SBK-07 Superbike World Championship Preview (PS2)

Is there room for two circuit-based motorcycle racing games? SBK-07 is on track to provide a serious challenge to the long-running MotoGP series.

Itís been around five years since Italian developers Milestone produced their last game based on the World Superbikes championship for Electronic Arts. But last years road-based Super-Bikes was preparation for a return to the world of officially-licensed bike games, with SBK-07 the first product of a five year deal.

All the official teams and riders are included Switch to the on-board view for the most authentic experience

The World Superbike champion differs from the MotoGP series by featuring production-based machinery, more similar to bikes that anyone can walk into a dealership and buy. Although that similarity is mainly based around the frame and profile of each bike, as the engines, chassis, suspension and brakes are modified to achieve around 210 horsepower and just around 200mph. And for long periods, the series equipped itís prototype-based counterpart in certain countries, based on closer racing, and enormous success for British riders including Carl Fogarty (four times champion), Neil Hodgson (champion in 2003), and current title hopeful James Toseland (champion in 2004). It also offers fans two Superbike races on each race day, doubling the action and points totals for riders.

The game itself features all the riders, teams and circuits being raced in the 2007 season, and gives fans the chance to visit Britainís Brands Hatch for the first time in a bike game for several years. All are recognisable, with race trucks parked in the correct spots, and changes in the elevation and camber of the track surface playing a part in getting round successfully. The riders and bikes are also nicely reproduced, with flames from the exhaust simulating what happens when excess fuel gets burnt during racing. Luckily the sound of the Italian V-Twin Ducatis, and four-cylinder Japanese bikes are also fairly authentic, and even on the PS2 preview build, everything moved along at a fair rate without any problems, even with a full field of bikes. Thatís whether you choose the onboard, or behind bike views.

It's important to test the brakes The handling of SBK allows you to show off when you're winning

Handling is based on Super-Bikes and again treads a line between simulation and arcade. Difficulty and realism is tweaked with a wide range of rider options, including braking power, traction control, rider and bike damage, and also the effects of race rules and heading off track. Bikes respond well at speed, although the brakes and slow speed turning do seem a little sluggish in this preview. And, as always, you need to get into bike mode and take greater care in maintaining corner sped and avoiding contact than you would on four wheels. Particularly with rider damage on!

Thereís no street racing or other gimmicks to distract you from the serious business of racing, with options to jump into a quick race, try a whole race weekend, or compete in a whole season. And fans will be happy that qualifying includes the traditional Superpole one-lap challenge for the top 16 grid positions.

Rain makes life difficult, especially on two wheels With the full rules switched on, it's possible to jump the start

Even in preview form, SBK-07 offered a lot of decent racing action, and some small handling tweaks and a little bit of attention to camera views and polish could see this challenge for top spot in the bike world when the PS2 and PSP versions arrive shortly, with the Xbox 360 and PC team-mates coming soon after.

Top game moment:
Racing away from the first grid, front wheel rising into the air, and into Paddock Hill bend at Brands Hatch for the first time.