As the 2011 MotoGP season rapidly approaches, MotoGP 10/11 revs its engine and stands unchallenged as the official game of the World Championship. With Black Bean’s rival Superbike series still awaiting a release date, Monumental Games’ flagship racer also sits alone in its sub-genre free from the stress of competitor pressure. With a core audience already guaranteed with each entry in the series, the developer could have just sat on its hands for the last twelve months, delivered an incremental update and still have kept those fanatics relatively happy. However, in a bid to appeal to a wider audience, MotoGP 10/11 breaks the mold by offering some significant, game-enhancing updates.
Graphically, to the untrained eye at least, MotoGP 10/11 doesn’t look a lot different to last year’s iteration, with the highly detailed, intricately designed bike models – not to mention riders that look a lot like their real-life counterparts - being the highlight of an otherwise ordinary looking game. Be under no illusions: this isn’t the best looking racer you’ll ever play on PlayStation 3, nor does it sport the same slick presentation values of those racing games with much larger budgets behind them. However, a lot of effort has clearly been put into an area where it really matters; the racing. And, when compared to previous MotoGP games, it’s this improvement on the track that ultimately makes the latest entry in the series the best and most versatile yet.
When Capcom took over the publishing rights to the MotoGP franchise from THQ in 2008, it set out to change the handling model and evolve the MotoGP experience. As a result, the arcade style of previous games gave way to a more punishing simulation of the sport that was aimed toward hardcore fans of the genre. In MotoGP 10/11, however, the decision has wisely been made to broaden the game’s appeal and draw in fans of other racing games. By offering a choice between a simulation and arcade mode - and catering for a broad range of skills - the MotoGP franchise is now more accessible than it's ever been.
With the option to totally customize your control set-up, choose the level of help with assists, and switch between different styles at any point during the Championship, MotoGP 10/11 feels like it panders to your needs. And it’s all the more better for it. Whether you’re a thrill-seeking arcade racer, or a serious sim fanatic, there are plenty of customization options and four difficultly levels to choose from - ranging from gentle to insane. Though MotoGP 10/11 can still be punishingly difficult to get to grips with (especially if you’re used to driving a car around a track), having this level of freedom to tweak the handling of your motorcycle ultimately makes for a more personal and enjoyable experience.
MotoGP 10/11 fans will be relieved to know that the full roster of teams, riders and tracks from the 2010 season are all available, and a free 2011 downloadable update is on the cards shortly. Championship mode makes a return and away from the track provides a decent and fairly in-depth, customisable and management experiences where you earn cash, gain sponsorship deals, hire engineers and upgrade your bike. You can also get your hands dirty by spending time tweaking everything from traction control to brakes, and from transmission to suspension; bikes and riders are customisable too and you can carry those creations over into the online arena for all to see. Presentation is fairly weak, but progressing through the Championship becomes quite an addictive formula as you start to get cash in your back pocket.
The Time Trial mode from last year gives way to the new Challenge mode, which ironically offers little excitement beyond standard time trial races. However, the major new addition, offline co-op play, does provide a few split-screen thrills. In co-op mode, you can ride and compete, working together as a team to try and win the championship. Though it’s good fun playing together and working towards the same goal, it is hard enough to concentrate on your own race without seeing your team-mate thrown off his bike at 120MPH in your peripheral vision. We also keep getting the urge to press the action button and throw our fists out to the side to punch other drivers, “Road Rage” style. Co-op is, sadly, not that exciting, but it does give the game some further replay value outside of the career mode and online multiplayer.
On the track, progress has been made with major enhancements to the handling model and the physics engine. Last year, we struggled to handle bikes around corners, judge our braking distances and perfect our lean. In MotoGP 10/11, it’s still a difficult game to master, but bikes do feel weightier and therefore less prone to careering off track. Races are fast and aggressive and once you begin to learn the ins and the outs of the various courses – as well as start to understand that you have to really slow down as you approach corners - then things really do get quite exciting. A.I. can be incredibly annoying -punishing you badly for the smallest mistake - but the fact that you can toggle assists and tweak your bike to make things easier ensures that you at least stand a chance even on the higher difficulty setting.
The most bizarre addition on the track this year is the ability to re-wind a section of the course and try again - further proof that Capcom is pandering toward the more casual racer this year. It’s totally unrealistic, of course, but it’s there if you need it…and it’s very, very tempting to use frequently as you try and adapt to the new handling model. As with most racing games, the first few times you drive around the courses can be extremely painful as you get used to the twists and turns. But the more you play MotoGP 10/11, the more you get used to the bike, or learn to tweak its handling to suit your style. And the more you get to know the tracks, the more rewarding it inevitably becomes.
Overall, it seems as though Capcom has learned quite a few lessons from last year’s game. The simulation style obviously didn’t attract the attention it wanted from the masses, and so instead has reverted to giving players the option of an arcade mode, and the ability to really customise the game to suit their own skill level. Though we’ve yet to play online in a race of more than six people, getting into races is smooth, the lobby system is excellent, and the races totally lag-free. MotoGP 10/11 is still going to take the majority of race fans, even those who have played the last game, some getting used to as they struggle to get to grips with the new handling model. However, the rewards are there for the persistent, and it’s abundantly clear that the franchise is heading in the right direction once more.
-The Final Word-
A more accessible and enjoyable racer than last year's outing, MotoGP 10/11 ensures the franchise is once again heading in the right direction.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|