulate a race in-menu, this option stifles rider growth by not allowing certain stats to grow – meaning that it’s generally better to take the slow, steady route. In an actual race, riders have small sub-menus to control. These dictate whether a character will constantly gun for sprints, try to stick with the pack, engage in a consistent relay with their team, etc. All the while, the locales are fully rendered with running commentary, complete with different weather conditions and realistic physics based on the terrain of a given course.
These races are fairly long, but can be sped up to eight times their regular speed for more efficiency-minded players. This often proved to be an enticing option, as the bread-and-butter of the game is truly the snappy, compelling menus. The races themselves are the weakest part of the core package, as they aren’t the most visually compelling things in the world, and the camera options are strangely limited. For depicting something as scenic as professional cycling locales, players should be given more control over how they want to view it – as well as given more thorough explanations of the different camera options. Additionally, the load times for these races are surprisingly lengthy, especially considering the limited graphical fidelity of the game itself.
That said, the races aren’t outright terrible, and definitely have their bright spots. In the Pro Cyclist career mode, players will get pop-up chatter from both their manager and their teammates, which is a pretty immersive feeling in the middle of the race. For instance, a player might be contemplating a sprint to the front of the pack, only for their team leader to give them an order to hang back for the moment. This is a little flourish that goes a long way to making the races feel like a more interactive affair, despite their limitations.
Build The Perfect Pro Cyclist
The Pro Cyclist mode also has a healthy smattering of content new to this year’s installment. Most notably, players are given access to a fairly robust skill tree system, which allows them to kit out their rider however they see fit. There’s a fair bit of flexibility to how a rider can be built, and it takes a great deal of time to really work through the gamut of options. Whether a player wants their character to be the charismatic star sprinter of the team or an endurance-focused supporting teammate with stamina to spare, Pro Cycling Manager 2019 gives them the tools to create their perfect cyclist.
With those tools in the hands of players, the streamlined nature of in-game menus, and a robust tutorial system, Pro Cycling Manager 2019 ultimately succeeds in giving players total control over the unpredictable world of biking. There’s a genuine satisfaction that comes from effectively using the training tools on a lesser cyclist, then watching their performance improve over months of steady, dedicated practice. When something goes wrong, whether it’s an injury, overwork, or personal dissatisfaction, it’s always very easy to pinpoint where things started to slip. That level of transparency and traceable data is what separates a good simulator game from a shoddy one.
Despite limited graphical capabilities and a lack of polish when it comes to in-engine camerawork, as well as some questionable grammar in the dialogue, Pro Cycling Manager 2019 is ultimately a winning package. There are enough options present that enthusiasts won’t easily get bored, and enough explanation that it doesn’t feel totally impenetrable to newcomers. Factor in Steam Workshop support, which allows players to do things like change the entire roster to female cyclists or make the in-game stats reflect real-world cycling news, and you’re left with a package that has both replay value and customization in spades.
When it comes to sim style games, Pro Cycling Manager 2019 is a surefire contender for the yellow jersey.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A review copy of the game was provided to TheGamer by Bigben Interactive. Pro Cycling Manager 2019 is available now for PC.