The MotoGP series, and racing on bikes in general, is all about flow. You need elegance, poise, positioning, angling and the ability to shift smoothly from the heaviest of braking zones into almost brushing the kerb of the corner, and back out the other side. It’s part of what makes these games far more challenging for me than racing on four wheels.
Annual sports franchises have often struggled to differentiate themselves from one year and game to the next. Milestone’s MotoGP series has struggled more than most, as the company have remained shackled to an ageing in-house engine while they’ve searched for new ideas and gimmicks to help spur them along. Last year’s entry, for example, was less about the yearly championship and more about celebrating the life and times of 9-time world champion Valentino Rossi, going as far to include rally car racing and Valentino Rossi’s Ranch. MotoGP 17, however, feels even more trapped by the need for the series to reinvent itself.
Where Milestone as a whole are transitioning their games over to Unreal Engine 4, MotoGP 17 has stayed behind on their old in-house engine for one last year. The game will feel instantly familiar to anyone that’s played the last few MotoGP games, or Milestone’s Ride 2 even, with physics, handling and gameplay that have carried through and evolved over time.
As in those games, unless you’re already an expert, it’s important to start at the lower end of the scale and get used to the art of braking and turning through corners on a bike. While you’re still trying to brake, turn in and accelerate out, it needs to be fluid and you need to see the curve, as well as knowing the point that you can accelerate without running wide. Moto3 bikes give you that grounding, but by the time you reach MotoGP, you’ll need a lot more control and finesse with vastly more powerful engines.
While it would have been easy for Milestone to simply tread water and push out a quick re-skinned game with current racers, they have made efforts to see this era of MotoGP game out in style. Comparing to MotoGP 15 – the most recent game I have – there is a notable step up in texture work, for example, with track layouts and scenery having been spruced up as well. They’ve also sampled engine sounds afresh for this game, so it will sound much closer to the real thing. Best of all, though, they’ve managed to overcome whatever technical hurdles were holding them back and the game is now running at 60 frames per second, instead of being locked to 30. This helps the game feel more fluid and responsive, which given the need for precision is a boon.
However, all of that is undercut by many of the series’ quirks and inconsistencies carrying forward. The bikes can still look as though they’re not really attached to the ground, contact lacks weight and impact and you’re not punished for instigating a crash, and when racers do crash, they just pop back into existence on the side of the road, instead of something a little more realistic. While detail has been improved, grassy run offs are largely just plain texture, and tracks can look flat and lifeless in the engine’s lighting, especially at night.
While the overarching career structure remains identical to before, progressing from Moto3 to Moto2 and finally MotoGP, but you’re now greeted by a couple of introductory races in the Red Bull Rookies championship, a short 7 race championship with all racers on identical low powered bikes. You only have to do the final two races, when already in a potentially championship winning position before moving up to Moto3. While the bikes are low powered and easy to handle, as an introduction it can be pretty brutal, with all racers on the same bike showing up any lacking skill or track knowledge that can be disguised somewhat by racing a top end bike later in your career.
A much larger departure is the managerial career that has you set up a team in Moto 3 and gradually spread to race bikes across all three championships and with a team of up to six drivers. You have to buy the bikes, sign the sponsors, choose from a range of authentic liveries, recruit the right drivers and then boost performances and income with R&D and support staff.
It’s a nice mode, but it’s held back in a number of ways. The menus are clunky and feature a baffling number of short loading times, but you also can’t simply let the AI race for you. You have to participate and race all the way through each season yourself and that can be a major drag when you’re struggling to develop a cheaper and underpowered bike.
It feels like every surprise qualifying performance is followed by a slide back down the field as you’re mugged down the straights and through corners, and with early AI partners doing little beyond making up the numbers at the back of the field. It can make simply meeting those sponsor bonus objectives feel like victory, but it’s not especially fun. After the first season, Moto2 opens up to you, but I can’t see how you could possibly afford one of these bikes after a single year, given the staggering price compared to what you can earn in Moto3 and the need to invest in that first.
Lastly, I noticed one or two minor little bugs. First it took me a little while to realise, but the same introductory video is played before both qualifying and race session, for some bizarre reason. Then there was the amusing situation of finishing with the exact same time as another racer, the final standing putting me in fourth, however viewing the replay I was actually a smidgeon behind and this was reflected in the points earned and the championship standings afterwards. Much less amusing was investing in staff to speed along suspension R&D by a single week which, because there was only one week left to go, sent that R&D department into negative weeks. Thankfully you can buy second R&D departments, but it’s annoying to see my bike’s suspension -11 weeks away from being finished!
- Red Bull Rookies as a new entry point
- Progression through faster and faster bikes
- Big step up to 60 frames per second
- New engine sounds
- Managerial career is a nice addition
- Many of the age old quirks of Milestone’s MotoGP remain
- Pauses to load in the menu system
- Tedium of having to race in managerial career and slow progression
- Handful of little bugs
- Transitional year before Unreal Engine 4 in 2018
MotoGP 17 could be seen as a last hurrah for Milestone’s ageing game engine, but even with new modes and technical improvements, it feels more like they’re treading water while waiting to revitalise the series next year with Unreal Engine 4. Get it if you absolutely must have 1080p60 MotoGP, but otherwise, there’s something better on the horizon.
Version tested: PS4
Yes! I too experienced that at the end of the first season in managerial mode. No idea how you’re meant to afford a Moto 2 bike and another season of saving up in Moto 3 seems like a real drag.
There’s a £3.99 ‘booster’ in the digital stores, which gives you 30% more result credits. Seems like you need to buy this to progress really. Not so cool.
It needs to either let me not race and just blast through a season or have prize money at the end of the season, so then it’s down to my performances on track. Sadly it does neither, and so it’s a dull grind with that one disappointing microtransaction that can go do one.
Aye, needs some serious work on it before it’s a viable mode.
Although I love racing games I’ve never been able to get to grips with Moto GP. I’ve enjoyed Ride and DC’s bikes (among others) but this doesn’t agree with me.
I’ll give this one a miss. I really like the Rossi game, this feels like a step back for me so I’m good. I always struggle to be competitive with this series anyway!