MOTOGP 09/10 Review (PS3)

I should probably confess now that the last motorcycle game I played was Road Rash II on the Sega Megadrive, which came out in 1993, and it didn't bode well for my review of MotoGP 09/10 when, upon discovering that you can't punch rivals until they fall off their bikes, or beat them over the head with clubs and chains, I was slightly crestfallen. In fact, if you so much as scrape the paint of a rival's motorcycle in MotoGP, you lose style points.

So, having about as much experience of motorcycles as Jeremy Clarkson, I decided to do a little bit of research into the franchise. I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say that the recent games of the series have been solid, if unspectacular racers with minimal differentiation between the annual releases. Despite the change in developer for this year's iteration, with newcomers Monumental now at the helm, initially it appears that not an awful lot has changed. All the modes from the previous game are present and correct; Championship, Arcade, Time Trial, and Career. And the three types of bike remain unchanged at 150cc, 250cc and MotoGP (800cc).

Now that's an angle
Upon closer inspection, the red streak on the ground turned out to be jam.

Yet it only takes a glance at the screenshots of the previous MotoGP release to realise changes have been made. The visuals are far more vibrant and colourful, and although this doesn't make a difference to the way the game plays, the new look is representative of a shift to a more casual experience. This isn't to say that controlling the bikes is easy. As a complete newcomer to the series I spent most of my first few hours of play either riding through the gravel or sat bemusedly in it. Fortunately, Monumental have provided a few tools to help wide-eyed novices like myself stay on the track.

The first of these is a dynamic racing line, which changes colour from green to white to red depending on whether you should be accelerating, maintaining speed or braking respectively. This is incredibly useful, especially on your first time around a new track. Another inclusion which is perhaps slightly too useful is the “second chance” ability, which allows you to rewind the race after a crash and give that corner you completely missed another shot, yet because there doesn't seem to be a limit to how much you can use it, you could quite feasibly play every race without ever crashing.

Should you decide to ignore your mastery of time, then chances are you will come off the track at some point, and you will be probably be disappointed. Put simply, coming off your bike in MotoGP is downright dull. A few moments after you fall off, your bike and avatar vanish and re-spawn on the track in a very arcade manner. Of course, having Burnout-style crashes in what is supposed to be a simulation would be absurd, but it would be nice if falls were worthy of a replay. Additionally, your rivals appear to be welded to their bikes, as colliding with them rarely results in a spill.

As for the races themselves, they are exciting enough. Getting into a rival's slipstream will enable you to glide past them, but the AI can do the same to you, so keeping an eye on your back is vital to retaining your track position, and when multiple bikes dive into the same corner, things can get truly manic. One of Monumental's biggest innovations is the inclusion of style bonuses. Keeping a perfect racing line or completing a section of the track without veering onto the grass will earn you style points, whereas colliding with a rival or spinning into the gravel traps will incur style penalties. Bizarrely, you can also perform “showboating” manoevers, which involve generally showing off or taunting another racer. These seems a little out of place in the game, as are the “special objectives” which suddenly appear in the middle of a career race, ordering you to perform random feats like hitting your top speed in spite of rapidly approaching a hairpin turn.

The style bonuses are mainly focussed towards the career mode, which I found to be surprisingly engaging after an absolutely disastrous tutorial run. In fact, so poor was my performance I named my team the “No-Hopers”, to which my Scottish manager responded “that's a good name”. This isn't the only time I found myself being mocked by the voiceover. If I came off the track for too long he would yell “This isn't Motocross!”, and after a head on crash into the barriers I would be comforted with “Oh get up, what's wrong with ye?” I just had my spinal cord rearranged at high-speed, that's what's wrong with me.

Barry needed wings to stand any chance of winning this race
You can customise the colour and styling of your bike, helmet and leathers.

Anyway, the career mode is essentially a management simulation in microcosm. Alongside the races you can recruit PR managers to help you gain sponsorship deals, and engineers to upgrade your cycle. Earning style points by racing cleanly and cash by winning races allows you to expand your team and purchase better bikes. By contrast, Championship is essentially a stripped-down career mode, taking you through the race season without all the team-management aspects. Annoyingly though, the MotoGP bikes remain unavailable to you until you complete a season on both of the less powerful machines, which will take up a fair chunk of your time.

MotoGP 09/10 is a solid, enjoyable racer that manages to capture the feel of charging about a track on a Superbike without being inaccessible to newcomers to the series. Aside from the overly sturdy feel of the bikes and riders and having to plug hours into it before being allowed so much as a glimpse of an 800cc bike, there's nothing seriously wrong with the game. It's not exactly spectacular, but if you find four wheels somehow offensive, you'll feel right at home with this.

Top Game Moments:
Getting into a rival's slipstream and gliding past him on the corner. That and winning, of course.