Undoubtedly the talk of the racing world is Lewis Hamilton winning the F1 Championship just over a week ago. Seeing him on the back pages of the papers the following day, it was historic as he became the youngest world champion in Formula. However, when it comes to MotoGP, the world champion is always 6-8 pages from the back page with all the details on one page. But even I have never really watched MotoGP, sure I’ve heard a few names such as Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden and saw a few races on BBC2, but MotoGP isn’t as big as F1 for example. This also goes for videogames. The last motorbike game I played was Road Rash on the SEGA Mega Drive and now over a decade down the line, I’m going back to two wheels with MotoGP 08.
MotoGP 08 has changed hands again and is in the publishing hands of Capcom, for now and for the next five years. Having changed hands previously before this I was expecting MotoGP 08 to be a somewhat dull experience, considering the change of both developer and publisher. However I was wrong. I’ve been hooked on MotoGP 08 as much as I was hooked on Project Gotham Racing 2 when released on the original Xbox.
MotoGP 08 offers the full racing experience across 18 circuits in 15 countries. Those of you who haven’t played a MotoGP game might get angered by how hard it is to stay on the circuit and avoid other riders, as I did within the first 20 minutes of playing it. I was there for 20 minutes, straight into a race and I was crashing into other riders which resulted in me been thrown into the gravel pit while my bike was still flipping, taking corners too wide and genuinely being a terrible rider. However, as soon as I changed my settings on my bike from simulation to arcade, I was in heaven.
The core of MotoGP 08 is in the Career mode, which allows you to race in the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP class. Starting at 125cc (which you have to) it’s your opportunity to make it to the MotoGP class, and this can be done without racing the 250cc class, but I‘ll talk about that in a few sentences time. The way the Career system works is totally up to you. You can go straight into a race, practice or qualify, it’s totally up to you. I took the route of qualifying as you get to know the track in a few laps and then going on to race, winning every single one I competed in. The way the Career mode is set up is very easy to understand. Race and earn points. With 25 points for first place, and if you accomplish this on the 18 Grand Prix’s, that’s a total of 450 points, enough to join the ‘lower class’ teams in the MotoGP class. I’ve worked my way up and joined the Kawasaki team, a team I know.
When you’re playing through the Career mode you’ll unlock new helmets (whoopee), but more importantly you’ll earn between 1 and 2 points per race, allowing to upgrade your bike in four specific areas: speed, acceleration, braking and traction. Depending on what difficulty it’s set to, it might not matter at all.
Along with the Career mode, there’s the option to just do the specific championship, so you can jump straight onto the power-bikes if you wish; albeit there's no upgrades, just a straight up full racing season. Other modes include your usual Quick Race and Time Attacks, and there’s the Challenges mode. There are 50 challenges raging from ‘reach the checkpoints to complete a lap’ to ‘beat an opponent who’s in front to the finish line’; there’s also challenges in which your brake discs are nearly worn and you have limited break life and you have to complete a lap. There’s a lot of variety in the Challenges, and it makes a change if you get bored of the racing. Along with this, it’s possible (as you’d expect) to take MotoGP 08 online and race with people around the world, both for fun (Quick Race) or serious (Ranked).
With all these modes, there’s more options when it comes down to the actually handling of the bike. You have your usual automatic or manual transmission, but you’ve got three styles of the ‘Riding Model’; these are the basic styles of racing. You’ve got Arcade, Advanced and Simulation - fun, challenging and life-like control of the bike. Having tried and tested all styles, I still prefer Arcade; fast, fun and easy to control!
Circuits in MotoGP 08 include the Shanghai circuit, Phillip Island circuit and Donington Park. All of these circuits are where each Gran Prix is held; China, Australia and Great Britain - along with circuits from Spain, Portugal and Japan. Along with the 18 circuits on offer, there’s a lot of manufacturers to choose from. You’ve got a lot of big names here, ranging from Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, amongst others, so there’s a good amount manufacturers to choose from.
Visually MotoGP 08 is just above average, it’s by no means spectacular. There’s certain circuits that look better than others (Valencia), but there’s nothing really there that gives it the ‘wow’ factor; well you are travelling at over 200kmh, so what do you expect to see? The same goes for the bikes and the rider themselves, there’s nothing much here apart from a few shiny parts, as the bike models from each manufacturer are the same, just different designs.
Audio wise there’s really nothing to talk about other than the background music (which you don’t really hear as you want to get on with a race/challenge), the noise of the bike and the cheers from the crowd as you pass. Obviously the sound from the bikes change as you go up from 125cc to 250cc and 250cc to the MotoGP class - faster revving for example. The cheers from the crowd only comes once per lap, as you pass the stands, so there’s nothing really making the audio stand out; again, no ‘wow’ factor.
MotoGP 08 had me hooked after I got the ‘small’ learning curve out of the way. As soon as I got used to handling the bikes, I was on it for hours at a time. I can honestly say MotoGP 08 is a very good game, although it might appeal to the more hardcore motorcycling fan, I wanted a change and it was certainly a welcome one, at least for the single player side. It was fast, fun and addictive for the past week, and I can see myself playing it when I get bored of ‘car’ racing games (PGR4 to name a game). At the very least I’d recommend a rental, but with a nice price-tag of £30RRP and its pretty easy learning curve, MotoGP 08 should be given a try, especially towards new fans of the sport.