My fingers are gripping the controller as hard as they possibly can. My pupils are dilated. Perspiration has started appearing under my arms as my concentration levels go through the roof. You don’t so much as play TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 2, but hang on for dear life.
For the uninitiated, the Isle of Man TT (IoM TT) is a yearly motorcycle race around the closed roads of this island between England and Ireland. It is, and there’s no other way of saying it, absolutely sodding mental. The route is 37.73 miles, per lap. If you make a mistake, you will likely hit a wall or a house at 180mph. The record lap time, currently held by Peter Hickman on a BMW, is 16 minutes 42.778 seconds, with an average speed of 135.452mph.
If you have a quick search online to see the track, you will notice that doing those sorts of speeds down those roads is certifiably insane. The route is littered with bumps, odd cambers, trees, walls, buildings and other immoveable objects. Nürburgring Nordschleife is child’s play in comparison.
This is the main focus of IoM TT 2. You can probably guess that from the game title. Mastering this track, which is arguably the most complex in the world, is the core appeal. Having the Snaefell Mountain Course replicated in a game is one thing, but how Kylotonn Games has managed to deliver a sense of occasion is quite another.
No other racing video game manages to give you such a sense of speed. You feel every single one of those 180 miles per hour. Using the in-helmet camera and wearing headphones, you will not believe how quick you are riding. This is in part down to the visual effects, but also the superlative audio. Not only is there effective wind noise, but it changes as you blast past different objects. Combined with strong force feedback and a highly-strung engine, the effect is profound.
Alongside the stunning course and frankly incredible speed sensation is the vehicle handling. From the outset, the focus is clear. IoM TT 2 is a simulation. Less like the official MotoGP games, this is the Richard Burns Rally or Assetto Corsa of motorcycling. In other words, you should prepare to fail. A lot.
In the first game, released in 2018, the physics were refreshingly different, but there were also times when it felt like pot luck if a bump in the road would throw you off. Sometimes it would, sometimes it wouldn’t and that sapped confidence. Occasionally, if you were changing direction quickly, it felt as if the steering would lock up or, on a heavy landing, that the shock absorbers were filled with concrete.
Now, the rider seems more flexible, the suspension more supple and the steering more precise. However, there is still a definite lack of refinement to the handling model when dealing with slow hairpins. Clearly, this has been primarily set up for the faster curves that make up the majority of the circuit.
The merest of brushes against a wall results in a crash. Too much power over a crest also results in a crash. Clipping a curb means, yes, a crash. In the first few hours, the time spent upright on two wheels equals the time spent by your rider eating asphalt, but therein lies to appeal. Finishing a race without falling once is an incredible achievement. Finishing second in the Classic TT event, which took me 80 minutes to complete the four laps of the full circuit, felt even better. The punishing difficulty curve will put many people off many, but this is the best motorcycle riding experience bar none, provided you are willing to put in the effort.
The career is where you’ll spend most of your time. You can either race with your own bike, or sign a contract with a team and use theirs. As you progress through a race calendar, which culminates in the main TT races, you will first ride Supersport motorcycles, before progressing to Classic and Superbike classes. In addition, any cash attained by delivering good results is used to buy upgraded parts. The more you win, the more cash you earn, the more you get noticed by better teams and the more signatures you earn, all of which prove that you are good enough to race on the Isle of Man.
The tracks used for these races are mostly fictional, based across the United Kingdom and Ireland. Many are carried across from the first game, while the Irish tracks are actually broken down elements from the game’s open world area. They are fun and pretty, but nowhere near as exciting as the one real route.
While the races in Ireland are solid enough, and the free roaming world is used between main career races for a set of smaller challenges, they get repetitive rather quickly. Meanwhile, the tracks in Northern Ireland and Scotland are uninspiring. I wish other real world road race routes were included, like the North West 200 or Southern 100. There’s just a weird mishmash of fictional and realistic currently.
While the career structure tries to mimic real rider progression through to the IoM TT, it also has an added perk system this time around. This could be slower rivals, quicker respawn or faster pitstops. Points are used to unlock these, but the system feels superficial and at odds with the realistic tone of the game.
A more fundamental flaw is that the racing line doesn’t differentiate between lifting off and emergency braking clear enough. When the road is so daunting, you will rely on it for your safe travel. At times you brake when it turns red, only to realise that you are now moving far too slowly. So, at the next corner, you brake a little later and have a massive crash.
Rival AI competitors are also inconsistent. An improvement over the first game, certainly, but what I found was that one rival will disappear off at the front around 20-30 per cent quicker than the rest of the field. Get ready to finish second.
There are some other, smaller, niggles, like the online multiplayer having nine specific subsets and no way to browse lobbies, and the conspicuous absence of a photo mode.