Fuel for Thought…
MotoGP, as a games franchise, holds a very dear spot in my heart. You see, many moons ago, my late dad was recovering from some surgery. The recovery process involved lots of R&R. Around that time, the first MotoGP game had released on the PS2. So, with a handful of cash from my paper round, I popped into town and bought a copy of MotoGP, knowing my dad was an enormous fan of the real life motorbike racing series, and left my PS2 downstairs for him to enjoy. Within days, he was getting the hang of it, and within weeks, I was struggling to beat him in races. When he sadly passed 8 years later, I found my memory card with the MotoGP save and had a severe pang of nostalgia as I pulled up his lap times once again. A series, then, with a lot of emotional weight behind it even though I’m not the biggest fan of its real life counterpart that much any more.
Twenty years later, and we’re looking at MotoGP20. I’ve reviewed many a racing game on NGB, but it’s been quite a while since I touched anything on two wheels. Booting up the game provided me with a bunch of familiar menus, including the likes of Career and Quick Race. Firing up into the career mode, I was prompted to create my character, and then jumping into the first free practice of the season. And it was about here that I realised that MotoGP20 was more than slightly different to the racers that I’m familiar with, and posing an entirely different challenge!
First up, the handling. Now, naturally a game about bikes will handle hugely differently to the likes of F1 and its four-wheeled brethren. It took me a fair fure races to fully get my head round that, as the responsiveness of the bikes seems to be extremely slow on first glance. Of course, the thing that I was struggling to remember is that I wasn’t controlling the bike, I was controlling the rider. When that finally clicked, the game started to make a lot more sense. Instead of flicking a steering wheel over to immediately change the direction of a car, I was having to haul my rider from one side of the bike to the other, shift the weight across and wrench the bike to the position I needed to in order to get round a corner. It required a huge degree of forward thinking, and I hadn’t taken that into account when I started playing. And the thing is, it’s actually pretty enjoyable! Offering up a substantial challenge, the AI is pretty brutal even at the lowest difficulty settings, leading to a punishing experience which has you coming back for more rather than chewing your fist in annoyance.
One thing that’s undeniably irritating, however, is the fuel economy of the bikes as you progress through the races. You see, the other major difference between MotoGP and F1’s vehicles is the size of the fuel tank. MotoGP has the ability to tweak your settings to limit the amount of fuel consumed as you try and battle your way into first place. I’ll be honest, it took me a fair few attempts to complete a race, simply because I was finding myself running out of fuel with just over a full lap to go, even with the lowest engine settings and heaviest load of fuel possible. Alongside this is a system which details tyre wear in much more detail, focusing on each area of the tyres, including the centre and both shoulders of it as individual areas of concern. This becomes something of a juggling act as the races progress, but as with the handling, you get used to it and the game becomes more engaging as a result.
Of course, a racing game is nothing without tracks. The full 20 circuit season (as well as Donington Park and the Gran Turismo staple Laguna Seca) is replicated in pretty impressive detail. It’s never going to beat the likes of GT Sport’s level of detail, that’s for sure, but there’s obviously a step up from previous iterations, having delved into those a little bit via YouTube and previous reviews. Bikes are well detailed too, but with the obvious lack of visual customisation on some of the licensed bikes, save for a dab of colour here and there. There are a few options to create your own decals and rider numbers, which will be applied, but for the most part what you see is what you get when it comes to the bulk of designs. The game runs at a 60fps too, which is crucial when it comes to racers, but it inexplicably tends to drop in menus and loading screens, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t really an issue.
Career mode is pretty standard fare, with the full season playing out over the 20 race weekends, and you’re able to recruit managers, engineers and other staff to help increase the performance of your bike, as well as negotiate contracts with other teams as the season progresses. I’ll be honest in that I found some of these recruitments a little bit confusing, as it’s not really made abundantly clear what they’re doing up front. However, once you start accruing upgrade points and tweaking your bike in the ways that suit your racing style, it all starts to come into focus that little bit more.
When you’re done with career mode, there’s a new “Historic Mode” available, which allows you to race as classic riders, earn currency and obtain more to build out a collection of teams and racers. It’s sort of an Ultimate Team for bike racing fans. I dabbled in this a little bit, but it’s not really cup of tea, so I pretty much stuck to the career mode. I jumped into some online games before and after the release (which is the reason I held the review for a couple of days) and I’m happy to report that the performance online is solid, with very few moments of frustration in terms of technical issues. Of course, my serious lack of skill brought a bunch of other problems into the mix!