Don’t Stop Believin’
With the release of MotoGP ’08, the MotoGP franchise changed hands from to Milestone Srl (who went on to release games in the SBK series) to Monumental Games. Something difficult to quantify was lost in the transition, however. It’s sort-of like what happens when the lead singer of a band is replaced. The bass drum may have the name “Journey” emblazoned across the front, but something just seems off. That said Monumental has worked hard to continue the good work Milestone left behind, and MotoGP 10/11 shows a marked improvement over last year’s effort.
For the uninitiated, MotoGP is a series that aims to give motorcycle racing fans the same kind of virtual treatment their automotive inclined brethren receive on a regular basis. Car racing fans feast on Need for Speed this and Gran Turismo that while fans of two-wheeled racers subsist on a much more meager diet, without the luxury of differentiating between sim and arcade racers. Although not strictly a simulator, this game delivers.
For starters, all bikes are unlocked from the beginning. That means that if you want to jump onto a GP class crotch rocket and hurtle yourself down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, there’s nothing stopping you. Seasoned players will appreciate this addition, especially since last year’s entry lacked this time-saving feature. Those familiar with the series will also recognize the returning game modes: Championship, Time Trial, Challenge, Career, and Online.
Championship mode allows players to live vicariously through their favorite driver, battling their way through a full season in an attempt to take the gold. Time Trial pits gamers against themselves and their track of choice, allowing the player to choose between custom machines in their own garage and the licensed vehicles the pros ride. Challenge mode is, as the name suggests, not for the faint of heart, as it pits you against the clock. Smooth driving awards a few precious seconds on an ever-dwindling clock and bragging rights for being able to outlast everyone else on the leaderboard.
Career mode, where most of the single-player time will be spent, carries over the innovative additions from 09/10. Every race consists of a practice session, a qualifying session, and finally the actual race day. You’ll be graded for each of these sessions from A to E, depending on your performance. You’ll be awarded points for things like overtaking, slipstreaming, and staying on the track, and you’ll lose points for being overtaken, causing collisions, or using the game’s “Second Chance” feature. Second Chance is like the rewind feature from GRiD that allows a player to repeat a section of the track should they take a turn too wide or get clipped by the AI. Inexperienced players might find it useful as turn-in and braking points are much different on a bike, even if you think you know the track from previous experience in other games. Your crew chief will also task you with random objectives to be met within certain sections of the track (maintain XX average speed, stick to the racing line, etc.), which will also affect your final grade.
Every race awards you experience points, which in turn, awards you new perks like upgrades and sponsorships. The way these are handled, though, is where things get interesting. After a certain level you’re tasked with choosing a marketing manager to handle the branding and secure sponsorships for your team. How well this team member performs will depend on their individual level (a Level Four marketing manager will get better deals than a Level Two manager) and the same goes for other team members, like engineers. You also have to keep in mind that all the extra people on your team will be paid on a regular basis, meaning that you have to make sure that your budget will allow for research into chassis upgrades and engineer Becky’s salary. Better driving also awards you a better reputation, which in turn allows you to add more slots to your team. This allows for more freedom to allocate resources as you see fit, providing you have enough money to keep the team afloat. This adds another layer of realism to what might otherwise have been a pretty standard career progression.
The difficulty ranges from easy to what even the game’s developers admit is “insane,” tasking players with managing both a manual transmission and two sets of brakes. Gamers who are used to the relative simplicity of car racing games might feel more comfortable with a few assists turned on, while more experienced players will be able to enjoy the challenge of trying to stay on the track of their own will. The handling model, while not entirely “sim,” should be satisfying for anyone, and those willing to take off the training wheels are in for a wild ride. Tire wear, an ‘assist’ that can be toggled on and off, is especially important, as is driving smoothly. Throttle happy driving at the beginning of a race will result in uneven tire wear and severely reduced stability near the end the race. On the down side, collisions that might end in a horrific accident in a real-life race often fail to produce any incident at all. The sense of danger isn’t as visceral as the motorcycle racing in Project Gotham Racing 4. This works to shatter the illusion a bit, but shouldn’t be game-breaking by any stretch.
Visually, MotoGP 10/11 is appealing but not mind-blowing, with a few nice particle effects and clean driver animations. Some of the tracks are lacking a few details, such as tracks that have alternate configurations (Twin Ring Motegi, Mugello, etc.). The bits of tarmac that connect those sections are absent from the tracks in-game, though it should also be noted that there aren’t any alternate configurations for any of the tracks that are available either, so this is only a small issue. The amount of options in career mode means that the player has to spend a considerable amount of time navigating menus and, while they’re serviceable, they lack the polish and flow you might expect from other developers in the genre. The sound effects are well-captured, though the engine sounds seem a bit tinny. The music isn’t too intrusive, but it is also forgettable, which is perfectly fine.
Should you decide to take your skills online, you’ll find a myriad of options here too, with races that support up to twenty players simultaneously. You can also watch should you choose not to participate.
All things considered, MotoGP 10/11 turned out to be fairly decent if not altogether impressive. The career mode alone should keep even the most seasoned of players occupied for a considerable amount of time, not to mention the online portion of the game. We hope that in the next installment Monumental will be able to capture some more of what made previous (and other) games in the genre so enjoyable, while improving upon the already sound foundation they’ve laid.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Tracks missing some minor detail. Otherwise handsome. 4.0 Control
Functional, if not a bit complicated at times. If you’re coming from car racing games it’ll take some getting used to. 2.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is forgettable in a good way. The engine sounds are a bit tinny. 3.8 Play Value
There’s plenty to do outside of career mode, and there’ll be free DLC as soon as the season starts. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best