Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Moto GP full review

I had the pleasure of playing the Moto GP demo a week or so ago and knew this was a game I had to pick up, so I did, yesterday, the day it came out. I walked into GameStop around 6:45 or so, Kingdom Hearts 2 in hand, and traded that bad boy in. They give 30 bucks for it right now, so if you’re sitting on a copy that you’ve beat, I suggest getting rid of it sooner rather than later, while the price is still up. So, I got my 30 buck trade in credit, plus 2 bucks more for the “GameStop” card or whatever, and I used my other 110 dollars of trade in credit toward the 30 dollar or so balance.

I got home, plopped it in, downloaded the update to the 360, darn backward compatibility upgrades, and then restarted. The lode screens are pretty neat, but who cares about that, right? First, a gripe, not a huge one, but still worth significant mention, this game takes a while to load. Everything about it loads slow, from the bike and driver models to the tracks themselves, it takes a good minute or so to load up. However, once loaded, that’s it, it’s there and ready to be used. If you need to restart the race, or whatever, that happens instantly. This is especially important for the challenged you’ll do, where you’ll likely restart over and over if you don’t get your start off the line just right so you can grab every precious second. Now on to the game play…

I really liked the menu screen. It’s simple, and easy to follow. I started a “career,” which gives you the option of playing from ’05 or ’06, each with slightly different drivers, and dove right it. First, I changed my name. Second, I picked my bike. Third, chose my country. Then I went on to choose my driver’s outfit, my team name, and designed my team logo. If anyone has played Forza Motorsport the plaint scheme stuff works much the same way, with the ability to use layer after layer. After this you get to distribute 12 points split between top speed, braking, cornering, and acceleration. You have a limit of a 9 in any category, so I went with a 5, 4, 4, 5 split respectively. Finally, it was off to the races.

You play though as a season, going through each track one at a time. Being pretty naive to the whole MotoGP world, and motorcycle racing in general, I have no idea if this is an actual world circuit or what, but the tracks sure do look nice. I’m not familiar with many of the track names I saw, except Laguna Seca, but the locations sure have me excited.

Each race is split with a challenge option, practice, qualifying, and race. The challenge is an option where you are given the opportunity to meet one or more “challenge” which is rewarded with one or more points you’re allowed to allocate to your driver. These are not easy to accomplish, and you will spend time and time again restarting hoping to get every line just right to make it to the end in the required amount of time. Practice, qualifying and race are all pretty self explanatory. One word of caution though, once you pass up a challenge, you are not able to go back, or at least not as far as I was able to figure out.

The racing is fast and fun. There are around 20 other drivers on the track with you at any time, and most of them time you’ll see them split into three groups, a lead pack, a chase pack, and a straggler pack. You should be able to keep up with the chase pack pretty easily, but getting up to and around the lead pack (usually 3-4 drivers) is tough. Racing a bike takes a lot of getting used to. The physics and driving mechanics are similar but yet completely different than a driving game all together. Because of how you race a bike, you have to brake and take turns completely different, and this takes a lot of getting used to, especially on really tight hairpins. However, with around 30-45 minutes it starts to feel more comfortable and I’m really getting the hang of it.

The graphics, as I mentioned in the demo, are sharp and the colors are vivid. This feels like a next-gen racer, and not a current-gen with some better textures. Really makes me excited to see what Test Drive is like when that comes out. The sound is solid, but nothing spectacular. The music is good but each stage seems to have one song that loops. I don’t know if this is a feature you can turn on and off, but it would have been nice if it went from one song to the next automatically. I’ve always thought the music control in Forza was perfect. I don’t know if there are licensed musicians and music, but it doesn’t sound like some studio mixed stuff, so I’ll assume, at least for the time being, that it’s all licensed.

I haven’t played online yet, so I’ll eave that section out of the formula here.

All in all I’ll give MotoGP a 7.5 out of 10, and this may go up to an 8 or 8.5 depending on how things progress. However, if online play sucks, the rating would go down. It seems like it’s a solid and well constructed game, and a well needed true racer for the 360, and if anyone wants a good run I’d say pick it up. Be warned though, it takes a good amount of time to get used to how a bike handles, and that may turn off some.



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