Open Wheel Manager 2 Preview

I recently wrote about how MicroProse is making one hell of a comeback. For those who don’t know, MicroProse was a hugely popular game developer and publisher in the 1990s who hit turbulent times around the 2000s. The brand has been resurrected and they know who they are targeting – people like me. Open Wheel Manager 2 (OWM2), an upcoming management simulator, is aimed squarely at this audience.

Let me explain – 90s PC gaming was simply out of this world. It was wholly reserved for the techies and whizz kids who got their kicks from upgrading their big steel PC cases with Voodoo graphics cards and showing them off at LAN parties. It was almost like a movement against the more accessible consoles that were exploding onto the market. PC games were always considered to run much better than their console equivalents, in most cases that was true. Transport Tycoon on the PC was far superior on the PC than its PlayStation equivalent, even when using the PlayStation mouse (yes, that existed – I know because I had one).

Another big interest in the 90s was Formula 1 racing. The red Ferraris and Marlboro-branded McLarens were familiar sights on our televisions on Sundays, certainly in the UK and presumably around the world, during the Formula 1 season.

OWM2 is an open-wheel management simulator developed by Paprikash Games that proudly puts you into this period of excitement. The game has you managing your own racing team, leading them to victory by signing sponsorship contracts, hiring racing drivers and staff, dealing with suppliers, and researching new technology.

Gameplay is done across weeks. Each week, you can choose to do any number of tasks to help your team perform and grow. This is done with a series of menus, buttons, and sliders. You will need to plan for upcoming races, ensuring your drivers are getting enough experience as well as testing out newly researched equipment before hitting the practice laps.

When race day comes, not only will you be able to watch the race, but you also get to develop your own race strategy. Do you deploy a 1, 2, or 3 pit strategy? What tires are you going to need? How much should you fill up? If something doesn’t go to plan, you can choose to call them in to change those tires that are just about to deteriorate, or if the tank is about to run dry. You can also direct your drivers to either take it easy and hold their racing line which looks after your engine and your wheels, or to put their foot down and attack to get past the driver in front. Race days are arguably the most exciting feature of the game.

OWM2 oozes 90s game presentation.  So much so, it makes me want to get my Reebok tracksuit and trainers back on, grab my Sony Walkman CD and listen to Kula Shaker through my foam-covered headphones that never seemed to sit right over my huge ears. The graphics and music sit well and give the intended vibe well. In management mode, there are quite a few menus to use which may be overwhelming at first. There were times were I knew what I wanted, I just couldn’t remember how I got there. Over time though I imagine this gets easier. within the time period in which OWM2 sits – the car models and designs are similar to those we watched Schumacher and Mansell race in, while the commentator is only a few steps away from Murray Walker.

Aside from the races, some other features stood out for me. When you sign a new sponsorship deal, you get to select where to put the logo depending on the level of sponsorship they signed up for. You can choose the style of the paintwork, but the colors are defined by your team branding colors which you select when you start a new game. The other was the ability to negotiate with drivers and engineers – you’re going to want the best, but so do the other teams. Attracting the best workforce requires money, and the best will likely only want to go to the best. So be the best!

I haven’t played the original OWM that came out in 2017, so I can’t compare this sequel to its original. What I can say is that if you are looking for a 90s management experience in the world of motorsports, you’ll get pretty close with this.

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