MotoGP 2 - PS2 - Review

Although it may not be one of the most popular motor sports in the U.S., motorcycle based Grand Prix racing is simply amazing to say the least.  Imagine a 400-500 pound rider/bike combination being propelled by a 500cc two-stroke engine that revs up to around 14,000rpms.  That might be pretty fast, huh?  Well, as you approach speeds near 200mph you may think so.  Not to mention the fact that these amazing riders take every turn with their knees practically scraping the ground.  While it might be fun to actually pull a wheelie at over 100mph on a bike, I think I'd rather do so from the comfort of my home, instead of coming face to face with the pavement, which doesn't look very fun.  Luckily for us wannabes, Namco has recently released MotoGP 2, which is the newest official game of the MotoGP racing circuit.

The first edition of the game was released around the PS2's launch time and as a result no one seemed to pay much attention to it.  Although it was a decent game, the lack of race courses (only five total) allowed it to get old fairly quickly for most gamers.  In MotoGP 2 the number of courses has been upped to ten, which allows for a much greater variety when it comes to gameplay.  The first thing that must be done in the game is to create a new rider, who you'll use to compete against actual MotoGP racers and real teams from around the world.  Unfortunately, this process is a very simple one and as a result there's not much customization involved.  You're only able to choose the rider's name, nationality and helmet.  To me this is a bit disappointing as I would have like to have been able to change physical attributes, such as height and weight, since they're very important in the sport.

After a rider is created, it's possible to take part in the various game modes, including: arcade, season, time trial, challenge, versus, and legends.  Arcade mode allows you to compete in a single race on the track of your choice against twenty other riders.  The difficulty can be set to easy, medium, or hard; the weather conditions can be set to wet or dry, simulation mode can be turned on or off, and more.  Simulation mode simply means that it is harder to handle the bike and therefore you must ride it more smoothly to avoid crashing.  With this turned on, going off the course by even the smallest amount will almost always result in a crash, which is totally ridiculous.  Obviously just barely going off course doesn't really cause that to happen.  Although what simulation mode does more realistically portray is the behavior of the bike when coming out of turns, as giving it too much gas will cause the rear tire to spin and slip out to the side.  Even though simulation definitely isn't perfect, it shows how touchy the bikes actually are and gives gamers more of a challenge.

As mentioned before, the difficulty level can also be set, which greatly affects the competitiveness of the other riders.  When playing at the easiest setting some riding assistance, known as "braking zones," is provided.  This simply alerts you that a tough turn is coming up and it gives you an idea of when to start braking.  It is very helpful when you first start playing the game, since it is essential that braking be done well in advance in order to execute proper turns.  Although there's no tutorial/lesson mode available, simply following the patterns of other riders and abiding by the braking zones definitely helps in getting used to the game.

Before a race starts up, you must choose a motorcycle and whether you'd like a manual or automatic transmission.  Without a doubt, the manual trans makes the game more interesting, but when getting a feel for how the bikes handle, the automatic may be beneficial.  The motorcycles available to choose from are those which are actually ridden in the MotoGP races, including bikes from Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Proton, and Pulse.  Once you choose a bike, it's possible to customize it depending on the course being raced.  Although none of these performance adjustments are very in depth, it's possible to change the gear ratios, the bike's stability level, acceleration, brake/steering balance, and the wheel/tire size.  Instead of just having the ability to increase or decrease these values, it would have been nice if a more comprehensive setup mode would have been included for those who know more about how to setup bikes for racing.

Another game mode, season, takes you through a typical MotoGP season, which includes a trip to each track to see who can pickup the most points and the title for the year.  The options are the same as they are in arcade mode, but some of them have different implications between the modes.  For example, choosing hard in season mode results in a total of 50 races (five years - opposed to just one) and only allows you to choose from three teams, instead of twelve.  To prepare for each race, you're first given the opportunity to make a free practice run.  This is important because you can change the bike's settings depending on how the run goes.  If, for instance, there aren't any long straight-aways on a particular track then it would be beneficial to change the gear ratio to allow for better acceleration (and a lower top speed).  Once this is completed, the next step is to qualify for the race and grid position, which is essential if simulation is on.  Lastly, of course, is the actual race in which you compete against twenty other adrenaline-filled riders for the top spot.  Season mode is fairly entertaining, but I don't know how many seasons of the same ten tracks I could take.

