Tries Too Hard To Please; You Try Hard Too Please
Attempting to bridge the gap between arcade and sim motorcycle racing, Moto GP 08 loses something. That “something” is fun.
There are those that feel an arcade racer is too simple and therefore not challenging enough to pursue. On the other hand, some find that sim racing is too time-consuming and difficult to master. It only goes to show that fun is subjective. But there’s one thing that I’m sure most of us can agree on, and that is Moto GP 08 is just not much fun at all, regardless of what style of racing appeals to you. The fault lies in the generic approach to racing, both arcade and sim. The gameplay and the presentation lack personality. There’s nothing unique about this game at all, and most of that can be blamed on Capcom, which took the franchise over. I expect more from Capcom and I’m not going to be happy until I get it.
Moto GP 08 doesn’t lack ambition, it lacks execution. It’s as official as you can get in terms of riders, tracks, and events from the 08 season. Bikes are included from the 125cc, 250cc, and GP classes. Classic and new racing circuits such night drags in Qatar and racing at Indianapolis have been added to the series. In the Career mode you can create your own rider and put him or her up against any of the officially licensed riders included here. Points earned from winning events can be used to upgrade skills and your bike. It’s not easy to earn these upgrades in the more difficult modes, and they are limited to four main features: braking, traction, acceleration, and top speed. One of the main elements should have been handling, since it’s far too easy to lose control of your machine in the Advanced and Sim mode. Just taking a corner can cause you to wobble a little, which ultimately sounds your death knell. Once you begin to wobble, it’s game over. It seems that once it starts, there is no way to correct it. This is not what good racing is all about in my opinion.
The three difficulty levels, or difficulty modes, are Arcade, Advanced, and Simulation. The Advanced mode combines elements of sim and arcade, which you would think would be the best of both worlds, but the only thing it will get the best of is you. Basically, the difficulties do just that, they increase the difficulty. Arcade mode is easy enough to pick-up-and-play, while the Advanced mode is less forgiving. Any mistakes you make will be immediately processed into bad karma, read: Crash. Simulation mode requires that you perform perfectly. It’s this inability to correct your mistakes on the fly that seriously reduces the game’s realism and fun factor.
The A.I. performs in a very predictable manner. It’s like entering a well-choreographed parade formation. They rarely stray from their positions, seldom taking risks or making mistakes. Overtaking positions is like playing a mobile game of Operation, where you try not to make contact with the other bikes that more or less hold their same positions. The collision detection can be incredibly inconsistent when bumping another bike. Sometimes, a mere graze of another bike or rider will send you into the guardrails. Other times, you can practically ride atop your opponent’s helmet. For the most part, you never know what might happen, so it’s best to avoid any and all contact. Because this game features licensed bikes and tracks, there is no damage modeling. If I’m going to be involved in numerous accidents, they should at least look and sound spectacular.
The smaller classes of 125cc and 250cc engines is a great way to start. These bikes are easier to handle in virtually every aspect. They are slower and the response to braking and turning is more realistic. You will receive tips from the in-game tutorial, but the game has to be paused to access the information, which disrupts your concentration and destroys the momentum. But everything you learn is eventually traded in for a ruthless physics model that overreacts to your slightest move. Taking a corner at too fast a speed and at too much of an angle will result in an accident. It’s unfortunate that what constitutes “too much” appears arbitrary. It’s almost impossible to judge these parameters by the sense of speed in the game simply because trying the same moves as the A.I. at the same speeds does not always work in your favor.
Racing modes include Quick Race, Time Attack, Championship, Career, and Multi-player. Career mode only lasts five seasons. Nevertheless, it’s easily the best mode in the game in terms of long-term challenge. On the other hand, the multiplayer mode leaves a lot to be desired. While it will accommodate 12 racers, it’s limited to single, one-off racing. There are no championship modes. Check to see what the server offers in terms of options as you may or may not be able to import your fully upgraded bike into the race. I did experience some latency online but not with my bike or control system. The other racers took time to refresh their positions which had them popping in and out of the race like a stiffly animated anime cartoon (like there’s any other kind). If you experience this, try disconnecting and find another race. When it does work, it’s a lot more fun than racing against the A.I.
No one is going to be impressed with the graphics. This is a PS3 game for crying out loud and it barely eclipses a good PS2 game. There is a general lack of background detail, elements that are inconsequential to the gameplay but very important psychologically to capture the excitement of live racing. Flags don’t furl, crowds are static, courses are sterile, textures are grainy, and to add insult to injury, there are some framerate issues. There is no denying the bikes look fabulous. They are virtually photo-realistic, in some instances even better-looking than showroom condition, and, unfortunately, due to lack of damage modeling, they always look that way. Night riding is done well with spot-on illumination simulation, casting various degrees of intensity commensurate with the position of the lights in relation to the track. While I can’t pretend to know what each bike sounds like, there is enough variation of engine sounds to give each one its own sonic signature. They whine, they roar, and at times, they sound like they’re going to explode. Now if only I could make that happen.
Moto GP 08 lacks an identity. In an effort to be all things to all people, it ends up being not much to anyone.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.2 Graphics
Bikes look amazing but backgrounds are sterile and boring. 3.0 Control
Touchy control system. Difficult physics to predict and correct on the fly. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good variety of engine sounds. Music is generic rock. 2.8 Play Value
Unremarkable racing game with unpredictable and inconsistent control difficulty. 2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.