After a small delay, MotoGP 15 is finally ready to take out for a spin. The last iteration, and first to hit next-gen systems, took a number of steps to refine and expand the franchise. So, with a flurry of new features and modes this time round things could only improve, right? Read on to find out.
Game: MotoGP 15
It’s fair to point out two things from the get-go. Firstly, my knowledge on the sport is far more limited than most. Sure I’ve played plenty of racing games of the two-wheel variety but I’ve rarely show much interest in the ins and outs of the actual sport itself. Secondly, I’ve discovered in spite of my ignorance, that motorbikes can be unwieldy, dangerous and tough to master. So as I talk about MotoGP 15, you should know that I delved into it as a lover of solid, immersive video games, little more. With that being said, Milestone’s racer is very much a mixed bag, often teetering on greatness but sometimes leaving me feeling hollow and detached from a sport that clearly offers so much.
The visuals are something I can’t really fault too heavily. The models are decent and animations look realistic enough, especially head movements as you look behind and lean into corners – they really help alleviate a lot of the static models from previous games. Courses on the other hand, weren’t quite as pleasing to look at. With these kinds of games we’ve just come to expect a superior level of polish that MotoGP doesn’t quite match compared to other racing titles. It’s effective without impressing, and that’s probably the fairest way to describe how the game looks.
It’s good that the player models fit the bill, especially because of a whole host of customisation options for riders this time around. Throughout the game’s career mode you’ll be able to tweak your appearance and bike, plus after starting out as a wildcard you’ll be head hunted by one of the official licensed teams or given the opportunity to start your own sponsored team. Eventually, as you might expect, you’ll race in events dotted around a calendar and earn a virtual currency that allows you to unlock more superficial goodies whilst leveling up.
In an effort to make the career mode more interesting from the get-go, racing with a degree of success affects how team and sponsorship negotiations pan out and once you’re in the swing there’s actually a lot to like about how it’s all presented. Pre-race you’ll be put into a team trailer that acts your main menu hub. Here you’ll be able to see various information, tweak your bike setups and prepare for your next race and it all looks superb. Same goes for the pre-race garage that offers similar presentation as you sweep from bike to wall calender as opposed to your typical vertical text menu; it’s not anything ground-breaking, but it still feels refreshing and engaging.
When it comes to the actual racing itself, Milestone have clearly had an awkward balancing act on their hands, which thanks to a lot of menu customisation options, turns out pretty well depending on how you like to play. More hardcore fans of the sport may choose to go the whole hog with manual gearing and dual braking, whilst adjusting to a more arcade-like setup is far more forgiving. Hitting every apex to perfection and mastering passing maneuvers is genuinely tough, but the appeal here to master such techniques is high and ultimately rewarding.
It’s not perfect by any means; contact with other racers doesn’t quite produce the results a real-life collision would. In fact, it’s far more arcadey in that respect. It’s easy to understand though, given the learning curve, that the devs may have chosen to forfeit some realism in favour of enjoyable gameplay. I found there can be a lot more of a methodical approach adopted here than you might find in car racing games; I found it a nice change of pace in comparison.
Where MotoGP 15 misses a trick is in the actual race presentation itself. There’s so much excitement around any kind of top-tier racing, but sadly none of it found its way here. Race commentary is merely a few generic sentences before and after the race, and the buzz that’s so apparent just before the wheels start spinning was genuinely flat and uninspiring. Maybe I take it for granted having played other sports titles such as the excellent NBA2K series, that deliver that ‘experience’ to near perfection. It’s a shame because the gameplay can be exhilarating at times, yet I never felt immersed in the sport as a whole during my time in game.
The other new modes ‘Beat the time’ and ‘Real Events 2014’ offer some extra content to wade through outside of the career path. The first gives you a pre-set bike and asks you to see if you can break time records on each of the official tracks. The second has a bit more depth but essentially lacks long-term interest. As you might have gathered from the title, you’ll be able to relive certain moments of the past real-life season, which may hit a chord with fans to a certain extent, but once you’ve played through there’s little reason to go back again.
MotoGP 15 builds upon last years effort in a number of subtle, and some not-so subtle, ways to bring you a solid and detailed racer. Needless to say, with full licensing and a great feel on track, Milestone continues to show us their obvious passion and dedication to sport. The furore and excitement of race day is sadly absent, which would have taken the game to another level, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that MotoGP fans will sense that passion in the gameplay itself and will discover what is ultimately a engaging ride.