I’ve always found racing games with bikes in extremely difficult to get to grips with. I’m the by-product of an arcade era, and generally prefer manic, physics defying power-slides to simulation handling. Can SBK Generations change my mind?
The preview code we were given had the majority of modes locked out. The main championship, free race and multiplayer were all a no-go, and instead we were given access to a mode that presented us with a number of scenarios and challenges to complete, such as finishing a race inside of a set time whilst having done a wheelie over a certain distance, without crashing once, whilst in the rain!
Not exactly the kindest of introductions – oh how I longed for that free race mode to unlock, just so I could get a bit of practice in first!
First impressions when starting a race aren’t brilliant. Obviously the code I played isn’t final, but as it stands there really is a lack of atmosphere. The races are meant to be big, loud affairs with roaring crowds and a general buzz, but that’s not what I found. The backgrounds are also incredibly sparse, although the bike and rider models are good.
There are definitely no complaints with the engine sounds though. The Yamaha growls and barks as only it can, and the noise the Ducati makes is pure bike porn. Dirty Ducati!
As for the handling, there are three modes to try. Low simulation, which is what I went with initially, is heavily assisted and will do pretty much everything it can to keep you on the track. As one might expect it’s safe, but also a little bit boring as a lot of the hard work is done for you. This isn’t what racing a bike is about – there needs to be an element of danger.
Medium simulation feels much livelier, with riding aids turned done. It’s incredibly satisfying as you have to work to keep the bike on the track and auto-braking is no longer available.
Full simulation is the real deal. Knowing when to apply the front and rear brakes becomes crucial, as does how aggressive you are with the throttle when entering and exiting a corner. It’s fantastic, and you can actually feel yourself panic when the handling goes light and the wheels start to wobble as both bike and track decide they don’t like each other.
The game barrels along at an incredibly pace, too. Fully open the throttle on the straights and you’ll get a real burst of adrenaline as you fight to keep the bike in check.
For those who want to go just that little bit further in terms of difficulty, you can also choose to use the manual gears, as well as positioning the rider on the bike yourself. If you really feel like going all the way you can enable rider health, meaning if you have a particularly bad crash you won’t be able to continue.
There are also a number of gameplay views to choose from. I found the easiest to be the bog-standard ‘behind the bike’ view, whereas the view from the rider’s seat was one of the most disorientating things I’ve ever come across.
The majority of the mode I played was made up of time trials, with the odd one-on-on race thrown in for good measure. It’s good fun, although you will spend a little time getting to grips with the handling.
Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the main races as much. The AI racers seemed to have supernatural cornering abilities, and were so desperate to stick to the racing line they would often just plough straight through my bike, knocking me off but not damaging themselves for some reason.
So, mixed reactions so far then. So many of the key ingredients in SBK Generations are right: it’s blisteringly fast, has a multitude of options for handling and it can get really tense when racing against the clock. Hopefully the AI receives a bit of tweaking though, as at the moment they appear to be on autopilot, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way on the racing line.