On PS4 currently, there isn’t much to enjoy in the racing genre past Need for Speed Rivals. MotoGP 14 helps fill that void with authenticity and an impressive amount of things to do. MotoGP 14 comes from the Italian studio Milestone, who developed last year’s entry, as well as the first two MotoGP games that were published by Capcom, so they are no strangers to the world of MotoGP racing.
Still, motorbike racing games have always been a harder sell than games that feature cars. This is mostly down to the fact that motorbikes are harder to control and less popular. To help combat this, Milestone has included many options to help newcomers get to grips with the bikes that feature in the game. MotoGP consists of three classes: Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, which may seem confusing to people who don’t watch MotoGP in real life. But it makes intuitive sense: MotoGP-class bikes are the fast ones, and chances are you will need some of the included aids to wrangle these machines, at least initially.
Indeed, rider aids aplenty help players get to grips with the bikes. Aids including assists for braking, steering, and traction control, which can be adjusted on the fly while racing by pressing up or down on the d-pad. However, once getting used to playing, it is beneficial to turn off as many as these aids as possible, as they do slow you down. Another setting that can be adjusted is the physics, which can be set to Standard, Semi-pro, or Pro. The biggest difference is that Pro requires you to have all of the aids except traction control turned off and makes the bikes more likely to wheelie coming out of the corner, or crash outright. Part of the thrill is nailing a corner and using the DualShock 4’s trigger to ease through the exit of the corner before going full throttle and seeing the front of the bike lift up, gaining speed rapidly. If things do go wrong, you can use the rewind function to go back and fix your error but you can only use it a maximum of six times in a race.
The A.I. in MotoGP 14 is decent enough; they aren’t drones who stick to the road like glue and do make the occasional mistake, which helps make them believable. Racing is made even more fun on the harder difficulties as you have to be perfect on each turn or face the A.I.’s decisive punishment. The game runs at 1080p on PS4 and stays right about 30 frames-per-second throughout. The lack of 60 fps, standard, is a little disappointing but doesn’t ruin the game, as there are no noticeable framerate drops to distract from the action.
MotoGP 14 is by no means a true sim; if it was, only reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Márquez would be any good at it. Then again, the point of this game isn’t to be a sim, but to recreate the drama and spectacle of MotoGP racing. In regards to the bikes of MotoGP, there are both the 2013 and 2014 MotoGP models alongside the 2014 Moto3 and Moto2 class bikes, and their riders, included. All included bikes can be raced in the multi-race Championship mode and single-race Grand Prix and Time Attack modes.
Real Events, meanwhile, mixes things up by challenging you to recreate or change things that occurred during the 2013 MotoGP season. A similar mode stars bikes from a bygone era: two-stroke 500cc bikes from 1994-2001. This is called Challenge the Champions, but the thing about the “Champions” is that not all of them are actual champions, and there are a couple weird oversights. Some are, including 1995 champion Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi’s 2001 Honda NSR 500, but I’m amazed at the latter given that Rossi is currently racing for Yamaha. Non-champions include 2001 Yamaha riders Carlos Checa of Spain and Japan’s Noriyuki Haga. Additionally, there is a mistake with one of the bikes–Loris Capirossi’s Honda–in that the game gives him the 2001 spec bike when, in reality, he raced the 2000 spec bike as only the full factory Repsol Honda team and Valentino Rossi raced the 2001 bike. For an official MotoGP game, Milestone should be getting that right.
Despite this, the other bikes in the game are accurately detailed and look stunning on track. The tracks themselves, on the other hand, are a little bland and lack the atmosphere that MotoGP races are known for. What updates have been made from previous games aren’t obvious and the tracks stand out as lacking detail compared to the bikes.
Unfortunately, between Real Events and Challenge the Champions, there are only 34 events and they aren’t particularly long. What compounds this is the inclusion of a drivable safety car, a BMW M4, which is pointless as it’s limited to Time Attack mode. It’s also horrible to drive–physics designed for a motorbike game shouldn’t include cars. Namco included a drivable safety car in one of their MotoGP games on the PS2 and it was an identical scenario: the car felt unusual and not at all how a car should handle.
The meat of the MotoGP 14 experience is the game’s career mode, which is an updated and improved version of the one from previous games. You create a rider, which gives you options such as rider number, helmet, gloves, and boots as well as name, nationality, and the like. You are given wild-card rides at two races before being offered a full season in Moto3. Do well and you can move teams, eventually climbing to the MotoGP class. It’s standard fare for this type of game, but I enjoyed creating a rider and moving him up the classes, winning races and championships along the way. The hub of the career mode is the motorhome, where you can see championship standings, change rider settings and look at pictures of videos unlocked as you progress.
Racing in career mode, or any mode, gifts XP for level-ups, and each level will unlock a new bike or rider for use outside of career mode. In your career, you can upgrade your bike through data packs, which are earned by completing a single lap in any given session of a race weekend, from practice to the race itself. Data packs can be used to upgrade the chassis, suspension, brakes, or engine, and the number of packs needed to upgrade is dependent on the bike and level of the part that you want to upgrade. It’s a basic system, but it reflects well enough the constant movement of racing, where things are always improving.
Of course, MotoGP 14 also has online multiplayer. Modes include Single Race, Championship and Split Season, where you earn points and move up to a higher class if doing well but drop down if results are bad. Another mode is Split Times, where the track is divided into eight sections. The rider with the fastest times in the most sections wins. The biggest challenge of these modes is finding people to play–it seems MotoGP 14’s online community simply isn’t burgeoning yet.
From a production standpoint, MotoGP 14 fares rather well but exhibits some bugs and glitches,. Most are minor, but a few rare, dramatic ones crop up. For example, when choosing a bike, pressing Square goes to the showroom to display the bike and rider. Here, the leathers of the rider often don’t appear, just a glitched texture. Another glitch encountered was random crashing at Silverstone; as a race was going on, the bike would suddenly crash as if hitting a wall, even no walls were nearby. Meanwhile, on Mugello, much of the track failed to load correctly. Many assets wouldn’t display at all, so the track was much more difficult to navigate–large pieces of it simply weren’t there.
What MotoGP does right outweighs its missteps. It largely captures the thrill of the sport, nails authenticity, and has plenty of content for veterans and newcomers alike. However, there are problems that could be ironed out, and hopefully will, by the time MotoGP 15 almost inevitably zips around next year’s corner.