Reviewed: July 5, 2003
Released: May 20, 2003
The original MotoGP was one of my first Xbox racing titles and I’ve logged at least 60-80 hours with that excellent game. Now, not quite a year later THQ and Climax are back with a sequel cleverly titled, MotoGP 2. My first thought was “How can you improve on perfection?” but after taking this new model for a test drive I can honestly say that they found a way – several in fact.
MotoGP 2 Features:
Whether you are looking for a hardcore simulation experience or just a casual arcade racer MotoGP 2 offers the definitive motorcycle racing experience. Solo racers will enjoy the choice of several racing modes including the traditional Quick Race, Stunt, Championship, Time Trial, and the ultra-intense Career Mode.
Much like traditional racing games, the easier modes are restricted until you unlock tracks and other options by playing through the longer more difficult challenges. Serious racers will want to dive right into the career, which replicates the 2002 racing season. You begin your career by creating a character and assigning attribute points into areas such as cornering, braking, top speed, and acceleration.
With your racer created and customized you can take a few practice laps in the training lessons earning more points to further enhance your character. By the time you finish all of these lessons you and your rider will be more than ready to tackle the real thing.
The championship series includes 16 races on 16 authentic track recreations scattered across the globe. When you arrive at each location you are given a nice movie showing the culture and a brief history of the racing event and the track. Before the main race you can practice and then qualify to determine your location in the pack of riders. There are also new track specific challenges you can complete to earn more attribute points. You are also awarded even more points for finishing in the top three positions. Needless to say, your rider can get quite powerful by the end of the season.
Unlike most racing games, MotoGP 2 is a pure simulation with real physics and real handling. I’ve ridden these crotch rockets before, but I’ve never raced one and the fastest I’ve ever gone was 140mph on a long straight desert highway. Playing MotoGP 2 is more about finessing the controls than learning how a bike really handles. You need to learn how to tweak the front and rear brakes just when you need them to corner effectively. You need to stay tucked down behind that tiny windscreen to reduce wind resistance, and you need to learn how to work the rest of the pack to your advantage. But most of all you need to memorize every stretch of every track so you know what lies ahead and how to respond to it in a variety of conditions.
Control is flawless with the left stick steering your bike and the right stick controlling gas and reverse. You can also accelerate with the A button. Brakes are assigned to the analog triggers not only giving you independent control over each brake but also a wide range of variable brake pressure due to the travel distance of these triggers. Mash then feather that right trigger and you’ll pop-up for an endo much to the delight of the pit groupies, or stomp on the left trigger to skid around those tight turns. If this is too complicated you can always use the B button which combines both brakes – not nearly as effective but functional nonetheless. Sim purists will want to shift those gears themselves and this is done with the black and white buttons leaving the Y button to cycle through numerous racing views including third and frightening first person modes.
For you crash junkies out there, MotoGP 2 has all new crash animations. As much fun as these are to watch (in a painful way) crashing is not conducive to racing so it’s best to stay on the road. Leaving the track whether it be grass or a sand pit will either slow you down or throw you from your bike.
I find it surprising that the MotoGP runs rain or shine. Even IndyCar races will stop if the rain gets bad enough but these daredevils will race even in the most torrential of thunderstorms. Not only does your handling go down the storm sewer, your visibility is greatly reduced with a thick fog and rooster tails erupting from the rear tires of the bikes ahead of you. If you are playing from a first person view or nose cam you get the traditional water droplet effect on your screen.
MotoGP 2 features the same great multiplayer goodness of the original game with an added bonus – XBOX LIVE! Please, save your applause for after the review. While MotoGP 2 includes support for up to 4 players locally or up to 16 with a system link the real fun begins when you go online to race up to 16 people from all over the world – much like the premise of the game. All of the Live features are supported included Voice, Scoreboards, and the Friends system making this one of the truly best online racing experiences you can play, knocking Midnight Club II from this coveted rank.
