MotoGP 09/10 Review
Written : Sunday, March 21, 2010
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
The MotoGP series has always come off second best to the flashier shenanigans of the Formula One series. Perhaps the lure of two wheeled machines has never really taken root, or maybe those pesky car drivers just have a better PR man. Either way it is fair to say that, in terms of gaming, biking titles have never really lived up to their promise, with them either being far too simple and arcadey for the purists or amazingly tough and difficult to break into for the novices. Can Capcom steer the series in a new direction or are we all going to be eating dirt after a poorly taken corner?
Just waiting to make a move.
The series has been handed over to Monumental Games, who have a number of employees that are more familiar with making online multiplayer games than tackling the tight turns of Silverstone. However, with only the SBK series of games as any real competition, it is surely time for a compelling racing experience of the two wheeled variety to invade our consoles.
From the off you will probably want to jump straight into career or Championship mode. The career lets you choose your own bikes, team and sponsors as you look to ascend the ranks from the 125cc Championship to (hopefully) the podium on the MotoGP stage. You can create your own rider and livery, then juggle your behind the scenes team of workers to help you fix up your ride, earn cash and generally look after you. Doing well in events is not enough to progress, though obviously it helps, and you'll find yourself monitored on your overall performance in terms of clean sectors, overtaking and slipstreaming. The system works a lot like the one seen in Need for Speed: Shift recently, although you are also penalised for crashing and roughhousing so it is not all win-win. These in-game rewards help boost your overall rank, allowing you access to better employees, bikes and events. The progression is always nicely spread out and ensures you have a good set of goals to work towards. It also means that even though you might not be winning races, you can still head in the right direction career wise.
The Championship mode on the other hand is tied to the actual happenings in the current MotoGP, with the rival AI based upon how actual riders have got on during the events in question. It feels like a watered down version of the career mode really, as it only follows one season rather than a number of them, but also gives you a feeling of being involved in how the current season is progressing. You can also dip into the arcade mode which is a more time-trial orientated affair - you have to tackle a whole season, but on a time limit. This time around doing well on the course is inextricably tied to how well you do in the season, as clean sectors and the like will reward you with bonus time to extend your assault on the whole season. It can be plenty of fun but does not really have the long term focus of the career and after one successful run through you may well not bother coming back for more.
Racing in the wet can be a tad challenging.
The look and feel of the game is fairly true to life, and all of the tracks have been faithfully recreated. The bikes look good, but not amazing, and the impression of speed has been kind of boiled down to an odd blur effect. Still anyone with even the slightest interest in the sport will feel it is a job well done. The same cannot really be said for the frankly appalling commentary which is little more than an assault on your ears for as long as you let it continue. The mute button is your friend here.
With all of the riders, bikes, tracks and events all present and correct – not to mention more to come in terms of free DLC from Capcom - it is a pretty compelling package. The real problem is that the actual gameplay does struggle to keep up. This is more of an arcade style racer than a simulation, so you would assume it would be easy to get to grips with but that is not always the case for novice drivers. Having both a front and rear wheel braking system can lead to the odd mix up, followed quickly by the inevitable crash, and it is this reason that the game never seems as welcoming as a similar car racing game would do. After a while things become second nature, but the initial learning curve is steeper than you would want it to be. Although you can help matters along by altering the difficulty level to suit your needs.
Once you are into the swing of things however it becomes much more of a delight, though the real arcade sensibilities come to the fore. You can follow the in game racing line with far too much ease, slamming on the brakes just before cornering and drifting around corners with ease. You can also tuck your rider in to gain even greater speed, though to the detriment of your handling. The weather conditions also play a part on the race, with wet courses proving especially treacherous as you would expect. Some purists may well feel that the bikes are not skittish enough in terms of traction and handling. The game occupies this strange middle ground that may be too much for novices to get to grips with and not enough to satisfy the needs of the hardcore.
Sticking to the all important racing line is crucial.
As is the norm with any racing game - either two or four wheeled - once you tire of the offline modes, you can simply head online and race against up to nineteen other players for the ultimate challenge. Veterans of previous games will be easy to spot, as they will be the ones staying on the track and riding the best machines. In fact, it makes sense to concentrate on your offline career first and gain access to the best bikes possible, so that when you do make the journey online, it will make your life a heck of a lot easier. The odds of you having a race with twenty people are also amazingly slim, as the online population for most MotoGP games has been quite slim after the initial buzz dies down. Still, with access to arcade and career modes, plus the chance to race against the ‘ghost’ times of the world's best, you could quite easily get hooked.
The achievement list is actually pretty damn good, and is one of the most diverse looking lists I have seen from a racing game full stop. You can pick up points from career mode through progression, improving your rating, hiring staff and doing particularly well in one race weekend, amongst other things. You also a have a nice list of tasks to accomplish in the arcade mode too, including completing a whole season without continuing. Heck, you can even pick up point for getting into massive crashes or driving a lap in the wrong direction. The online objectives are a touch more challenging but not too ridiculous, with the hardest undoubtedly being to win in a full 20 player race – as you will struggle to get that many people together. Despite that, with a list full of decent challenges, fun tasks and well thought out goals, it is hard to fault it, especially for a racing game.
MotoGP 09/10 is not really suitable for novice players but not really hard enough for biking fanatics, so it is hard to see where the fanbase will come from. The driving mechanics seem overly harsh when you first begin, and then unrealistic once you have mastered them, but that does not stop the game from being quite fun to play. For anyone seeking an alternative game to all of the Forza clones out there it could well be that this title is ideal fodder, though your mileage may well vary depending on how well you can adapt to the controls and how soon you mute the commentary. The online modes are solid although not spectacular, with just enough options to keep you interested, but nothing really innovative to make you stick around. As there is already a demo available I would heartily recommend you try that out first and see if two wheels are your style.
Possibly some of the worst commentary ever, and the music does not do much to redeem itself either.
The bikes and tracks look great at times and have been faithfully recreated, although there is the odd blip and some pop-up in places. The speed blur effect is distracting more than anything.
Seemingly impossible to get to grips with at first due to the dual brake system, though once you get to grips with that issue (or suck less than I do) you should find it easy enough to cruise round the tracks.
A great career mode, though the arcade and online modes are only so-so in comparison. That being said the arcade style of the game may well put off purists of the sport.
Easily one of the best racing lists available thanks to great list of mode specific challenges backed up by a number of fun random tasks. The online achievements are tougher but not unrealistic.
A solid racing game that does a good job of recreating a sport that has been pretty much ignored in gaming terms. It may not be suitable for everyone though thanks to the control issues and lack of variety. Once you have dipped your toe into each mode it is hard to see you going back to some of them. Try before you buy, but I do recommend giving it a whirl.