It's been a while since Capcom released their last MotoGP title, having acquired the licence from Namco. For those who don't know, MotoGP is the premier racing league for motorcycles, the Formula 1 of the sport if you like. There are other series based on bikes that can be bought in the showroom, namely the SuperBike series, but it's in MotoGP where the technology advances come from and the adreneline runs freely.
MotoGP 09/10 covers the whole of the 2009 season accurately, all the tracks, riders and bikes are present from the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP models. Capcom also promise to cover all the 2010 season as it unfolds, by providing free downloadable content as the races progress.
If you've ever played a MotoGP game before, then there will be no big surprises to the content provided here. There are options to play through a world championship, or hop on a bike for some arcade racing (which is point based). There’s an option trying to break track records in Time Trials and the ability to get online for some multiplayer action with up to twenty other biking fans.
The final option, Career mode, allows you to manage an entire season of both team and rider, hiring staff, improving the skills of the rocket-jockey and motorcycle and gaining a decent reputation in order to make it through the rankings. The player needs to be prepared to put the time in to get to the MotoGP level though. The arcade mode, championship season and career all force you to start on the 125cc bikes; in order to unlock the big boys, there’s a requirement to play through both of the smaller formulas first, a task that will take somewhere around six hours or so to do.
The MotoGP bikes aren’t totally locked out at the beginning of the game though. It’s possible to select some bikes and riders in the Time Trial section of the game; however, certain riders such as Rossi remain locked, and can only be accessed by playing through the career section of the game.
For those with an interest in racers, but have played mostly 4-wheel games, there’s a bit of a learning curve here in order to get to grips with the controls. Biking games generally require a little more precision with braking and turning, there’s far less margin for error and, as in real life, if you muck things up you’ll be sliding down the road pretty quickly. After the first few laps and a couple of races under the belt, things start to settle down. Racing lines become easier to pick out and follow, braking points become second nature, and things generally start to flow a little better.
Novices will definitely want to stick to the lowest difficulty level until a bit more practice is obtained. Frequent computer bikers will probably find this too easy, and should step it up a little, that is unless starting at the back of the grid and being at the front before the first lap is fun gaming. For veterans, ramping the game’s difficulty to the top two tiers will certainly make for challenging racing against the AI.
Online racing boasts up to twenty players on the grid, however, it seems to have some issues, often finding yourself kicked from the hosts, and that’s if you’re able to find an active multiplayer session. All too often the “No matches were found” dialog pops up, and creating a session can leave you sat in the lobby on your own twiddling your thumbs. This is a great shame as the online side of things has a multitude of configurables, allowing the inclusion of AI players to fill things out, numerous collision options to prevent those “racing incidents” and plenty of bike and track selections to make things interesting.
When a lobby is joined and a game is in progress, it’s possible to view the action as a spectator, just to see how good the opposition is. There’s also a latency indicator to show how much or how little lag there will be when racing finally commences. A substantial lobby voting system is in place that allows everyone to vote on the number of races in a session, the length of the race, the track to race on and the weather on the circuit. Once the action starts things are very smooth, with no noticeable drops in frame rates or stutters as the net tries to keep up. Sadly things are not free from idiots online, and you do get players going the wrong way around the circuit, simply because the game doesn’t black flag them (as it rightly should). This is mitigated by being able to turn collisions off, but not every lobby has that option set.
MotoGP does a good job of making you feel like a proper motorcycle racer; as the speed picks up the screen starts to vignette and shake a little, not too much to make it distracting but enough to give the sensation that this bike is hurtling along at warp speed. A number of different viewpoints are selectable too, both third and first person. The first person camera angle in biking games never really seems to work properly, here you’re given an option of having the camera tilt as the bike leans or not. Riding on a real motorcycle, most riders keep their head level with the horizon so they can see where they’re going – in biking video games it’s a compromise, and no exception here, generally you’re much better off with the third-person view.
Without doubt MotoGP 09/10 is superb, adrenaline fuelled racer, with lots of options, a solid career mode and some decent online racing once you’re able to get into a lobby. The prospect to be able to play along with the 2010 MotoGP season as it unfolds is a real draw, and that this content will be made available without charge is a welcome addition. The only drawback here is that things are near identical to MotoGP 08, despite the career mode being slightly expanded.
That said, MotoGP 09/10 is a solid game, it plays well, it looks good and has everything contained in the one package that any fans of motorcycle racing will enjoy. Even if you prefer 4-wheel action, it’s worth trying the demo on PSN or Xbox Live to see if you can live life in the fast lane. See you on the track!