SBK-07 Superbike World Championship Review (PS2)

Like bikes, girls and anachronistic dance music? Boy, do we have the game for you. Like fun? Well, thatís another thing entirelyÖ

Does anyone actually watch the World Superbike Championship? Thatís probably a pretty negative way to start a review, sure, but itís a reasonably valid question in the grand scheme of things. Isnít the Moto GP the popular one? Thatís the one that seems to be on the TV and seems to have been the focus of the most games, at any rate. It also seems to have the most recognisable personalities; even people who arenít bike fans know about Valentino Rossi, but would they recognise James Toseland? One suspects not.

So who does watch it? Thatís an important question, because Milestone have clearly assumed quite a bit about that type of person when developing the SBK 07 game. They like music that sounds like Limp Bizkit partying down with C+C Music Factory, for example. Theyíre not very concerned about presentation Ė either in terms of menus or in terms of actual in-game graphics. And they really, really like grid girls, promotional girls and any other kind of female associated with the race track. A lot.

Itís a little bit uncomfortable, actually Ė not that itís anything new for an industry responsible for titles like Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, but just because theyíre such a focus of the game, and because these are actual photos of women. The fact that the unlockables in the game are simply pictures of girls standing around the pit feels even more like objectification than dressing up fictional polygonal females, for some reason. Then thereís their appearance on not only the title screen, but every single loading screen.

Of course, if looking at scantily clad women while a game loads is your idea of a good time, youíll adore SBK 07 Ė youíll have more than enough loading screens to keep you occupied for a long time. For everyone else, the gameís constant and lengthy loading times are confusing and extremely irritating. Why on earth should it take almost a minute to get to the title screen? Why does it take another 30 seconds to get to the point where you can pick your rider and another 30 before the track loads? It might be excusable if the game were loading itself into cache before the title screen or the rider selection or even the race track itself, but thatís clearly not happening. And after the excellence in streaming shown by titles like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and SSX 3, thatís simply not good enough.

Nor are the aforementioned graphics, for that matter. Itís understandable that Black Bean arenít in the same league as Sony Computer Entertainment America, but no one goes into a racing game looking for God of War II anyway Ė expecting vibrancy and a reasonable resolution on the textures is another matter. SBK 07 is far too bland in that regard.

But then, to be honest, itís a pretty bland game in all regards. Thereís not a lot of personality to the riders or their bikes Ė despite the big name manufacturers associated with them - and the promised ďTV atmosphereĒ is nowhere to be found. Itís the same style of racing game that has been around for the past 15 years, and nothing more. Thereís the usual quick race and championship functions, as well as a few challenges and a weekend race mode, with which you can just practice, qualify and race on your favourite circuit, of which all the official circuits are available to pick from.

If youíre a World Superbike Championship fan, this might just be enough to keep you interested, but for anyone casually interested in a motorcycle game, itís probably not enough; the game occupies an uncomfortable middle ground between simulation and arcade title, which leaves it feeling either irritatingly simplistic or frustratingly difficult, depending on which particular type of game youíre used to. No, thereís not a lot of bike racing games that can be played by anyone not looking for an out and out sim Ė Moto GP and Tourist Trophy certainly arenít for the light hearted, but theyíre far more solid feeling than this effort, which too often feels directionless and vague in its gameplay.

Thatís disappointing really, because the console and the genre could use something more based in fun than perfection. Unfortunately, SBK 07 just isnít that game, because itís just not a lot of fun.

Top Gaming Moment:
Itís hard to pick something that stands out when the game is this interminably bland, though it is worth noting the detectible feeling of achievement when the title page finally loads.