Get your motor running…. by Colin Thames
June 21, 2006 – I’m sure that I’ll get little opposition calling the Moto GP series one of the best motorcycle racing games available. The last version was packed with features and was tons of fun to play. Moto GP 06 carries on that tradition on the Xbox 360, and while just about every aspect of the series has been improved, this version will be in no danger of being called a classic.
That’s because this version only refines the genre. Even with all of the advanced processing available on the 360, this version is not so different from what might be accomplished on the first generation Xbox. There are some framerate issues, some poor-quality graphics and even some latency in the online modes. While there should be no excuses for such flaws, given the inflated price of the game, they can be overlooked, kind of like picking the anchovies out of your pizza, which will allow you to ravenously ravage all of the features the game has to offer.
Moto GP is all about racing and this version will satisfy your racing jones regardless of the challenge or depth that you demand. First of all there are two distinct styles of racing: Grand Prix and Extreme. The Grand Prix is almost like NASCAR in its complexity. You must negotiate a variety of tracks almost flawlessly in order to progress. Extreme racing features fantasy tracks and is more arcade-like. There are four different difficulty levels to suit any level of player. Those that find they have to start on the easiest level will have the most rewarding experience in terms of skill development and replay value, as long as their interest in maintained. There is a lot of repetition in the more difficult settings as some sections in the course can seem almost impossible to navigate, which means you’ll have to replay these tracks over and over until you burn them into your subconscious.
The Career Mode, available in the single-player version of the Grand Prix races is composed of 17 races on real-world tracks. Points are awarded for your overall position at the end of each race. The rider the accumulates the most points at the end of the series is the champion. Before you take part in a different race you have the option to test the track out. You can practice driving it as long as necessary. On the higher difficulty settings it’s imperative that you memorize the more difficult sections of each track. You will come across sections that include several tight turns in various directions. If you don’t know that they are coming you’ll never be able to anticipate them effectively. Once you feel that you’re ready to rumble you have to qualify for the race. To do so you must come in a certain position or better, at which time you will race against 15 other bikers. The AI is somewhat conservative and even predictable but at least they are more spread out than those in a lot of racing games. They tend to stick to a specific path and seldom take chances or make a mistake. You can expect things to be a lot more exciting online.
Other modes include Quick Race and Time Trials. There are 19 pro riders, each with their own customized bikes which are replicas of famous brands such as Yamaha, Ducati and Kawasaki. Appearance-wise the bikes have different paint jobs as well as sponsorship logos. They have a good sense of physics as they feel solid and respond nicely to the controls. They are extremely fast and that sense of speed is further reinforced by the fast-scrolling scenery. Acceleration is good and the steering is tight, which is essential for cornering. In order to remain a consistent winner you have to take the turns as quickly as possible without losing control. The independent front and rear brakes will help you attain faster cornering. The shoulder buttons access the brakes. Applying the rear brake while accelerating into a turn will help you powerslide, or drift, into it. The front brake is used when you have to slow down quickly and precisely, where sliding is not an option.
In the Extreme mode the bikes are all tricked out, and can be further customized. They range in class from 600cc to 1200cc. Features that you can upgrade include engine performance, tires, suspension, gear ratio, brakes and things to make it more efficient such as weight-reducing parts and nitrous oxide for quick boosts.
A series of challenges, should you accept them, will allow you to acquire more skills and attributes for your rider and machine. By completing these challenges you can improve your cornering, acceleration, braking, speed and overall handling ability. Some of the challenges will have you run a treacherous section of the track within a given time limit. Another challenge is to stick close to the lead rider and do exactly what he does which includes crossing the finish line within a second of him doing so. These challenges are fun but they can be very frustrating. At the worst you might not be able to complete the hard ones but at least the practice will make you a better overall racer – preparing you for the challenges that await online.
Both the Grand Prix and the Extreme modes are available online, with various sub-modes for each of them, as well as difficulty settings. Wait until you see the variety of options available for each and every race. Whatever your skill level, there is a race specifically designed and waiting for you. You don’t have to worry about racing players that are better than you. There is a rating system that gives each player a score somewhere between 1 and 100. The lower the score the better the player. You start out with 100 and go down from there, unless you take on a player with a lower score and lose. Then your rating will increase. Serves you right. However there is no advantage to taking on lesser-ranked players since you don’t receive anything for beating them.
Up to 16 players can take part in the GP races while 10 can enjoy the Extreme mode. Options include number of players, lap count, skill level restriction, collision and the option to include bots to fill any empty slots. There are some novelty races available such as a Tag race in which you attempt to set and hold the record by taking a specific turn the fastest. The Stunt race mode rewards those that can pull off tricks such as powersliding, jumps and wheelies. Despite some delay in the controls the online mode is the showstopper of this title.
There are more than 30 tracks, not including the reverse versions of each. They don’t all look great, in fact many look very similar to last year’s tracks. The weather effects are very realistic as are some of the animations of the riders. The bikes look as solid as they feel and the sound effects really help bring them to life whether they are purring, rumbling or screaming.
Usually games that tend to offer something for everyone, end up being nothing for nobody. Moto GP 06 is an exceptional exception to that rule.
By Colin Thames
CCC Freelance Writer