Possibly a better place to start before participating in a season is what is known as challenge mode.  The tasks that must be completed in this mode are similar to the license tests found in the Gran Turismo games, since there is a time limit for each one and if you go off course you have to start over.  The only difference is that there is no help offered and some of them prove to be extremely difficult.  There are 72 of them in all and they range from completing very short segments of courses to finishing first in full races.  Having to complete these challenges adds another considerable component to the game and also helps to hone in on effective riding techniques.

Although less entertaining, there is also a time trial mode which allows you to race against only the clock in attempt to get the best possible lap times.  Versus allows you to race head-to-head with friends to see who really rules the streets.  The last mode, legends, is quite unique for a motor sports game as it's possible to race against five now retired top riders.  The only catch is that this mode must be opened up by clearing specific tasks in challenge mode.

The controls found in the game are very responsive and allow the bikes to be controlled with a great deal of accuracy.  Although when using the directional pad for steering it's much more difficult to execute certain turns than with the analog stick, since using the directional pad results in complete leans (there is partial leans).  When combined with other buttons, the R2 button results in some cool maneuvers such as wheelies, "stoppies" (endos), as well as burning out.  Being able to pull wheelies makes the game more entertaining, even though it doesn't sound like much, simply because they look so cool in the replays.  Indeed, the replays are the most impressive visual component of the game and it's hard not to watch them after each race.  The reflections as well as the cool camera views (including a 'copter cam) make the replays look exactly like the real thing.

All the motorcycles within the game resemble the actual bikes used by the top riders and they look great, since they are so detailed.  The only problem is, despite their supposedly different characteristics, all of the bikes seem to behave exactly the same.  Realistically some can accelerate faster, while some may be able to take turns faster, but none of them seem any different than the next.  Another disappointment is the fact that all the bikes sound exactly the same even though they have completely different engines.  These are details that shouldn't have been overlooked.

Overall, the game is definitely a blast to play, but despite the five additional tracks it still gets boring too quickly.  The challenge mode does change up the pace a bit, except some of the challenges are nearly impossible to clear.  Despite a few details that were overlooked, MotoGP 2 is a very realistic racer that can be enjoyed by racers and non-racers alike.  Although enthusiasts may be disappointed by the lack of in depth customization available, no other motorcycle road racing game plays this well.

This game is rated "E" for everyone and it takes up 73KB on your PS2 memory card.
 

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.5
Out on the track MotoGP 2 shines by offering an accurate simulation of what it's like to pilot these 500cc rockets.  The tracks are perfect models of those actually raced by these top riders, but the bikes don't seem distinct enough from one another.  The controls make the bikes easy to handle, assuming you don't have a problem using the analog stick for steering/leaning purposes.

Graphics: 9
The graphics in this game are beautiful, but this isn't as evident during gameplay as it is during the replays, which perfectly resemble the real thing.  You'll think you're watching Speedvision, but don't be fooled.  Indeed, the framerate is fast and all the models within the game are amazingly smooth.  This is true even with such a high detail level, as features such as sparks shooting out when the bikes touch the ground, the bikes' suspensions compressing under acceleration, and dirt sticking to tires after going off course are also included.  Also found in MotoGP 2 are some the most realistic looking reflections that I've ever seen.  The bike and rider's helmet reflect every possible object found in the environment if you're close enough to them.

Sound: 5
The area that MotoGP 2 is most lacking in is sound.  The music is very boring, as it unfortunately consists of only repetitive and generic techno beats.  It's too bad they didn't bring together some good artists to make an appropriate high-energy soundtrack because now the music gets turned off in a hurry.  Another letdown is the fact that there are no announcers throughout the entire game and additionally there's no noticeable wind noise to add to the game's realism.  As mentioned before, the bikes admittedly sound very cool, but they all sound exactly the same, which isn't too accurate.

Difficulty: 7
Appropriately, having the choice between three difficulty settings allows this game to be played by most anyone.  In easy mode new riders also get a little extra help in the form of braking zones and the competition is much less fierce.  Turning the simulation setting on is also a way to increase the difficulty of the game, but it is way too touchy and therefore inaccurate.

Concept: 8
MotoGP 2 gives gamers the chance to participate in a variety of game modes, including season and the more innovative challenge and legends modes.

Multiplayer: 8
A typical split screen mode allows two players to race against one another.  Within this mode it is possible to turn on a handicap for less experience riders and simulation can be turned on or off for each player as well.

Overall: 8

Great

Gw
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