April 13, 2011
Why is it that games featuring an engine welded to two wheels fail to attract the same kind of love as car racing games? Is it because more people use cars? Are people scared of motorbikes? Or is it because almost every game solely featuring two-wheeled crotch rockets is a hardcore sim that takes no prisoners? Burnout Paradise's bikes were fun, as were Project Gotham's, but four-wheels are almost always the main event and motorcycles are invariably demoted to playing a supporting role in most racers. if they even feature at all. Motorcycle sims are where it's at for the two-wheeled monsters then, giving punters a choice between either SBK or MotoGP. Bring back Road Rash, we say.
So, here we are again; another year, another MotoGP update. And if you're wondering why we need another instalment of MotoGP, then join the queue. But wait, are we being a little (road) rash? Perhaps Moto GP 10/11 is the motorcycling sim you've been waiting for. Or maybe it's another game to nudge aside while you're looking for Forza or DiRT in your local game emporium. That's maybe a bit harsh however, as MotoGP 10/11 is actually pretty decent.
What are this year's big back-of-the-box features then? Apparently this year, developer Monumental has enhanced the game's physics and handling system to make for an even more realistic racing experience; that said however, MotoGP 09/10 was more than realistic enough as far as we're concerned. On the track, the difference feels fairly negligible and if you really want to test the game's physics, then slowing down to 10 MPH and leaning over to almost 90 degrees without falling off kind of stretches the laws of gravity. Still, it's doubtful you'll ever be riding that slowly, as even the relatively weedy 125cc bikes go like the clappers.
Greater efforts have also been made to cater for racing fans of all skill levels, so there's several handling models and difficulties to choose from, as well as other variables like tyre wear to toggle in order to tailor the experience to your exact specifications. Stick the handling onto 'gentle', turn the AI down, switch off tyre wear, whack all of the assists on and MotoGP 10/11 is still a sod to play though, as mastering the art of the lean, timing when to take corners and knowing when to tuck in is remarkably tough and exacting. In fact, leaving the braking assists off is actually a better idea, as you then have far greater control over the front and rear brakes – mapped to LT and X respectively – which makes navigating turns that little bit easier.
Crash helmets off to Monumental then for trying to embrace as many gamers as possible with its numerous settings and options, but whether you'll actually have the inclination to persevere with MotoGP – even on the easiest settings – will likely be down to how big a fan of the sport and superbikes you are. The thrill of speed is universal of course, and riding at 200MPH is always enjoyable. If you really want to get the full sensation of speed, then you can have the camera tilt with your steering or even switch to the mental cockpit view, which will have you vomiting in no time. Every motorbiking taste has been covered with a wealth of adjustable options and settings to fiddle with.
With speed comes crashes too and crash you will, so thank goodness for the immensely useful 'second chance' option in the pause menu that enables you to rewind time and try ramming your rival into the gravel all over again. This kind of unsportsmanlike conduct will lose you style points however, meaning you'll shed cash and XP in Career Mode. Ah yes, Career Mode; the crux of MotoGP's gameplay. In Career, you'll form your own team, pick your brand's colours, hiring and firing PR reps and employing engineers to research new parts, and do loads of racing, of course. Career is deep and involving, with plenty going on and lots of different things to do, much like GRID's excellent Career mode. Boosting your bike with newly researched parts is rewarding too and winning races is so hard-fought, that each scrappy victory is an air-punching relief.
Each performance in your practice laps, qualifying session and the race itself is constantly rated with plus and minus points as before, so collisions and crashes count as negatives, while showboating, clean sections, perfect racing lines and completing on-the-fly challenges issued at random intervals during races all count towards hopefully achieving an elusive A grade, which brings with it lots of XP and cash. If you've got a mate to play with too, you can invite them to ride alongside you as a teammate in local splitscreen co-op, although they won't be able to earn certain achievements. Shocker! Outside of the engaging Career, there's the World Championship to get involved in and the Challenge or Time Trial modes, which offer relatively bite-sized chunks of racing. Challenge for instance, chucks you into a series of races where you're given a predetermined lap time to beat and three lives in which to complete three consecutive laps of it. When the timer runs out, you lose a life, but you can gain time by slipstreaming opponents, completing clean sections and performing other stylish plus points as per the Career mode.
Time Trial is of course totally self-explanatory and World Championship is almost as lengthy as the Career mode, though not nearly as deep and satisfying. Online you'll also find support for up to 20 players to hit the grid, but you'll be lucky to find that many people in the lobbies. We managed to get a race going and being able to spectate a race in progress makes the waiting for a game a lot less dreary. With online racing and drop-in/drop-out co-op, Monumental has really outdone itself in the multiplayer department and coupled with the array of solo modes on offer, this is quite possibly the most definitive MotoGP yet. You'll be playing it for ages, especially with the free DLC offering the following season's fresh liveries, bikes and riders at a later date, as usual.
If you get bitten by the MotoGP bug, you'll find a lot of value in the game's achievements, which reward playing each and every aspect of the game thoroughly. Some are predictable grinding cheevos, such as ride 100 miles, 200 miles and beyond, or accumulate 10 minutes worth of slipstream in Challenge mode. Others are a little less dull, like achieving certain milestones in your career and so on. In short, you'll be playing for an exceedingly long time if you want to obtain every one of the game's achievements, so it's a list that's built for longevity – much like the game itself – if nothing else.
MotoGP 10/11 is not only a visual improvement over its predecessor, with rather lovely looking circuits and faithfully recreated bikes and riders, but it's also a more comprehensive MotoGP experience. Fans of the sport will lap it up, while more casual players can ramp up the assists and still find the game a stern challenge. Whether it'll coax you away from more conventional four-wheeled racing fare however, is debatable. And while Capcom and Monumental deserve recognition for addressing the shortcomings and limitations of the last game, there's still plenty of room for improvement in the physics and overall presentation, which is still quite sterile and staid.
MotoGP's bikes sound like angry bees trapped in jam jars, just like they're supposed to, but the music is simply awful and warrants being switched off at your earliest convenience. The commentary meanwhile, is dry, but informative.
A step forward over its forebear graphically, the game's bikes, riders and circuits are suitably easy on the eye and accurately recreated. Stick the camera view to cockpit and turn the camera tilt on, and you'll be swaying all over the place too. Perhaps you'll lose your lunch!
MotoGP 10/11 can be a chore at times and winning a race is incredibly hard, even on the lower difficulties. It's a game that rewards perseverance though, so it really is as playable as your patience will allow. Again, there's improvements in the handling, but it may not be realistic enough for the truly hardcore and too inaccessible for the casual players.
There's a good selection of game modes to choose from and an excellent multiplayer component, but the way in which it's all presented is far too clinical. MotoGP 10/11 could certainly benefit from more style and panache in its delivery, but there's more than enough to see and do once you scratch the surface.
A decent list overall, but one that's comprised of a few too many grinding achievements. The majority actually require genuine skill though, and in some cases near-perfection, like the 'Spick and Span' achievement or winning on Insane difficulty. A fairly balanced list then, that could do with a sprinkling of easier achievements to encourage newbies.
MotoGP 10/11 successfully builds upon the last game in the series with improved visuals, overhauled handling and physics and new modes that make this the most comprehensive in the series yet. However, it still feels like MotoGP has a way to go before it really comes into its own. MotoGP 10/11 is good, but still a few laps away from achieving greatness.