Last year’s MotoGP championship was a story of sheer dominance by the bright new kid on the block. Having won the 2013 championship in his rookie season, Marc Márquez started 2014 with a simply remarkable string of 10 victories to start the season. Any thoughts of further Honda dominance have been shattered in 2015, with Rossi and Lorenzo riding their Yamaha bikes to a string of victories. It’s all change at the top in the real world, it would seem, but for this year’s MotoGP 15 game, it is very much business as usual.
Milestone have persisted in keeping support for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, while also having MotoGP 15 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, where huge companies like EA and 2K have been able to make full use of these latest platforms in their yearly sports games, here you can feel the limitations of the older generation and a lack of comparable resources holding the game back.
At its core, there’s the same, well established motorbike racing, which is both fun and challenging at the same time. There’s a lot of nuance to the nimble dance of riding these bikes as fast as possible, and when you judge things just right and manage to pick your way through a weaving track, leaning to one side before seamlessly shifting your body to the other side, it just feels great.
But more than just turning at the right time, the top tier of MotoGP bikes, and the 2 stroke bikes from the late 90s, are a real handful. They demand a lot of precise throttle control and deft braking in order to avoid spinning up the rear tyre and falling over, flying over the handle as you lose it under braking or falling off for some other reason.
Naturally, there are a variety of assists to turn on and off, so that you can offload the task of tucking your rider in on a straight or have both front and rear brakes on the left trigger, rather than separately – something which getting the best out of is difficult, especially without a tutorial – or even have automatic lean and braking assist. The latter two assists in particular rob you of some of the challenge, and so it’s much better to start off small, and race the much easier to control Moto3 or Moto2 bikes, building up to the main class.
You’ll have to work through those junior classes in the career mode anyway, hopping from team to team as you work your way up to MotoGP itself, and they’re the best starting point by far. A new twist in the career is that, rather than always racing for other teams, you can have a privateer team of your own, to go alongside your own custom racer – picking the woman avatar still doesn’t alter any incidental commentary or your rider model, unfortunately. Little changes in game, as you’re simply racing to the targets set by your sponsor, and you court these and switch to them just as you would any other team, while accruing GP Credits for performing well, in order to buy more and more powerful bikes.
Beyond the career, there’s the usual options of a single race, a straight up championship, time trials and reliving last season and the heyday of the 2-stroke bikes with the Real Events 2014 and 2 Strokes Champions scenario modes. Their inclusion means that all the bikes from 2014 and a big selection of 2-stroke bikes and racers are included, just as they were in MotoGP 14, and make for a nice change of pace to the basic racing, with a pleasing mixture of fantasy an historical re-enactment – 14 of the 18 2 Strokes Champions events are fictional, while many Real Events 2014 events ask you to rewrite history.
The main addition to the game mode roster is Beat the Time, in which you’re pitted against a record lap time on a specific bike, and let loose to try and beat it. Online, there’s a new Split Time mode, where you endeavour to set the best sector times through a session, alongside straightforward racing in both single races and championships.
But there’s always that feeling that we’ve seen this before, and that Milestone haven’t moved the series forward. Loading into a race still has a bizarre double loading screen, between which an introductory video identical to that in MotoGP 14 is played for whichever track it is that you’re visiting. The tracks also look rather flat and uninspiring, and don’t manage to live up to some of the environments we’ve seen in other recent racing games, even if they have fixed one of my complaints in last year’s review and replaced the sprite-based trees with 3D models.
There are also points where MotoGP 15 actually manages to look a little bit worse than 14. While generally an improvement, there are some tree models that just look rubbish – the Catalunya track has the worst examples I’ve seen – and while lighting has been tweaked and plays nicer with a subtle improvement over 14’s already quite lovely weather system, with a lot more standing water that reflects the sky, it can look a little washed out in comparison. Additionally, some track-side surfaces can look a bit naff, where the ground is brighter as it reflects this light, but just manages to make the darker grass sprites stick out like a sore thumb.
MotoGP 15 is still an accomplished racer, but it offers little to draw fans in, compared to last year’s entry. There’s a few nice touches, like having your own team in career mode, and the bike racing still manages to strike a balance between being accessible and being very challenging, but from the all-too-familiar double loading screens to the lacklustre environments and beyond, we’re still waiting for Milestone to fully take advantage of the latest generation of consoles.
Version tested: PlayStation 4