Racing online is competitive but you can ensure you aren’t outclassed by using the Optimatch function that ranks and compares your skills with those you might be racing. To encourage online racing the game automatically logs you onto the Live service when you start it up (assuming your Xbox is already jacked into the Net), so there is no perceived transition when picking from local modes or online modes. You can also check racer stats for anyone else connected to the service and monitor your friends list. This is perhaps the best implementation of the Xbox Live service to date. Great job guys!
Last year’s game was the epitome of perfect graphics and nothing has been lost in this year’s version. If anything, the graphics have gotten better, especially the crashes and rider animations as he flies through the air and skids across the bump mapped tarmac with limbs flailing.
The power of the Xbox is fully utilized to bring you realistic bump mapped textures, real-time lighting, and highly detailed bike and rider models fully articulated with stunning animation, all blurring by at 60fps. Assuming you have a good DSL connection the framerate never stumbles even with a full field of 16 online racers.
The skies are gorgeous photo-quality backdrops with white puffy clouds in a sea of blue or brilliant shades of sunset red and orange. During rain races the sky gets dark and sinister with flashes of lightning and rumbling thunderclaps.
The lighting effects are where this game really shines. There are the traditional lens flare effects, which surprisingly don’t seem “forced”. Your view washes out when driving into the sun and darkens when you pass through shaded parts of the track. Every bike and rider casts a real-time shadow that stretches appropriately based on the angle of the sun. It just doesn’t get any more real than this.
You can pick from several camera modes during the race including three chase views and two first-person views. Each type of view includes two zoom levels. The first-person mode puts you behind the windscreen and handlebars while the nose-cam view puts you on your headlight. While both of these views offer some very exciting perspectives and an amazing sensation of speed, they are quite unplayable. You simply don’t have enough “look ahead” or time to make informed turning decisions. There are also several races that take place in rain and the raindrops and spray from the other bikes realistically splatters the windscreen or the camera lens distorting your view.
The chase views are a more forgiving, but even the close chase view can become difficult at times. I ultimately opted for the far chase view, which gave me the best vantage point to remain competitive in what was already a very challenging game. Rain and spray hits the “virtual” lens in these modes as well, but it’s not nearly as obstructive as the first-person views. Regardless of which view you choose, they are all totally realistic and offer their own unique challenges.
There is a fabulous replay system that gives you a full VCR interface for ultimate control over the playback. You can view the action from 14 exciting cameras including traditional TV camera views and some other more unconventional angles. The replays are where you can really appreciate all the subtle details that went into this title – something you don’t have time to enjoy when you are screaming down the backstretch at 160mph.
The music in MotoGP 2 is the generic stuff found in most racers. I tend to turn off the music after I have listened to it long enough to review it. As it is, you are generally overwhelmed by the whining of more than a dozen motorcycle engines. If a rockin’ soundtrack is important to you then you will be glad to know that MotoGP 2 fully supports custom song lists for any music you have recorded to your hard drive.
Sound effects are excellent. The engines all sound quite realistic and are deafening when all the bikes are clustered together at the start of a race. Tires squeal when you burn out or spin around in a tight 180. There are even the cheers of the crowd as you race down through the grandstand area.
Everything is presented in a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix giving everything a very spatial quality. You can actually locate bikes coming up behind you by their sound placement in your speaker setup (assuming you have a compatible sound system). Sound is subtly altered by camera views. Engines are more muffled when playing from inside your helmet than when playing just above your exhaust pipe.
In doing a side-by-side comparison between this game and last year’s version very little has changed with the exception of six new tracks, each with accompanying video, the online support, and the new crash animations. Solo gamers will easily enjoy more than 60 hours of racing and online gamers can double or triple that estimate.
If you already own the first game and online play isn’t important to you then you can safely skip this latest release. For first-timers or those that want to showcase their mad racing skills online, you’ll want to head for the nearest store and grab your copy immediately.
I love racing games. I love racing. If you’ve read any of my other reviews you’ll know that I’ve raced in actual NASCAR and IndyCars and if I could find a motorcycle racing school nearby I would probably enroll today. Meanwhile, MotoGP 2 is the closest thing you can get to saddling up on a hundred thousand dollar racing machine and challenging the best of the best from all over the world - a definite must-have title for motorcycle freaks or fans of online racing.