Before I go deep into this review, I think it's best I state now that I am a fan of Formula 1 and if I was to choose Formula 1 over Superbikes there would be no contest. This is because of my limited knowledge of Superbikes combined with the fact I have grown up on F1. F1 is in the papers, it's on our TV's and it definitely rakes in more money for the moneymen than Superbikes does. However, pushing that to one side when I got the opportunity to review SBK Generations on Xbox 360 I thought why not? This way I would be able to see if I have been missing out on much in recent years. I've padded up, put on my helmet and I’m revving to go.
It's clear from the main menu that there are four key areas to choose from. Your standard Quick Race, SBK Experience and Career is available, or if you think you're good enough to take on the rest of the world, there is Xbox LIVE. The SBK Experience is something that has been added to the SBK series and allows gamers to take on challenges, classic races and invitational events against SBK legends.
The challenges are quite good. For example, you may be asked to complete a lap of a specific track but there will be conditions attached, such as ‘you must wheelie for 25 seconds within the lap’ and ‘you can’t fall off your bike’. This can make it frustrating during certain challenges as you sometimes can't progress unless the challenge is completed, but it also makes the game quite interesting and puts a different spin on racing from the traditional 25 rider race. It's also spread across the different SBK games ranging from 2009 to 2012.
The career mode spans a measly four seasons, starting from the 2009 season. You can choose whether or not to go straight into the race or experience the full raceday weekend by having practice laps, qualifying and the overall race. Aside from that, the career mode leaves you wanting a lot more. It starts quite well, with you using your custom created rider and choosing a particular contract that is on offer, however this is when it starts to feel like not a lot of thinking has gone into bringing the gamer into the game. The contracts don’t really affect much unless you’re playing on a more realistic simulation level and high AI rider difficulty, but other than that it's just a different skinned bike.
Throughout the season you will receive messages from ‘your team’. I use the term ‘your team’ loosely as they only ever seem to say “that was a good race, I think we should aim higher” or “the was a poor race, I think we should lower our aim”. It’s very 2002 and doesn’t connect the gamer with the game. After my first season I won the championship and my team may as well have said “meh”. There was no real reward to the gamer and to top it off, when you make it to the podium, the traditional trophy ceremony that many viewers of the sport on TV will be accustomed to has been dialed down. There's only the three podium finishers on the stage and you don’t receive any medals or trophies for finishing on the podium. It’s as if the developers wanted you to skip the cutscene sequence, and while it may only be a small thing, it all adds up to the overall polish of the game.
As for the game itself it does cater for everyone’s needs. Being a little bit of a novice in the Superbike world I found a nice balance using the Medium simulation settings and Medium AI rider difficulty. Any easier and it was too easy (funnily enough), and likewise when I tried a harder setting, particularly the full simulation settings, it seems my custom rider loved sliding along the tarmac as I struggled to keep the two wheels grounded. With some practice I did find myself sticking to the track more, however I feel that this setting is definitely for the experienced SBK gamers. You can also tamper with the bikes settings to improve handling, braking and generally anything else you may need to tinker to give you that extra bit of control.
Speaking of experienced SBK gamers, the Xbox LIVE option is probably the best one for you to test your skills against the elite racers of the world. There seems to be plenty of users online to race against, in both quick races and full race day weekends. There’s your usual leaderboards and you can party-up with your friends should you not want to ride alone.
Graphically the game is quite smooth. There are 17 tracks to choose from, each offering different surroundings from the familiar Nurburgring track to other tracks from the USA, South Africa, and Europe. The tracks, riders and superbikes themselves look very realistic and come across nicely on your HD TV.
The audio in this game is probably the most disappointing part of the game. I’m not talking about the sound of the bikes roaring down the track, as thats actually quite good. I’m referring to the lack of atmosphere from both the crowd, your team and the lack of commentary on the racing. It would have been a great idea for your team engineers to talk to you, regularly giving you updates on positions, when to pit and anything that may be going wrong with your bike while you’re on the track. Sometimes I just found myself day dreaming and thinking about stuff completely unrelated to the game I was playing.
As a novice to the SBK experience, Generations has given me an insight into what I have possibly been missing out on over the past few years. There are plenty of tracks, bikes and riders to choose from, and for the more experienced gamer there are plenty of options to tinker with. If you’ve never played a Superbike game before, Generations isn’t a bad place to start. Just don’t expect to get sucked into the game as it lacks some oomph and pizazz.
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