My second review for play.tm and again a tad cringeworthy now, especially as I got one of the dev’s names wrong. Oops.
The Moto GP series of games has become a perennial fixture in the PS2 release calendar for the last five years. Consistently garnering decent reviews, they were fondly recommended by all bikers. The series never quite reached the quality of the X-Box version of the same game, due to having different developers (the X-Box version was developed by Climax while the PS2 version was done by Namco), however it still managed to always hold its own and be a decent motorcycle racing game. Unfortunately, it looks like new developers Capcom have divided opinion slightly in this latest incarnation.
At first glance many gamers will be shocked at just how ugly the graphics are. Yes, the PS2 is no longer cutting edge, but these graphics look like something out of a PS1 game. Capcom surely could have achieved better than this on the visual side of things. Luckily however, it offers enough features to keep most motorcycle racing fans happy. There are 21 racers to choose from, 4 levels of difficulty and 3 methods of racing. The methods break down to arcade mode (which is hard), advanced (which is harder) and simulation (even more difficult). Combine Championship difficulty with the simulation mode, and it’s probably harder than the real thing; requiring godly timing and reflexes. The game does initially guide you carefully through these various, somewhat confusing levels of difficulty however with its tutorial. As soon as you place the DVD into your PS2, it magically (that’s if you count reading data on your memory card as magic) realises you’ve never played it before and puts you into a tutorial. The tutorial then determines from your ability to race, what level of difficulty you should be on. Unfortunately in the tutorial, there is no ability to see the controls, so if you have literally just placed the DVD in the PS2 and not looked at the manual yet, you will suffer and fast. This game is in no way forgiving. In simulation mode you will have to be aware of the risk of wheel spin at all times while racing such as if you take a corner too late. Smoothness is vital in this game. There are less issues around wheel spins in the arcade mode but this is still more sim like than most ‘arcade’ games. Think Forza Motorsport or Toca Race Driver, not Need for Speed Underground.
Moto GP 07 offers 5 different types of race that you can play. It offers the simple ‘quick race’ feature if you just want a quick drive round one of the 18 tracks available, rather than play a championship in its entirety. For speed freaks (and what biker isn’t a speed freak?) there is the time attack mode so that you can compete with yourself to shave those valuable milliseconds off your previous best time. There is also a fairly minimal multiplayer option, with just a 2 player split screen facility available.
Finally we come to the real meat of Moto GP 07, the Championship mode. This offers you either a custom championship or to play the full Moto GP World Championship. This mode can be extremely long, but for motorcycling racing fans it is a dream come true. It offers the player to race through an accurate portrayal of each track within the Championship to the length of 27 laps worth, just like in the real thing. The amount of options is pretty good for this mode as well, you can adjust the types of tyre used, how stiff you want the suspension to be, turning speed, even gear ratios. For a bike petrol head, this is perfect stuff. Also, quite crucially, there are separate front and rear brakes, a crucial thing for any bike game attempting to be realistic.
Unfortunately for a games fan, it is just a bit too demanding in places. The AI racers even on the easy difficulty level are extremely skilled at racing. Combine that with some incredibly challenging qualifying times in the Championship races, and even the most gifted of players will struggle at first. The qualifying times aren’t even accurate compared to the real life times, with many qualification sessions expecting a time of 4-5 seconds faster than the real life equivalent gained by bikers such as Valentino Rossi, and that’s just on the easy difficulty! It just gets harder the higher you go. As overtaking in this game can be so challenging, it is often vital to have pole position when you start a race otherwise you’ll never be able to regain that ground.
There is however one shining jewel in the crown for gamers in Moto GP 07, the challenges mode. This mode is extremely reminiscent of the challenges needed to gain licenses in the Gran Turismo series of games. The challenges range from simple training type ones such as racing around a track while keeping to a set minimum speed, to completing a Championship on Champion difficulty (which will take you many, many attempts to achieve). There are 100 in all and as you complete them, you are rewarded with race pictures of various famous Moto GP racers, as well as the satisfaction that you’ve achieved something. For the average gamer, this is one of the most enjoyable elements of the game as it feels like you are aiming for a specific goal.
To coin a football adage, Moto GP 07 is a game of two halves. For a motorsport or biking fan, this is perfect. It offers all manners of statistics based on the races within the Moto GP Championship, ranging from track lengths to brief bios of the bikers during the loading screens. The physics engine seems realistic and demanding enough to properly emulate motorcycle racing. However, these same features are what create a steep learning curve which may put off some gamers. Many gamers expect an arcade mode within a game to give them a significantly better chance of winning a race, in this game that’s not the case at all and a great amount of concentration is still needed. Also from a gamer’s perspective, the game is extremely shallow. It offers the depth of a world of statistics but doesn’t give the player a chance to create their own biker, or start from scratch as a lowly amateur biker working their way up the ranks. Features like this would have made it much more appealing to a more mainstream audience. A Gran Turismo style garage set up would have made it last a lot longer in the eyes of many gamers, being able to buy better bikes and progress to better races. Earlier games in the series such as Moto GP 3 offered season modes and different engine classes, so it’s a pity Capcom weren’t able to retain this as the new developers of the series. Go for one of those if you’re not really bothered about up to date statistics or total realism.
However, for those with the patience to stick it out and practice, practice, practice, there is a good single player game behind this. Biking fans and purists alike will find plenty to enjoy and keep them busy through the winter months while it’s a bit too cold to go out biking too far. It will certainly be interesting to see how Capcom develop the series for the next installment.