Everyone knows that the bulk of console racing games revolve around cars. Even for more arcade-style titles motorcycles often seem to be an afterthought. In the simulation category they are sinfully under-represented. But that is all about to change as Capcom and Monumental prepare to drop the flag on their latest MotoGP game.
The game is the first I know of that contains data for the current season but is intended to play for the next season too. An update of free DLC will be made available to refresh this game for next season. This is a bold move against the standard yearly release schedule for most franchised sports games.
The visuals of the game certainly seem like they will hold up for an extra year with lovely smooth textures and accurate bike and rider models. The tracks are faithful representations of their real-life counterparts and the weather conditions were both well-realised visually and well-represented in their on-track effects. Sound is solid with a decent, if quite limited, soundtrack of pumping electronic and crunchy rock music.
There are a wealth of game modes including Championship, Career, Arcade and Time Trials. The Championship season allows you to play through a season of practice, qualifying and racing on 125cc bikes before unlocking the 250cc machines and eventually the 800cc MotoGP class monsters. Each game mode (excluding Time Trial) requires you to graduate through the lower-powered circuits before moving up to the more difficult-to-handle machines. This gives you a nice gradual learning curve which is helpful because the racing mechanics are seriously tricky to begin with.
You have the usual range of controls, accelerate and front brake are on triggers and you steer with the left stick. The key issues for me, aside from the overly aggressive pack, lay with acclimatising to having a front brake and a separately-controlled rear brake.
The front brake digs your front-end into the tarmac and throws weight onto the front wheel – where your steering comes from. This is great for slowing down as you approach a bend but use it as you go through a bend and you will lose turning-ability and power as you try to punch out of the corner. The rear brake is for minor speed adjustments going through corners but use it too much and your back end steps out leaving you to sprawl on the track as you watch your bike skitter away into the crash-barriers.
Steering is also a marked difference from car-racers. You see, saying that the left stick controls steering is a little disingenuous. The left stick actually controls the rider’s weight distribution. Push it forward and hit your front brake and you will go up on your front wheel (an “endo”). Pull back on the stick and hit the accelerator and you pull a wheelie. This is all fine but it slows the cornering process greatly. You have to push the stick with correct timing to shift the rider’s weight and get the bike leant over enough to carry you around the corner. Then you need to allow the lean to correct so you exit the corner smoothly and carry your speed. It’s exceptionally difficult to get the hang of for anyone used to powersliding a Dodge Viper around a hairpin.
The final quirk to the controls is the “tuck in” button, a face button which tells your rider to pull in his knees and elbows and duck down behind the cowling screen. This causes you speed to increase greatly but it is much slower and more difficult to get the bike leant over and you can’t get your rider’s knee out for sharper cornering at all. So it needs to be timed well, both into and out of the tuck.
This is a symptom of the realism Monumental have aimed for but it is definitely something that the average Gran Turismo or Forza fan needs to be aware of. It’s a whole different mechanic to cornering and accelerating.
The customisation options in MotoGP are more comprehensive than in most franchised racers. Going into career mode you have the choice to choose your rider and then select a livery, colour scheme and helmet for your team. You will then be gradually walked through the process of setting up your team and hiring key staff members to work behind the scenes on everything from sponsorship deals to research and development. This all fleshes out the career mode and makes it more enticing than a standard repeating season structure would have been.
The multiplayer modes, while impossible to test effectively for this review, were without obvious issues (although they were also extremely sparsely populated) and boast up to twenty human players on a grid at any time which is more than any existing racer. In addition to this you have the Time Trial leader boards which allow you to compare your times to your friends or the global rankings. You can even create your own racing-lines or download those created by others to refine your times as much as possible.
The whole package is one which should appeal to fans of the sport and those yearning for a decent motorcycle racing sim. There are a plethora of customisation and tuning options which may not be the most comprehensive ever seen but are certainly more than in previous MotoGP games. The acceleration and cornering mechanics are well-realised and add to the realism but they also make the game devilishly tricky while you get used to it.
- Great visuals and a nice sense of speed.
- Plenty of game modes should keep fans gripped.
- Realistically fills a void in the market.
- Limited soundtrack.
- Sharp learning curve for racing mechanics.
This is your only option if you love the sport and want a console version so it’s lucky that it’s an approachable, realistic and well-realised virtual representation. We’re sure that hardcore MotoGP fans might be able to find little things they’d like changed but they’ll also have a blast while looking. Once you get past the tricky first hour or so and have the controls feeling natural then it opens out and gets competitive. This is motorcycle sim racing as it should be and we hope that it finds a warm welcome among console owners.