Moto GP Review
Moto racing games have always been popular among gamers. I believe that it was the Road Rash franchise that started out the whole trend of motorcycle racing, but it certainly wasn't a simulation game. As time went by hardware became more enhanced and it had software that went along with it. Today we have escaped the 16-Bit world and we no more play pixilated videogames, but instead play games that consist of polygons, thousands and thousands of them embedded into atmospheres and other structures surrounding a certain game. With this new technology of course comes much more powerful and realistic look visuals, giving developers all of the freedom they could ever want in order to create the best looking game possible. PCs are of course overpopulated with games of all kinds of genres, and some that we have never thought of before. The PC had introduced flight simulators, online strategy games, first person shooters and Strategy/RPGs, but has the home computer also introduced motorcycle racing? You bet ya', without the power of the PC we would never have the ability to play a game like Superbike 2000 or 2001 which are arguably the greatest moto sims ever created, and to this day we haven't really seen any good simulation motorcycle games like Superbike 2000/01, but with the release of the Playstation 2, we now have videogaming technology almost as powerful as a souped up PC to create sim games like Superbike 2000, and the first company to do so is Namco. Porting their well known arcade racer GP 500, Moto GP is the same game with a new name, and of course new features and what not. See how the PS2's very first motorcyle game did in my review.
Using the same engine as Ridge Racer V, Moto GP in no way disappoints, but it is a bit far from being perfect, visually speaking of course. First thing's first, with the use of the RRV engine, that means pretty much means that anti-alising was not used and it really shows, in the backgrounds that is. When racing furiously at speeds up to 190 MPH, you look at the railings to the side of you, or the out-line of where the "out of bounds" area of the track is, you will surely notice some very "jagged up" lines, but the riders and bikes on the other hand don't show much lack of anti-aliasing, if I didn't know better I'd say that they were anti-aliased, but I somehow doubt that. The environmental textures like trees look quite similar to the trees in Ridge Racer V, which I really wouldn't call ironic at all, after all both games use the same graphics engine. The atmosphere itself such as the railings, fences, and every other texture outside of the gameplay field (ads, poles, etc.) look solid but are noticeably jaggy. As for the biker detail, the bodies look incredibly real, looking at replays of the game and paying attention to the sweet detail that Namco paid to the biker detail, you will really be impressed with how pretty and fine the bodies are. The bikes themselves are solid, incredibly detailed to the very end, tires, suspension and the bike tilting up and down as you hit the brakes and acceleration. With 21 characters racing on one track, you'd expect the frame rate to slip, right? Nope, the frame rate remains slick and smooth, even at two player races.
A simulation approach with a touch of arcade action is exactly what Moto GP is. It's very weird for me to call this game an arcade and simulation game but it's very true. We will start with the sim aspects; instead of just eating a turn without hitting the brakes, the gamer has to be very precise with where he/she would hit the brakes in order to successfully make a turn, without hitting the sand, so those who are very fond of a game like Superbike 2000/01 will have no trouble adjusting to the control and physics of the game. Speaking of physics, every bike handles and maneuvers individually and features each strength and weakness. All of the bikes feature four stats, Acceleration, Handling, Speed and Braking, of course every single one of them is an important factor for winning races, although I think that Braking and Acceleration are the two prime points in bikes. Since you would rarely reach top speed in stages speed isn't the most important, but you still need a good amount of it for some of those speed strips found in a few tracks, and handling is a must but if your speed is low enough and your acceleration is powerful you'll be able to zip out of a turn in no time. Just think about it and you will agree that acceleration and braking are two most important aspects of a bike. There are also over 20 real world FIM racers that appear in the game with over 15 bikes including Suzuki's, Yamaha's, Repsol's and Honda's. The five real world tracks include Jerez, Suzuka, Donington Park, Paul Ricard and Motegi, all set in real locales such as Great Britain, Japan, and France. And the final aspect in simulation is the sim mode itself, before starting a race you will be asked to make your final choices such as tweaking your bikes performance and turning the simulation feature on or off, leaving it OFF will not count damage towards the bike, while turning it ON will show damage to the bike and affect performance.
It's a bit hard to look at the game and point out its arcade qualities, but they are certainly there. For one, you can't pop a wheelie, although the rider would on occasion do that automatically after he breaks out of a sharp turn, the bike won't flip over if you keep pressing the acceleration button. Second, the game is based on the Ridge Racer V engine and it somewhat shows, hardcore moto fans who are into the two wheeled world will be able to spot some of the game's arcade points, but I personally haven't been able to put really spot anything that is incredibly "fake" if you will, maybe the secret stages and some of the secret characters but that's about all. Moto GP's modes include a Season mode, where you select a bike and race with it through a series of four races, Arcade is self explanatory, so is Time Trial, but Challenge is where all of the game secrets are unlocked. By selecting Challenge mode and picking one of the challenges you will be shown what you have to do, and if you complete a certain task you will be awarded either a new bike/rider, photo, track or even secret character such as Klonoa, yes Klonoa, it all depends on what challenge you picked. I 'really' liked Moto GP's fluid gameplay and its great sim gameplay, that was tipped with arcade elements, if you are a bike enthusiast, I suggest giving this FIM endorsed game a look, I thought it was a great game, with a ton of replay value thanks to its very challenging Challenge mode.
Oh yeah baby, a mix of Techno and a tip of bass beats describes Moto GPs soundtrack. Not nearly as great as Ridge Racer V's soundtrack but good nonetheless. The beats at times can be annoying, but more than a majority of the songs are filled with enjoyable tracks, and the moto engines are all very nicely done. Can't really say too much about the audio, the menu track is pretty good and doesn't make navigating the menus annoying at all. An announcer to the game would have been nice, something along the line of Ridge Racer V's announcer, though not as incoherent would have been a good touch. Good sound, nothing really to complain about, but a commentator would have been cool.
Remember, the game is a bit more sided towards the simulation field rather than the arcade perspective, like Namco's Ridge Racer series has been for the past five years. Don't forget that those who are all about speed and never tap the brakes, then this game is not for you, because you are required to use your brakes most of the times while racing in order to achieve a sharper turn, then accelerate out of it and pass a rider to reach a higher spot, so you see how important braking really is. You are given the choice to use either digital or the analog sticks for accelerating, braking and turning your bike, that is a huge plus. The Dual Shock is used but I felt that it needed to be used more, maybe when making a turn and your kneepad is scraping the asphalt, or when you accelerate, little things like that commonly earn big points from me, because it shows that the developer paid a good attention to detail.
In the end, I think Moto GP is one of best motorcycle racing games I have played, that is next to SuperBike 2000/01 that EA Sports has previously released on the PC, and hopefully do the same sometime in the future for the PS2. Moto GP may have some visual flaws to it such as the lack on anti-aliasing, but the rider and bike detail makes up for that, and you can't forget the sim approach to the gameplay, that features very realistic feeling bikes and some of the best replay value found in a racing game to date. Motorcycle enthusiasts must really give this game a look, I think they will be pleasantly surprised.
11/7/2000 Arnold Katayev