Milestone are going through a very busy year, releasing not one, not two, but five games in the space of twelve months. It’s something that has me a little worried about the consistency and quality they can achieve through all these games, especially as some games series are still jumping across to Unreal Engine 4 for the first time. MotoGP 18 is one of these series, and there’s real ambition to make this more than just a port to a new graphics engine.
As has been set in stone for quite some time, you start your MotoGP career in the lower levels of the sport, taking a spot in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup on little bikes that sound like a cross between a lawn mower and a box of angry wasps. You’ll then have to progress up through the racing ranks, jumping from team to team as you make your way up through Moto3, Moto2 and finally reach MotoGP. Even there, you’ll have to get a factory team seat to have the best bike and a shot at the title.
A key part of the career will now be how you go about developing your bike. Instead of straightforward improvements to parts that give you a percentage improvement in braking or top speed, bike development will now take on elements of bike set up as well, meaning that you need to tailor it to your style of play. You need to choose whether to work on acceleration or top speed, on cornering angle or braking stability, and so on. It’s an interesting new idea, but the key will be in getting players that aren’t experts at the game to understand what their own racing style actually is.
Since the physics have been redesigned from the ground up, Milestone have also broadened the game’s simulation to take tyre temperature and wear into account, just as in the real sport. With this option enabled, managing your tyres, knowing how hard you can push and staying consistent will be important for success and allows for some added nuance to the racing. Certainly, it could lead to some great battles as your tyres fade and you try to fend off a racer on a different compound, and spending time in the practice sessions of a race weekend could be key.
AI has also reportedly been enhanced, with a higher top end difficulty to try and challenge the best racers even more. It’s difficult to really get to grips with this with only a short time to play the game, as well as reacquaint myself with the bike handling, but I did note an all too familiar failing when I raced on Mugello. Starting at the back and with a long, long run to the first corner, I was able to simply drive past everyone and turn into second place, even though I’d bumped the AI difficulty up to Hard.
That said, there’s more than just AI difficulty in finding the right difficulty for you to race with, and I’m looking forward to reviewing the game and finding the right balance for me with bike assists and more. I know from past games that I’m better at some tracks than others, and I actually picked Mugello to race on here as one that I’ve generally enjoyed racing at.
There is plenty of added detail in game, partly thanks to the new drone scanning that’s been used to recreate each track. I think the game’s look just that bit more connected to the ground compared to last year, however there’s something just a little bit off about the image quality that I hope has been addressed since this late preview build was minted.
I feel like Milestone have maybe been a little too trigger happy with the motion blur and depth of field effects, and combined with the way that Unreal Engine dithers distant detail into existence – shadow fade in is the most noticeable aspect here – it can give the game a smudged appearance. It’s also quite amusing the amount of smoke billowing from flares in the stands, now that Milestone’s engine can handle more than just having hundreds of flags waving back and forth – don’t worry, there’s still plenty of wavy flags as well.
While I’ve not been effusively enthusiastic here, I’m still cautiously optimistic that MotoGP 18 can be a good step forward for a series that has stood still for the last few years and struggled to find ways to add something new. With new graphics, new drone scanning, new physics, new depth to the simulation and new AI; Milestone are trying to push this series forward on every level. That’s a huge undertaking, and I’m hoping they can pull it off.