The trouble with motorbike racing is that it just isn’t dangerous enough. Topping 200mph on two wheels, taking twisting chicanes as the world blurs past you, your knee-pad touching the ground through the corners… Major yawn-o-rama. It definitely needs to be spiced up a bit. Perhaps they could throw in some spikes that pop up along the track randomly, or give the pit crews grenades to throw at each other’s riders on the home straight. Otherwise viewers are going to be switching off and watching something more adrenaline stimulating, such as repeats of Lark Rise to Candleford. Ahem…
MotoGP 09/10 has added nothing so unrealistic as engineers lobbing explosives onto the track, unsurprisingly, but it has adopted a slant towards arcade style racing in order to please the masses. But please the sim fans, it probably won’t. The first time they take to the track, they’ll potentially start grinding their teeth at the somewhat distracting little messages that regularly flash up at the top of the screen. These bear plus sign tags noting the fact that they’ve overtaken or are successfully slipstreaming someone, or negative tags indicating they’ve been passed or have collided with another rider.
And these plus or minus points are totted up to provide a score at the end of each race which boosts your rider reputation. We’re sure purists won’t like the arcade feel to all this, plus the fact that you are awarded points for things like show-boating; pulling wheelies and the like. Although, in fairness, you could argue that showing off in a race could up your profile and attract more sponsorship attention.
What’s really quite irritating, however, is when a computer controlled bike whacks into you, and race points get docked for a collision even though it isn’t your fault. This happens quite a lot if you stay anywhere near the racing line, as the AI doesn’t seem to be able to muster any sort of appetite to avoid collisions. Mind you, aside from this crash-happy nature, the AI provides a decent challenge and reasonably realistic riding behaviour.
Even if you do get hit by a CPU rider, you’re never likely to come off your bike, because the collision mechanics and bike physics are pretty forgiving. This means MotoGP 09/10 is very accessible, and on the standard difficulty setting provides a well measured and far-from-insurmountable challenge for the averagely talented gamer. We appreciated the rather loose arcade handling, although again, purists probably won’t. There’s headroom if you do find it all too easy, as two high difficulty settings make the races considerably tougher (although strangely not the qualifying sessions; we rarely had much trouble securing a high grid position).
This bike game also performs well visually and in terms of track detail, where it captures the racing experience with aplomb. The graphics generate a definite sense of speed with a smooth frame rate, and the hills, dips and twists on the various tracks are modelled with what seems like a realistic level of accuracy. Racing in the rain is spot on, too, with bike spray providing a genuine hazard along the racing line, particularly if you don’t know the track off by heart.
But what impressed us most about MotoGP 09/10 was the revamped career mode, which now features a welcome dollop of added team management. You’re responsible for the hiring and firing of press officers, who obtain sponsorship offers – based on your reputation and performance – and also engineers. The latter can work on different parts of your bike to upgrade the engine, gearbox, suspension and so on, with staff having different skill levels and wage bills. Balancing wages with your sponsorship and winnings income gives an important off-track dimension which really rounds out the career mode.
For us, the added depth to the main campaign is what pushes this new version of MotoGP into pole position ahead of rival bike game SBK 09. The only oddity with the career is that the races are just three laps long, which certainly confirms MotoGP’s arcade bias. It does seem quite a strange decision that there’s no choice to up the race length whatsoever, so you’re stuck with very short affairs. Not so much Grand Prix as Petit Prix, really.
On top of the revamped career, a new arcade mode has been added, based on the interesting concept of racing through an entire season against the clock, with the time remaining at the end of each race carried on to the next. This is a novel diversion from the meat of the game, and it’s also possible to race a one-off championship, or go on Xbox Live to partake of some jostling in the corners against real human opposition.