Games which put players in the boots of an aspiring jockey are hard to come by, especially for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. During the days of the PlayStation 2 however, both Tecmo and KOEI ran their own series dedicated to equestrian sports titled Gallop Racer and G1 Jockey. In a nutshell, Champion Jockey is a combination of both horse racing titles, bringing both PlayStation Move and Kinect functionality to the table for what Tecmo KOEI promises to be the most engaging equine experience available on consoles.[drop]The first hurdle players will have to overcome is the set-up. Using either your regular gamepad or PlayStation Move controllers will present a number of control schemes, none of which having any particular advantages. Though playing with a Dualshock 3 keeps things fairly simple, using two Move controllers is by far the most immersive, if sometimes a little frustrating, method of play.
Before you can even think of jumping into the saddle, unless you happen to be a seasoned jockey, you’re going to spending a good hour digesting the game’s mechanics and a number of specific terms. The tutorial process is efficient though it completely lacks any sense of pace or flare with dull chat boxes being the only on-screen guide.
Champion Jockey offers a variety of game types, including pre-set challenges and exhibition races, though the bulk of the game rests with the story mode. Here players will create their very own jockey and align themselves with one of numerous stable owners, each having their own unique selection of horses. Every week players will be able to scour through racing schedules and negotiate with stable owners prior to an event. From here jockeys are given the option to train with their chosen horse(s) or simply head to the races.
Races are no longer than a few minutes and loading times in between are almost non-existent. Your position will determine how many credits you earn from a race as well as your skill level with particular horses. It can easily get repetitive, though there are also a number of other activities to participate in such as breeding and training your own horse and building relationships with other jockeys and owners.[drop2]Without the option to actually participate in races Champion Jockey would be a straight up horse racing sim and still can be with the use of “Auto Ride” and “Auto Train” menu choices. It’s surprising how much input the game requires, though it doesn’t take long to realise that Champion Jockey is more about managing stats and tracking each horse’s abilities instead of actually racing. Success ultimately hinges on how well you research your horses rather than how good you are with a controller, all you can do is keep an eye on the hud, tweaking your speed, lead leg, motivation etc. and simply hope it’s enough to put you in first place.
Champion Jockey’s position as a game/simulation hybrid would explain the slightly underwhelming visuals. Race tracks all look similar as do the horses and jockeys, despite slight variations in colour. Though menus are well presented and easy to navigate, interaction between NPCs is considerably lacklustre, conducted via dialogue boxes with character portraits. Without a single spoken line in the entire game, Champion Jockey relies on only its sound effects and music to compliment the game, neither of which add any sort of zest to the overall package.
- A wealth of control/gameplay customisation options.
- In-depth with almost endless replay value.
- PlayStation Move responds well.
- Races are short and snappy with minimal loading in between.
- You will need an hour or so just to get to grips with the basics.
- Gameplay is repetitive and depends more on stat-managing than player skill.
- Presentation is sub-par, both in graphics and audio.
- Non-spoken dialogue that amounts to walls of text.
- KOEI’s attempt to crowbar some form narrative into Champion Jockey is laughable.
- A distinct lack of John McCririck.
If you’re a fan of horse racing or interested in getting into the sport, Champion Jockey is without doubt a must-have; it’s technical, it’s in-depth and you’re guaranteed hours upon hours of replay value. However, if you happen to be a gamer looking for a quick burst of casual fun, Champion Jockey’s myriad of intricacies and learning curve may be enough to hinder your enjoyment.