MotoGP – XB – Review

MotoGP is based on
the extreme and visceral sport of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing and allows you to
compete against various real-world riders through a number of licensed
racetracks.  (10 of which are digital recreations of official courses.)  Yet,
what is it that makes this game so incredibly entertaining?  Well, it could be
the realistic water speckles that form on your windshield when you are driving
in the rain.  Or maybe it’s the super-detailed bike models that occasionally
appear 20 at a time simultaneously.  It could also be the photo-realistic
environments that feature spookily realistic lightning and rain effects.  Or
perhaps it’s the immersive gameplay that allows for control like no other racing
game before it.  In actuality, a culmination of all these things set MotoGP
apart from the competition.  This game is an achievement of the same caliber as
Project Gotham Racing and arguably even Gran Turismo 3.  Put simply: it rocks.


The included modes
of play are as follows: Arcade Championship, in which you’ll race through many
diverse courses while accumulating points Project Gotham-Style.  Gran Prix mode,
which allows you to go through an entire season of races and build up experience
points.  Training mode teaches you the basics of the game by playing various
trials, gradually increasing in difficulty.  There is also the obligatory Time
Trials, Quick Race and Multiplayer modes.  In Multiplayer mode you have the
option to race against three of your friends simultaneously, either through
split screen on the same TV or using the Xbox’s link-up capability.


In the Gran Prix
mode you create a rider choosing from several customization options like the
model of your bike, style of leathers, paint job, and color scheme.  You’ll
start with ten experience points that you can distribute into four distinct
categories: cornering, top speed, braking, and acceleration.  Additional
experience points are earned by competing in races and successfully completing
training trials.  Preceding every race, you have the option to practice a few
laps or qualify for a higher position on the starting grid.  The length of races
can be defined according to your preference, you can make’em as short as three
laps or as long as their real-life counterparts.  Coming in first place while
playing Gran Prix mode allows you to view a lengthy real-life race on the same
track, followed by a post-race press conference with the winner.


The arcade mode is
not unlike that of Project Gotham Racing’s.  You are awarded with points for
driving with style and risk: pop a wheelie or perform a power slide and your
points will begin to rapidly accumulate for the duration of the maneuver.  You
have to run a clean race for a few seconds after the trick for the points to be
added to your overall score.  (Sound familiar?)  The more points you accumulate
the more features will become available, among which include ‘toon’ mode which
gives the graphical presentation of the game a cel-shaded makeover.  There are
also a handful of other graphical nuances that can be applied to the game
through earning points, as well as new bikes, racers, tracks, and movie clips. 
So, it goes without saying that there is a considerable amount of replay value
to this game.


The bikes handle
realistically and the control scheme is easy to pick up for beginners, but also
leaves enough room open for depth that it’ll take quite a while to master the
various intricacies of the gameplay.  One of the coolest features that MotoGP
offers is the separation of front and rear brakes, which are mapped to the R and
L triggers, respectively.  This allows for a wide assortment of techniques and
extends the lasting appeal of the game considerably, not to mention adds a notch
of immersion to the play mechanics.  Using the rear brakes to round out sharp
corners is, at first, the simplest method to apply but once you feel confident
enough to start experimenting you’ll realize that the front brakes, while being
a bit more risky, can help to get you around those tight corners a little faster
if used in tandem with the rear brakes.  By pressing any direction on the
left-analog-stick you can reposition your body and shift the weight of your
racer to different areas of the bike, this comes in particularly handy for
maximizing your top-speed by leaning forward, popping wheelies by pulling back,
and performing lots of cool-looking tricks.  The level of precision that this
game offers gameplay-wise is unprecedented and pleasantly surprising.


The visuals in
MotoGP are excellent and make tremendous use of the Xbox’s powerful hardware.
 The atmospheres are rendered superbly and look gorgeous: expect to see waves of
heat coming off the hot asphalt, sublime lens-flares, and lots of other cool
graphical niceties that’ll make your Xbox-less friends green with envy.  The
rider moves realistically as he switches between gears, shifts his weight around
on the bike, and recovers from near-crash collisions, and at times, even reacts
emotionally to other bikers who get too close to him during the race.  (Did that
guy I just bumped into flip me the bird?!)  Once you reach high speeds of
140+mph, a motion blur will go into effect, conveying an understated yet very
effective sense of speed as the surroundings surreally melt away into a frenzied
blur of high-octane speed.


The music is
probably the weakest aspect of the game, sporting a techno-ey soundtrack. 
Luckily, THQ included the ability to select your own soundtrack from music
you’ve ripped onto the Xbox — because, what better music is there to listen to
than any music you want, know what I’m sayin’?  The sound effects of the various
motorcycles overpower the music though, almost to the point of being too loud.
 (Fortunately, you can tweek the various audio elements on the fly.) 


MotoGP is to
motorcycle-racing games what Project Gotham Racing was to car-racing games.  I
haven’t had this much fun with a motorcycle game since, well, Excitebike for the
Nintendo Entertainment System.  Next time I see Gran Prix motorcycle racing on
TV as I flip through the channels I might actually give a damn.  About the only
thing that this game lacks is GT3’s level of hardware customization, in fact,
there is no option at all to switch out specific parts.  However, despite the
game’s weak soundtrack and lack of hardware customization it still manages to be
the best moto-racing game to date, for any console, period.  If your even
remotely a racing fan – heck, even if your not — than MotoGP is well worth the
price of admission, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.




Gameplay: 9.3
Easy to pick up and play with enough room
to experiment using different techniques.  The inclusion of a front and rear
braking system gives the game a whole new level of realism and immersion. 
Rounding those sharp corners is downright thrilling thanks to the precision of
control you have over your bike.

Graphics: 9.4
The atmosphere,
the bikes, character models, environmental effects, its all spot on – this game
is drop dead gorgeous.  Tire tracks from peeling out are permanently left on
tracks, racers will visibly react in certain situations, and the way the driver
flails his arms and legs while he is flying through the sky after a hardcore
collision looks so realistic it almost hurts.  This is one of the most visually
impressive games currently out for any system.

Sound: 7.9
The roar of
engines ferociously revving up before the start of every race really gets your
blood pumping.  Every sound effect sounds like it was lifted straight out of
real-life competitions.  The music is a little too techno-ey for my tastes but
since THQ included the option to play music you’ve ripped to the ‘box, it’s all

Difficulty: Medium
You are given the
option to choose rookie to professional level of difficulty, so the game is as
hard or easy as you want it to be.  Well, actually, even on rookie mode the
later races can be pretty competitive.  All in all, though, it’ll take you quite
a long time to proficiently progress through the higher difficulty modes in the

Concept: 8.2 
The concept of
Gran Prix racing is nothing new but the innovative gameplay mechanics and
utterly realistic visuals put this game head and shoulders above any other
simulation moto-racing game.  Check this out: you can take out the graphic
insert for the case of the game and flip it around for an alternative cover,
how’s that for concept?

Multiplayer: 8.2

2-4 players
split-screen or via link-cable.  THQ covered their bases in this regard,
you can play multiplayer split-screen or via the Xbox link cable, so no matter
your preference this game has you covered.  You can customize everything about
the multiplayer races from the amount of laps to the scoring method to the
weather condition.


Overall: 9.3

Moto-racing don’t
get much better than this, folks.  This game is a digital masterpiece, a tour de
force, my hats off to the developers.  I’m not even a sports simulation fan and
yet I found MotoGP extraordinarily entertaining – that should tell you
something.  Get .. this .. game.