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MotoGP 09/10 (X360)

MotoGP 09/10 (X360)

MOTOGP 09/10 Review

MOTO GP 09/10 Review

When it comes to car based racing games enthusiasts are spoiled for choice. Arcade style racers, demolition derbies, huge technical simulations that require an understanding of complex mechanics to get the most from… They’re all there. Motorbike fans aren’t so lucky, almost as if some kind of mechanical Animal Farm logic was in place – four wheels good, two wheels bad. It’s a terrible prejudice, especially considering the fact that the speed and danger of motorbike racing makes it perfect to transfer into the virtual gaming world. Yet those who have tried have yet to make anything that satisfies both the genuine fan and someone who just wants some high speed thrills.

The Moto GP series has had a good bash at it with mixed results, which isn’t surprising given that the people behind it have been chopped and changed too as Capcom quest to find that balance. This time it’s Monumental Games that will be looking to see if they can give the biker crowd what they want while at the same time opening a niche sporting interest to a wave of new players… It’s always a tall order but with a recent drop in price to £20 it has a strong value aspect going for it already.

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Immediately it’s clear that anyone wanting a technical simulation in the same mould as Gran Turismo is going to be disappointed. The focus is very much on arcade racing. Beginning with a pre-built set of difficulty levels that have attached to them some not very technical labels – gentle being the easiest and insane being the most difficult – we have an indication of what to expect. Not that such arcade dynamics is a bad thing of course.

Sure, there’s some moderate tinkering that can be done but the effect is minor, altering traction control for example actually makes little to no visible difference on the easiest levels; the game is forgiving enough. Hurtling down a stretch of track at breakneck speeds doesn’t really convey the same sense of excitement when a player knows that they can break and slow down in a fraction of a second regardless of how fine-tuned their bike is. So, while this technical jargon might be something of a crowd pleaser, how it translates into the game mechanics makes little perceptible difference.

So it is safe to dispel any notion that this is a simulation yet that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If a player can think of it like a more accessible version of something they already know and love, then the game has a lot of appeal and can be a lot of fun. All the bikes are implausibly fast and stable, allowing even a novice player to smash track records set by their real life racing counterparts. This is an old-school arcade racer at its core once past the few bells and whistles it has on the outside and it’s no bad thing. Anyone who isn’t a fan can pick this up and grasp the concepts behind it without needing to know who is who and what is what. The racing simple speaks for itself.

It’s a game that even on the tougher settings clearly doesn’t want to enrage players by being overly difficult. It is extremely difficult to crash, even when clipping barriers or other bikes and the game helpfully displays a glowing line that represents the best path to follow to ensure the fastest times. This can be deactivated if that’s a bit too much in the way of assistance but the developer’s intentions are quite clear. This is a pick up and play racer that doesn’t want to risk driving (no pun intended!) anyone away once they’ve discovered it. Any experienced racers are going to find this a doddle and, in truth, we did too. It’s not that something like this can’t be fun but it took a long while into the game before we’d lost a race or even come across something that felt like a challenge. Once that arrived, the game suddenly got a lot more interesting.

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The one thing that does really stand out and add something to the proceedings is the AI, which has to be complimented. In racing games it’s all too often a matter of the drones that ride around at mid-tier speeds on their own, still managing to crash, versus the super-android that bobs and weaves implausibly through traffic without the need to break. Here, it represents what a Moto racer has to deal with, packs of bikes obscuring their path and forcing them to time their moves with precision. This would feel even more dangerous and realistic if the collision detection wasn’t generous to a fault but it’s at the start of races when it most feels like it’s real. While the AI might not pose too much of a challenge when it comes to podiums, they certainly do their part to make it look accurate.

The game features the few obligatory modes that feature in almost any racing title, the meta-narrative that effectively holds together a string of individual races that alone would be seen as repetitive and fruitless. In Championship Mode players pick a racer, go through the divisions starting with 125cc and then eventually unlock the real deal, a full season featuring all the real life tracks on the big bikes. The Career mode is probably the most appealing to the diehards, trying to bring elements of Formula 1 Manager to the table. Here, a player can create their own rider and team as well as putting together staff who help maintain the vehicle or grab better sponsorship deals. A nice touch is the reputation rating that rewards those who race flamboyantly and penalise those who are… Well, awful. This bonus attracts better staff, more money and better equipment. It’s not exactly detailed to the point where it mirrors real life but what it does the other modes doesn’t is bring about a handicap that adds a challenge to the game that is much needed. This mode is probably the best way to play the game.

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Real life tracks have been recreated near perfectly and will be instantly recognisible to fans. The racing animations are also nicely defined, with suits rippling in the slipstream and the biker visibly tucking in round corners. The rare crashes that occur that have a decent enough physicality to them yet it is clear, in the interests of good taste, they haven’t wanted to push the envelope in this department.

The deliberate decision to have the tracks using one palette and the bikes and racers another contributes to the arcade feel of the proceedings. The vivid colours on what the player controls contrast nicely with the muted greys and bleached blues of the racecourses and allows that extra bit of focus. It of course detracts from any photo-realism that people might have been hoping for but it does give the game its own unique look and feel to it.

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When it comes to titles such as these people want sound that conveys what they would experience down at the track. A loud authenticity that enables one to smell the oil is always welcome and in this department the game falls short. The bikes seem to have little noticeable difference between each other, seeming to operate on the rather simple premise that the more powerful they are the deeper the generic revving noise needs to be.

There is a commentator that chimes in with some throwaway statements and in the grand scheme of things the game doesn’t really require him. Racing is about focus and intensity and having someone pop up from time to time in a Scottish accent can break that spell.

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While it’s safe to say that bike enthusiasts will be left wanting something a bit more, judging the game on its own merits as a racing title would lead anyone to come to a favourable conclusion.

It balances the modernity of the setting with a simplistic approach that has a real retro appeal and the game isn’t going to put off anyone who comes to this unsure of what to expect. Anyone with a childlike grasp of what it is to be on a superfast motorbike is going to be overjoyed at what they find.

The game modes extend that novelty value beyond any shelf-life it may have had, especially the career mode which might play like a simplistic sub-game between races, yet it does more than enough to give it all some meaning and reduce the potentially repetitive nature of racing titles in general. The graphics have a unique look compared to the raft of other racing titles out there and were it not for the slightly disappointing sound it could be called a highly polished package.

Even though the subject matter might lead people to think different, this isn’t a game for bikers. This is a game for gamers, which is no bad thing considering the competition they are up against. No new records here then, just a solid showing as we go round the track once more.

Gameplay 80/100

Pick up and play arcade racing that’s fast, furious and fun if a little too forgiving.

Graphics 83/100

Accurate reconstructions of tracks and a respectable level of detail throughout, the palette gives the game a unique feel.

Audio 70/100

The sound seems to lack variety and realism, an area for improvement in the next refresh.

Value 85/100

At the new low price of £20 this Moto GP 09/10 is well worth a punt for the casual gamer.

(Not an Average)

This instalment doesn’t offer anything new or exciting outside of a solid racing title. It plays great but fans of the sport will be looking for something more than this.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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