I find that some of the hardest games to review are the ones that are yearly updates. So essentially, sports games, those more than the latest Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, purely as one genre tries to do something majorly new with each new release even if it doesn’t work whilst the other can be a slow evolution over years.
This means that at times despite some behind the scenes improvements and minor new additions, they can feel little more than just a roster and graphical update. When you get down to sports where the fanatic is the target rather than a larger crowd, it becomes even harder to look at.
Case in point! The MotoGP games. I have liked these games over the year, often finding them a bit more accessible than the SBK series, yet lovers of two-wheeled racing will scream until they are blue in the face that I am wrong and SBK is where it is at.
I don’t know much about bikes either, I have never ridden one, nor do I actually fancy riding one either, but again I am told that the physics of MotoGP aren’t realistic and again SBK is the better option.
Yet, here I am having spent a good few hours with MotoGP 15 on Xbox One finding myself not particularly caring about all that. I am not going to go into detail about how the bike reacts with the track and whether or not it is the most realistic option. Instead I am coming at this from a casual fan’s point of view, as I am sure there are other reviews out there to cater to the hardcore.
The first issue I tend to have with the MotoGP series is that I predominately play racers of the four-wheeled kind. Y’know F1, Project Cars, Project Gotham Racing, Forza, Gran Turismo, Burnout, etc. This causes an issue with controlling the bike, as you need to learn each and every time the differences to taking a corner on a Superbike, compared to a car.
The same rules apply in essence, you need to enter slow and leave fast, but it is the angle of entry that will get me every time I jump into a new game. Cornering is a lot more subtle on a bike it seems so using the same out-braking maneuvers I would in an F1 car are totally lost here.
That window of you braking late to get an advantage, but not too late you cannot hold a corner is so minuscule that it can feel non-existent. However you do learn where it is and can use it to your advantage, but again you need to understand that even on tracks you know from other games, the corners you can do this on differ again.
Now I am not afraid to admit that I use aids in MotoGP, I don’t play on hard and try pretty much to make this more of an arcade experience, because at the end of the day, gaming is fun and for me to approach this as I do car racing sims, would just cause me no end of frustration.
Luckily MotoGP 15’s difficulty options cater for that. This can be as easy or as difficult as you want it. I set the braking options to automatic, so the AI decides if I am using the front or rears brakes and it is the same with body position and other minor things too.
The fact is you can turn all these options on and off at your leisure, so if you feel the game is now getting too easy, or you are happy you have learned the track and how to take corners properly, you can turn off the braking aids and try to learn the front and rear balances yourself.
Again, I cannot comment on how realistic this all is and whether or not the ‘all aids off’ option is a faithful recreation of real racing but for me, a casual player of this game, my balance is spot on. The AI difficulty means I feel like I am in a race and I can enjoy the race for being just that, rather than micro-managing every aspect of a bike.
There is a hell of a lot of content available too, giving you the options to go through a full career starting at Moto3 before moving through the ranks to eventually joining MotoGP and the elite. There are also standalone championships for all race classes should you fancy that, as well as new mode called 2014 Real Events, that allows you to relive some of the famous moments from the 2014 season. Similar to what you now expect in real world based sports games.
One last area that has really blown me away are the visuals. MotoGP 15 looks stunning, as the game has used proper motion capture to make the riders feel more alive than they have ever been before, they just feel less robotic on the bikes.
This transfers too, to the replays. I remember when MotoGP came out on the original Xbox and it just looked amazing for the time. TV style replays that looked so real to my younger eyes and with the latest game I am getting that feeling again.
I completed a race and had the replay running, at which point my partner looked up from her book and asked why I was watching motorbike racing on the TV. She had to take a close look to see it was a video game.
Now, I am not stupid (well not all the time) and I know there is a distinct difference between how this looks like a game and how the real thing looks. Yet the gap is getting smaller and smaller and double takes are needed at times, especially from a glance up at a screen.
Racing games will always lead a new generation when it comes to visuals and MotoGP has made its way near the top of the pack as a game to show off how far we have come.
Is this a game for everyone? No, not a chance, but knowing you can fiddle with it to get a great personalised experience means everyone can give it a go and not feel totally alienated.