The MotoGP series is the flagship and, at present, the only currently dedicated motorbike road racing series, so it has a lot riding on it. Its reputation has improved in recent years, with Capcom having taken the reins, initially transforming it from arcade racer to simulation, and then trying to strike a balance. Milestone, the original development team for the games, has been put back in the development seat for this latest installment. Have they capitalised on past success?
First impressions count, and initially MotoGP’s are positive, with a voiceover easing you in by explaining the main menu. An unnecessary detail, but it suggests that a high level of attention has been given to this game. Go into any of the game modes, however, and you’ll be slightly disappointed by the attention given to the visuals. Whilst there has been a step up from the budget look of the previous release, MotoGP 13 is still not beautiful to look at, lacking the sheen that you’d expect of a release late in a console generation. Despite this, attention has been paid to the environments, and each track feels appropriately authentic. Yet, those efforts are tarnished slightly by obvious pop-up.
Of course, visuals are merely the surface layer, but as an official title, the game is expected to have an solidly authentic feel. To this end, Gavin Emmett provides commentary before the race, with footage of the virtual track presented in manner that gives the impression of real TV coverage. Despite the game’s mediocre visuals, these less important details help to involve players, who will more than likely be familiar with the sport. Further links to the actual MotoGP are due, with roster updates and in-game events based on real races from the season.
The gameplay is undoubtedly the main focus, and has set a precedent for itself in its depth and realism. This version is no less complex or potentially daunting for the newcomer. As such, the numerous riding aids are turned on by default. None of these quite turn the game into an arcade racer, not even ‘ideal trajectory’, as the you’re still more than likely to find yourself on the gravel or in a nasty crash. The game might have benefited from a training mode, and the option for physics suited even more to those who want to focus on racing, rather than focusing on remaining on the track and bike.
The ability to make experience more realistic remains. This doesn’t just extend to turning off the assists: it involves turning on flags, which creates the risk of disqualification, turning on tire wear, and turning up the physics, which is the most potentially punishing. With more realistic physics, things that would normally prove simple, such as getting off the starting grid, are a challenge. It is good that Milestone has left these as options to turn on rather than off, or otherwise, less experienced gamers might have traded the game in frustration.
One of the greatest things about the physics is that, unlike most racing games, you’ll find yourself affected by the weather and the state of the track. Over a Grand Prix weekend, rubber will be left on the track, allowing greater grip in those areas. It’s this precise detail, more than any graphical prowess, that brings a game to the point of simulation.
The artificial intelligence is unforgiving whether the game is played safe or played as if on the track. Despite scaleable difficulty, the novice will find it a challenge to keep up with the AI on Easy, pre-occupied with learning the tracks and handling. All will need to put their full attention on the AI on the Realistic difficulty. The chance of being solid competition against the other racers is hampered even more if you play the races without a Qualification race, which is the default setting. If it is assumed that you attended Qualification but just didn’t play it, then it would be expected that your position should be calculated from your previous performance, which is sadly not the case. This punishes players who don’t have much time to invest in the game.
This year’s iteration retains the great degree of customisation options for your bike. Whilst the adjustments can feel subtle, sometimes a bit too subtle for the player to notice and make appropriate changes, they can make an important difference to how your bike rides. The new interface for customisation, available in most game modes, is the pit. You start there before every race and can check weather conditions, adjust your bike and, helpfully, talk to an engineer. He’ll make the appropriate adjustments, which will reassure unexperienced players who might not be confident in the changes that they make.
You’ll probably want to sink most of your time into the game’s career mode, which itself has received a new interface in the form of a motorhome. From there, you can read emails, look at standings, and track your position in the public eye through social media and the printed press. The dynamic nature of social media has been excitingly replicated, with fans and fellow riders making direct references to your current progress. It’s a shame that the emails, which are more important, don’t have this same sense of being real, with emails often duplicates. Similarly, the music used is annoyingly limited.
Despite minor niggles, the career mode is engaging, and hours can be dedicated into it. Those familiar with the series may be less interested in working their way up from Moto3 to MotoGP, as they may want to use the more powerful and therefore challenging bikes in the latter. The new features will provide some incentive to experience the updated mode, as will trophies. The system of earning cash has gone, replaced by a revamped XP system. This has been put across all the game modes, rather than it contributing to your reputation in career mode, and so it earns you new superfluous items such as helmets and bikes in other game modes. Removing the ability to earn cash and spend on items removes a layer of depth from the mode.
Milestone have dropped Challenge mode, with Grand Prix and Instant Race as new introductions. Instant Race is essentially Grand Prix, but with the course and bike chosen for you. Whilst these new modes are good additions, the former being somewhat essential, it is a shame to see content removed. For that reason, Multiplayer is perhaps one of game’s more disappointing aspects. Online is great, and includes Grand Prix and Championship. Split screen is sadly the weaker option, as Grand Prix is the only game mode available, and the ability to jump-in to Career mode has sadly been removed.
The return of Milestone to MotoGP is welcome. The core gameplay remains as solid as ever, and the team has added another layer of overall polish, cutting some of the unnecessary along the way. It is a sad fact the, considering the general quality and solidity of the core gameplay, that the game isn’t a more complete package.
Note: Time Attack and Sprint Season modes, expected features of the game, are not apparent on our review copy. We are in contact with the publisher and developer, and will update the review accordingly in the coming days.
*UPDATE: The Time Attack and ‘Spring Season’ game modes, plus a roster update, will be included in the first patch due on July 3rd. Real in-game events are not included in this game as previously thought. Our score remains the same since the content is not included on the disc – however, it would be unfair to mark down for the non-inclusion of Time Attack, a feature included in MotoGP 10/11, as it set to arrive.