MotoGP 23’s game engine does a lot of heavy lifting to pack the game with detail, and the textured leather of your rider’s suit is impressively lifelike, rippling, crinkling and reflecting in equal measure. You can’t possibly appreciate it when you’re in the middle of a race, but it’s nice to know it’s there, particularly if you’re the type of aficionado that salivates at the thought of correctly represented leather – remember that DriveClub announcement?
But really it’s the racing that you’re here for, and MotoGP 23 has plenty of it. There’s an array of different modes, with solo players able to indulge in a fully-fledged Career mode and Grand Prix, Championship and Time Trial options. There’s also a comprehensive training package for newcomers and lapsed motorbike racers alike, starting with the game’s Tutorials and ending with the MotoGP Academy. Meanwhile, multiplayer brings a welcome local split-screen option and the expected online component. For now, we were able to check out the single-player Grand Prix.
This is a full Grand Prix weekend experience, starting with Friday’s practice sessions, slipstreaming into Saturday’s qualifying, and finally taking that hard-won starting position through to Sunday’s race. You can toggle which of these you’re actually going to take part in, streamlining the event as much as you want.
The Alpha test only allowed access to the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Italy and the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, but the full release will include all twenty tracks found in the 2023 MotoGP season, as well as six historical tracks that include iconic circuits like the UK’s Donington Park, Laguna Seca in the US and Portugal’s Estoril.
The track visuals are crisp, clean and pleasingly accurate, though the static people in the stands feel a little lifeless if you dwell on them too long. That said, there are some more animated audience members about the track, which helps to rebuild the atmosphere, and the pre-race mob looks like plenty of fun while you make your final adjustments.
Before you head out on track, you’ll absolutely want to check that your bike is set up the way you want it to be. Whether you dwell solely on tyres and brake discs or dig deeply into settings like suspension and vehicle geometry, there’s plenty to keep gear-heads happy, while novices will appreciate the inclusion of various tips or explanations as to what effect any changes will have. If you take the bike through a guided setup you can even diagnose what’s going on with your bike, and the mechanic will make the necessary changes, just like a rider and his team would do in real life.
MotoGP 23 definitely has an eye on ensuring that this is a racing game that’s accessible to all, starting with assists that will basically control the motorbike for you all the way through to giving the bikes free, terrifying rein to unleash their full power. Making the shift to Standard is a sobering moment after a couple of laps with the Easy setting, and it’s fair to say that after a few years away I could really have done with access to those aforementioned tutorials. However, after any number of extremely painful-looking falls, I managed to make my way around the track without completely embarrassing myself.
For every fall, there is thankfully a rewind function, and you can disabuse yourself of it time, after time, after time. Once again, this will put beginners at ease, and it stops you from putting down the controller even when it might be starting to feel like a motorbike racer torture simulator. It helps that the physics and animation look incredibly lifelike through any of those misjudged corners.
You’ll keep coming back though, because it’s already apparent that this is a deep and dangerously-engaging simulator, where you need to consider everything about your bike and your rider’s position upon it if you’re going to have a chance of appearing on the podium. There’s a number of new tweaks and systems for this year’s game, with dynamic weather to go alongside the latest enhancements of the physics engine. Most importantly, the sense of speed is incredible, and Milestone has absolutely captured the drama and nerve-shattering tension that the MotoGP is famous for.
MotoGP 23 is shaping up to be the bike racing sim we need, and whether you’re a casual fan or a hardcore motorbike aficionado who will appreciate the iterative steps forward in this series, this looks like it’ll be the perfect accompaniment this racing season.