App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Playsport's Motorsport Manager titles are some of my favorite management games out there. The first game I highly recommend to anyone looking for a free way to dip their toe into mobile gaming, and the second is one of my most played games ever. The only problem with these games is that success in them could sometimes feel like you were outsmarting a system as opposed to outmaneuvering competing racing crews. Motorsport Manager Online solves this problem by placing everyone who plays it in competition with each other over the internet, but loses a considerable bit of its identity and dynamism in the process.
Just like all of the Motorsport Manager games, Motorsport Manager Online is a racing game where you never have direct control of a car. Instead, your role is to put together and maintain a racing team, which includes everything from your engineering staff to the individual parts in your cars. On race day, you watch to see if all of your efforts pay off, all while also calling the shots as to when your drivers should take pit stops or change up their strategies.
Motorsport Manager Online--as its name suggests--takes all of these features and translates them into a multiplayer experience where race day involves pitting your team against nine other player-controlled ones in real-time competition. Surprisingly, a lot of the core racing action from older Playsport titles makes the jump to multiplayer largely unchanged, though there are some things (like the ability to pause races) that understandably were removed. The result is a game that is able to take a familiar management game format and make it as thrilling as it's ever been.
This thrill only really presents itself in the heat of a race, though, and the vast majority of your time in Motorsport Manager Online is not spent racing. This was true of all previous Motorsport Manager games, so that's hardly surprising. What is surprising though is how the management layer in this online entry has become a sprawling mass of currency juggling, timer managment, and ad watching that is both time consuming and disappointing.
Terrible as they are, the adoption of common (and annoying) free-to-play monetization schemes is not the only reason why Motorsport Manager Online's management layer is a bummer. The game also flattens out a lot of the nuance and texture that made the previous games feel exciting, dynamic, and somewhat realistic. This is to say that management in Motorsport Manager Online feels more like moving along a set progression path rather than being an actual decision-maker.
I understand that when you're making a multiplayer game, you have to give more consideration to balance and accessibility. You can't just have random events pop up like having your star driver retire or require players to memorize which car setups work best for qualifying on certain tracks. Motorsport Manager Online goes too far in removing these dynamic elements though, to the point that it feels a bit lifeless.
Although Motorsport Manager Online ends up serving up some of the most white-knuckle racing moments in the series, it doesn't always feel worth fighting through the bland and onerous hoops you have to jump through to get to the next one. It also doesn't help that a lot of your preparations revolve around systems that have been re-tooled to maximize the potential of extracting money from you in one way or another with no way to really alleviate or opt out of any of it.
The bottom line
It's ironic how in the move to online multiplayer, Motorsport Manager Online somehow feels less human than its single-player counterparts. In setting out to solve a problem that had been plaguing the series, instead it seems to invert it, and the trade-off hardly feels worth it.