It’s been a great time to be fan of two-wheel action. The current MotoGP season has been an exceptional one so far, and after a couple of years of absence, its signature game is back in an attempt to capture the spirit of that competition. And capture that spirit it does, as MotoGP 13 liberally poaches ideas from other racing franchises in the process.
So you’re fresh off the bike and eager to take the course on. Well that’s fine and dandy. The one thing that MotoGP isn’t, is a story-based simulation of the sport. Grab a vanilla model, customise his colours, numbers and style and hit the track.
No fuss, no muss. It’s refreshing to see styles on offer here, from the signature calm and steady posture of Jorge Lorenzo through to the freefalling hanging-off-of-the-bike position that made Valentino Rossi so dangerous on the track.
While there are a ton of options on offer, the options themselves though are rather light to begin with, as paradoxical as that sounds. Moving onto career mode, it’s amazing that Codemasters hasn’t sent Milestone a cease and desist letter for so brazenly copying their pre-race F1 and Dirt layout.
You’ve got the usual homebase, filled with menus hidden in laptops and appliances that take you through various options, while your bike can be further customised before you take to the track in the garage. It’s a ballsy move, and it’s impossible to ignore. Still, it should have some fans, especially for those players who happen to like that specific gameplay mechanic.
When it comes down to the actual race, MotoGP can be brutally unforgiving. It’s a difficult game, the kind of game that takes the professionalism of being on a crotch rocket with multiple horses under the hood very seriously. Take a corner badly or fail to hit the acceleration on the right straight of the course and you’re looking at possibly costing yourself the entire race, it’s that difficult.
On the one hand, this is the kind of action that could turn potential newcomers away from the franchise. On the other hand, it’s going to keep the purists happy. For those of you who want to follow a distinct line on the track and really feel what all that power can do, this might be the game that you’ve been waiting for. Credit has to be given for the helmet view though. If you’re sick of third-person and don’t mind a little bit of motion sickness, then this view is going to give you one hell of a virtual ride experience.
Hardcore fans will most likely get a kick out of the reputation system, as their progress impacts on their overall standing and unlockable extras. It’s a nice touch, that makes aiming for a first place finish worth the effort especially when you need to repeat races.
In that respect, staying in the lower leagues before ascending to the higher classes is most definitely worth the time and effort. The level of skill between the leagues is immense, and you’ll need every skill possible in order to stand tall alongside the more well-known faces of MotoGP
An aspect of the sport that MotoGP does get right though, are the bike mechanics, is that they feel pretty authentic. If you happen to own a superbike, you’re going to realise that sensation right off the bat. They feel dangerous and lethally quick, but also underpowered thanks to some sub-par sound design that fails to capture the roar of the engine properly. It may sound minor, but when you’re investing time and effort into a game like this, an overlooked detail such as that makes a world of difference.
And while the bikes themselves look fantastic, adorned in all manner of sponsorships and decals, the rest of the game doesn’t match that level of detail. Tracks can look blurry at times as textures get muddied up, the environment around you looks like a rush job and weather effects look several years old.
When it comes to making MotoGP feel like a part of the dangerous sport, Milestone does a superb job. Liveries, commentary, pre-race videos and track setups feel like they were ripped straight from TV, helping to sell the authenticity of the event. Wildcard races that eventually open up to full-on season campaigns to impress potential sponsors help sell the idea, making up for the rather lean content found in the rest of that mode.
Outside of the seasonal driving on offer, there’s the usual quick race, custom tournaments and some decent split-screen action for anyone who doesn’t want to go online. Which might be a good thing, as that aspect of the game disappoints with a sparse selection of gameplay modes.
The main problem here though, is that MotoGP 13 has no real competition in this genre. Without competition, there’s no real drive to be better than adequate, which the game is. Sure, hardcore fans are going to love the game but newcomers are most likely going to be turned off by the hard-as-nails driving and required dedication.
That’s something that Milestone needs to avoid, if they want to make what will most likely be an annual release of MotoGP games better each year. There’s a solid foundation here, but it needs more bricks in order to really be something special.
MotoGP 13 was reviewed by Darryn Bonthuys on a Xbox 360