Straw poll. Should MotoGP be reviewed by a racing game addict? Or is the more neutral opinion more valid?
It seems vaguely appropriate to paraphrase Speed when considering the pros – or otherwise – of Capcom’s latest instalment in the MotoGP series. The impression of, er, speed is certainly well handled here but as one in the latter camp – look, I just prefer guns and lasers and deliberate car crashes in my racing titles, alright? – I’m not sure there’s enough to make me come back night after night for “just one more go”. Fans, however, will probably love it, particularly the geekily adjustable Career Mode. Whether that then makes me the perfect reviewer for this or the worst possible one is obviously debatable but I will try to be fair. Promise.
Part of the problem – well, perhaps the imagined problem – is that the sorts of detail that appeal to racing sim worshippers and the sort of racing game I like are at opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s thus hard to shake the feeling that MotoGP should wholeheartedly embrace the sim crowd and ignore the neutrals, rather than this slightly uncomfortable attempt to blend realism and arcade fun. While it’s all clearly pretty well done, there’s a spark missing here, that little engaging moment that makes you love it all regardless, something that Forza 3 managed to do really quite well - appealling to both hardcore petrolheads and arcade racers.
On that basis, it’s probably best to skip over the arcade bit (alright, easy to pick up, difficult to master but with very little appeal for this casual race gamer) and focus on the meat of MotoGP: Career mode.
The mission Capcom’s designers appear to have set themselves here is to give motorcycling fans the sort of experience Gran Turismo gives those who favour four wheels. And, after several hours of analysis and tweaking and feeling like I’ve barely scratched the surface, I’d say they’ve pretty much achieved that aim.
First of all, the guides are good. A cheeky chappy voiceover gives you the full idiot’s guide to just about everything you can imagine, and a few things – a PR manager? – you probably haven’t considered.
The learning curve is nicely judged too. You start with some basic options and then, as your rider progresses through the divisions / classes, more content – more elaborate content – is unlocked. This means a series of options that could be daunting actually unfold at a decent pace and also means you’re rapidly made aware of what individual tweaks can do to the speed and performance of your bike.
One of the interesting aspects initially is rather Zen-like: you will not win, and must therefore accept that fact. It’s a solid realistic touch and a pleasant change from the usual fare. In that respect it’s very GT and reminiscent of Pro Evo: sometimes a gritty 0-0 draw is a decent result. Here that’s replaced with anything above 10th place being a good showing, because your rivals have much better bikes.
So how do you get up the rankings? Perseverance. And new bits for your bike. Hiring an engineer means you can research different bits of kit before you shell out your hard-earned winnings. And, as you‘ve probably guessed, as you move up the rankings / win more races and make more money (and attract sponsorship deals), you can hire more and better staff, which improve your chances in due course. It’s all about “Rider Reputation”, a scoring system that does pretty much what it says on the label, grading your performances Capcom-style, from A to E.
Graphically, it’s all rather lovely too. The bikes look shiny and smart and mostly photo-realistic. Even better is the sound quality, with the sort of deep throaty engine noises that get Jeremy Clarkson unnecessarily excited and better-than-average race commentary.
There are other neat touches too. You can change the control buttons – which, if memory serves, you couldn’t on previous MotoGP titles – and, for those of us who cock-up with alarming regularity, a Prince of Persia-esque “Second Chance” function means you can rewind the action and have another go at that tough corner. Use it too much though and you’ll see your Rider Reputation fall. Probably justifiably.
While the ride mechanics are arguably still unrealistic – mind you according to motorcycling friends you’ll never be able to recreate that on a console – bikes handle believably. Well, most of the time. You can also add / remove assists as you get more au fait with the performance. Indeed, you could spend hours adjusting every possible variation, every piece of kit and assist settings just to save a few precious seconds per lap. And some of you no doubt will.
The inconsistency in MotoGP 10/11 is an issue. While the handling is unerringly precise – punishingly so at times – clip another rider at speed and you’ll crash out... some of the time. Other times, riding into a packed field of racers has no effect whatsoever. Why? For some of us, the crashes are the best bit. Yes, it’s satisfying actually perfecting the racing line, sitting in another rider’s slipstream and making every corner but, for my tastes at least, the amount of time that takes doesn’t justify the moment of elation.
There's just not that much new here, either. The driving model has been tweaked a bit, sure, but it's still solid, not perfect. The inclusion of split-screen co-op is welcome, but is it worth £40? Last year's season update didn't drop until June, so it might be prudent to wait. There's no denying, though, that this is quite firmly something of a niche title...fans will probably lap it up, the rest of us probably not.
- Career Mode is a massive game that will have fans salivating
- The game looks good and sounds better
- Instant playability for those just dipping in
- Outside of Career Mode you probably needn’t bother
- Not a huge step forward from last year's effort at all
- Really quite inconsistent
The Short Version: In spite of the trappings of the arcade racer and the racing sim being on show in MotoGP 10/11, the game never really succeeds in fulfilling either's remit. Career Mode is still as fantastically deep as last time, but whilst the more precise handling provides a good representation of sport upon which this game is based, there's not a great deal to distinguish it from last year's effort. Until the free update drops, it might be worth saving your pennies.