Monday, March 28, 2011

Review: MotoGP 10/11

Capcom and Monumentals' latest offering in the MotoGP franchise is upon us. The imaginatively titled MotoGP 10/11 comes roaring into view with promises of giving us a true depiction of the hi-octane world of bike racing, with added thrills and, in my case at least, a whole lot of spills. But does the game deliver and stand atop the podium drenched in champagne or does it crash on the first corner and slide to a gravelly death? Lets find out.

I'll start by saying this was a whole new experience for me and, to be fair, I was worried about the transition from the relative safety of the four wheeled racing world to the downright precarious two wheeled one. Thankfully my fears were dampened slightly upon firing the game up and being greeted with the old faithful difficulty settings screen. The options range from a setting for those who have never graced a racer before upto to the elite MotoGP veterans out there. Each difficulty level will set your racing assists accordingly, all of which can then be gradually removed as you progress and become more at home upon your racing machine.

So, I opted for one difficulty level up from Beginner, donned my shiny new leathers, strapped on the helmet and hit the track.....literally. In my experience you can generally tell when a game developer has managed to pull off the simulation aspect of a racing game by how much time you spend during your first few races trying to get back onto the track and true to form for the first twenty minutes it felt like I was playing MotoGP off-road. The handling on the bikes certainly takes some getting to grips with, easing on the front brakes (right trigger) on the approach to corners then tweaking the manoeuvre with subtle nudges on the rear brakes (x button) for example took some getting used to, as did leaning into and out of the sweeping bends and vicious hairpins along the track, but it's a great credit to Monumental just how quickly this all becomes second nature and before long I was riding like I was born for the job. Well, I at least had a lower proportion of gravel and sand in my diet.

Graphically MotoGP 10/11 is solid, sure, there's nothing here that's going to make your jaw drop but all the bikes and riders look nicely realistic, the trackside scenery, when you can break concentration long enough to take any of it in is pleasant enough, a ferris wheel here, a grandstand there. There's also a choice of weather conditions, namely sunny or raining, okay not a vast choice there but the latter certainly looks effective as you rip along the track through clouds of spray thrown up by other riders. One area though that this game truly excels is in giving the player the feel of true speed across the tarmac. When you open the throttle on a long straight the combination of camera vibration, blur and sound is utterly stunning! You could be forgiven for checking your teeth for bugs after experiencing it for the first time.

Audio-wise the game really packs a punch. Each of the different classes of bike sound brutally realistic, a cacophony of whines and growls ring out through the speakers as they eat up the track and when you've twenty five of them hurtling through the race it's a wonderfully immersive experience. This incredible marriage of speed and sound combine beautifully to get the players adrenaline pumping.

In terms of game modes on offer all the usual suspects of the racing genre are present. Chances are that most of your time will be spent in career mode. Here you start life as a lowly unknown newcomer to the bike racing world. You get to pick your team name, bike and colours before kicking off in the 125cc class. The aim is to gradually progress from 125cc up through the Moto2 league until reaching the dizzying heights of the MotoGP bikes. This is achieved by winning races and building reputation. Reputation increases via acts like slipstreaming and riding clean sections to completing little in-race challenges. For example you'll sometimes be given an opposing rider to try and intimidate, a few little nudges as you go side to side usually does the trick and enhances your own rep. A co-op partner can dive in to join your racing team via split screen at any point on the journey from zero to hero which is a nice feature, it's just a shame it's not possible online. Another very enjoyable side of career mode is the management. Between races you can spend a little time hiring and firing staff such as PR people to improve your finances and bring in sponsorship and engineers who can be set to work upgrading various aspects of your racing machine. It all adds that little bit more depth to proceedings and sets career mode apart from the others on offer here.

World championship is basically career mode minus the management side, also all the bikes and riders are unlocked from the off with this one. Time Trial does exactly as you'd expect by challenging you to rack up some seriously quick runs around the various tracks and make yourself famous for five minutes on the online leaderboards. We have challenge mode which harks back to a bygone age of motorbike racers as a clock continually counts down as you race from checkpoint to checkpoint. Lastly we have the online racing. Upto twenty players in a game is a mouthwatering prospect but unfortunately at the time of writing the most i've been in a game with is six, although i'm very pleased to report the whole experience was entirely free from lag and even with the reduced number of competitors it still held a nice air of tension and gave me a whole lot of fun.

The game isn't without it's flaws of course, at times collisions with AI riders will send you sprawling across the tarmac like a rag doll while they'll nonchalantly speed away as though they've just swatted a fly from their visor, there's a slight feel of rubberbanding as well which detracts a little from the overall sim appearance the game gives off and be sure to turn down the music volume, that'll begin to grate after approximately 4.2 seconds believe me

So all in all MotoGP 10/11 has opened my eyes to a new realm of adrenaline fuelled, edge of the seat racing. As far as bike racers go it's surely got to be at the top of the tree and I'd even go as far as to say it can comfortably compete within the racing genre as a whole, there's just so much enjoyment within this game, the career and online modes provide the much needed longevity while single player and challenge modes take care of the quick fix.

If you're already a fan of the MotoGP franchise then chances are this latest title has already found a home within your games collection but if you're new to the bike racing world and unsure about whether to gamble on Monumentals' latest creation then I'd strongly urge you to take the plunge, this is a game that leaves the player smiling, thrilled, completely on edge and thirsting for more and that's exactly how it should be after a MotoGP session.

*Reviewed on Xbox 360