SBK 2011 Review
Written : Thursday, June 02, 2011
By: Richard Walker
Superbikes. Just how super are they exactly? We thought that MotoGP 10/11's were pretty super, awarding the game a highly respectable 75, but the SBK franchise has always been the hardcore biker's game of choice, or so we're told. Of the two games, SBK is the more simulation-driven, focusing on realistic handling, authenticity and all that jazz. It's an acquired taste for sure, so the nub of the question we need to get to the bottom of in this review is just how realistic is SBK 2011 and how does it measure up to its closest competitor?
First impressions of SBK 2011 are that it's resolutely at the simulation end of the racing spectrum, although you're able to choose from three varying degrees of sim-based difficulty. Low, medium and full simulation levels are entirely self-explanatory, and you can switch between your level of simulation at any time. First port of call after settling on how hard you like your racing, should be career mode where you begin by creating a custom rider from a limited set of options. Once you've chosen your rider's face and riding style from a selection of real rider's animations, you'll then be able to consider offers from a team before hitting the pits, which acts as your Career Mode hub.
"My throttle's broken!"
From here you can tweak your bike's setup and get into practice or qualifying sessions before hitting the track for the main race event itself. You start out in the Superstock FIM Cup 1000, earning reputation points as you progress from race to race, which takes in famous tracks like Monza, Imola, Portimao and Silverstone. Naturally, as your rep grows, you'll start to attract the attention of other teams, moving up the ranks until you hit the big leagues of the Supersport Class and FIM Superbike World Championship. Career is pretty in-depth stuff then and will likely make up the majority of your playtime with SBK 2011.
There are plenty of other racing options to choose from outside of the Career Mode of course, including Quick Race, Time Trial, a single Race Weekend, online races via Xbox Live and the SBK Tour, which presents another substantial chunk of gameplay, offering two objectives to complete such as riding a perfect lap while beating an allotted target time. On the track, the handling feels immediate, challenging and weighty, with enough feedback to let you now when your back wheel is about to step out of line and have you kissing the asphalt. The complete lack of a tutorial could prove to be an obstacle for newcomers, as will the dearth of player assists on offer. There's the tried and tested racing line assist that will prove invaluable for beginners looking to master when to apply the front and back brake, but other aspects of the game like how to shift your weight and so on, you'll have to figure out for yourself.
Still, if SBK 2011 gets its hooks into you, you'll likely spend hours getting to grips with the handling in both Career and the enjoyable SBK Tour, gaining rep, upgrading your ride and completing objectives. As two-wheeled sims go, SBK 2011 is pretty involving and even the more casual racing fans out there will probably find something to like. The only problem is that the time investment required to really get the hang of the game might prove too much for some, meaning that SBK 2011 will only really appeal to the bike racing purists and hardcore fans of the sport. Even the low simulation level can seem a little too tough at times and winning races can be a hard-fought thing, making SBK a test of patience at times.
"Please stop stalking me, Frank!"
SBK 2011 will still prove an unbridled joy for those accustomed to biking sims, as the bikes and riders are suitably detailed, the tracks are faithfully recreated – albeit lacking in atmosphere somewhat – and the improved handling simply feels right. To some players however, SBK 2011 might seem a tad sterile, overly realistic and too difficult, even on the low simulation setting, but stick with it and the racing becomes rewarding, gratifying and even fun. There's a big barrier to work through before you start to enjoy the game however and the lack of assists doesn't help matters. That barrier is a steep learning curve, and a brief tutorial could have really helped in this particular department.
Biker fans will completely lap SBK 2011 up though, especially when you consider that there's 17 riding legends and their bikes including Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson, Troy Bayliss and Aaron Slight, which will surely mean something to the fans. We only know Foggy from the list, to be honest. Add to that the brand spanking new Kawasaki ZX-10R and a garage full of super fast two-wheeled rockets, and SBK 2011 looks like a biker's dream. There's also online races for up to 16-players, which are great while you're racing, but annoying when you're stuck in the lobby watching dots speed around a map of the circuit. Online, SBK 2011 is fine and there's very little lag, which is good, but the appeal could prove to be somewhat limited for more casual race fans, although you can set the parameters of the online racing to suit your requirements.
"Bloody banana skins!"
SBK 2011's achievement list will take a long long time to complete, with most attached to your career progress and completing tasks in the SBK Tour. There's a few creative ones in the mix, like winning a race weekend with the flaming helmet equipped to your custom rider. There's some online cheevos that could prove niggling and others that will drive you insane with their toughness. Overall, this is a perfectly serviceable achievement list, but there are too many that are simply a massive pain, which might put you off.
SBK 2011 is arguably one of the best bike simulation titles out there, with great handling, detailed bikes and riders, and plenty of game modes. Visually it can be a little sparse and drab at times, but the sound design is solid and the gameplay will please all but the most demanding superbike racing aficianado.
All of the bikes sound satisfyingly realistic, and there's the faint sound of a cheering crowd during races, but that's about it. The menu music is maddening, headache-inducing techno though.
SBK 2011 looks perfectly fine, particularly the bikes and riders, but the track environments themselves are a little on the dull side. There's plenty of room for improvement here.
The handling is excellent and as realistic as you'd hope for in a simulation, but a lack of tutorials and assists for beginners seems like a bit of an oversight. There's the racing line, which is a help for newbies, as is the low, medium and full simulation levels to choose from.
From Career Mode to the SBK Tour, online modes and Time Trial game types, there's loads to do in SBK 2011. You could potentially be playing for months. The presentation meanwhile is decent, but not spectacular.
As achievement lists go, this is a pretty tough one meaning that few will have the fortitude and perseverance to stick with SBK for the full 1000. Still, there's some nice achievements to be found in there, including a bunch that encourage you to explore the game's features like photo mode, replays and so on.
SBK 2011 is a great bike simulation game that definitely deserves your undivided time and attention if you're a fan of the sport. For newcomers and biking virgins however, the handling might seem a little daunting at first and the steep learning curve will put a lot of gamers off. If you're into your bikes however, SBK 2011 will definitely get your motor running.