I have experienced riding high speed motorcycles myself, and I never thought the games captured the reality as much as car racing games did. Then there is the consideration of replicating bikes dynamically, which is an extremely difficult thing to reproduce, especially on a controller. I played TT: Isle of Man on release a couple of years ago and desperately wanted it to click with me. The TT is so iconic and whilst it certainly represented the speed of the event, I was left feeling empty and my interest in the game waned soon after purchase and it was left to gather dust on a shelf.
After playing MotoGP 2019 last year, there was a glimmer of hope and left me looking forward to the current yearly offering of the franchise that is now released earlier to coincide with the actual MotoGP start of season aimed at followers of the championships, offering an extra level of immersion. .The first thing that is apparent when loading up MotoGP 2020 is that it does require a modicum of experience of the previous games as well as racing simulators in general. To an absolute newcomer it will be daunting as the lack of tutorials and gentle hand holding is nowhere to be seen.
There are initial practice modes and an abundance of assists to help racing easier as you start to get to grips with the handling system, but this still may put off newcomers. However, gaming studio Milestone knows their audience and unapologetically throws you into a game and forces you to learn on the fly. Graphically MotoGP 2020 is the best in the business. The textures are beautifully realised and after switching to the Unreal engine last year, teething problems have been sorted and the game looks incredible.
Each bike from the real-life roster is photorealistic, with every decal crisply rendered as are the post-race signs of physical and mechanical wear. Not that you will have the time to appreciate the glorious graphics due the immense speeds you travel as you concentrate on hitting the next apex perfectly.
The switch to a first person Go-Pro style camera view when involved in a crash (which happened to me more than I would like to admit) is a great touch and incredibly realistic. The level of detail presented as your bike’s rear wheel breaks grip under heavy braking and struggles for traction is fantastic and incredibly life like. Some other aspects of the game however are not as polished, the facial models of the human racers and managers do not match the life-like appearance of the bikes and track environments.
It is immediate when taking part in your first race that this is very much a racing simulator rather than an easy to approach arcade game. The colourful and aesthetically pleasing menu and HUD fool you slightly and lure players into a false sense of security. This game is HARD. Even with most of the assists turned on, the learning curve is less of a curve and more a vertical line.
There can be no barrelling into corners and trail breaking at the last minute, oh no. You must learn to modulate the breaks and balance the bike, using weight and momentum to get the perfect entrance and exit to each corner. There is little room for error, so prepare to slide off the tarmac quite often on the first few attempts. There is a sweet spot just as you start to understand the physics of the game that is hugely satisfying when it starts to click.
The number of features and modes adds a massive amount of replay value to the game, although due to reviewing a pre-release copy of the game I was not able to experience the online multiplayer modes but if it is anything as comprehensive as the single player offerings, I expect it to be excellent. The ability to manage your own team as you progress from the lower tears of MotoGP 3 through to the headline championship’s is a great addition. In this mode you work on technical aspects of the bike’s and employ specialists to develop R and D in order to give the bikes a technological advantage. Once the R and D is complete it makes a difference to the way the vehicles operate and whilst it doesn’t guarantee winning every race, it definitely helps give you a much-needed edge. This brings me to the point of the in-game AI, which in lower difficulty mode is a little clumsy.
It is not particularly realistic watching 5 or more racers gravel sliding off the track at the very first corner like they have their helmets on backwards.Once you are comfortable enough to up the settings to above 50% difficulty that the more competitive AI kicks in. They hunt for each corner and refuse to allow you to take their racing line. Whilst it makes working though the pack hard, it is incredibly exciting and fun. Modes such as historic racing, time trials, career and a promising eSport championship makes for a huge amount of replay value and (almost) warrants that initial price tag.
There is one aspect of the game that I did struggle with, but this may be a subjective gripe on my behalf, and that is the sound effects in-game. The engine sounds to be precise. Whilst they are quite accurate in replicating the real-life sounds of actual racers, they drone severely. In fact, I found myself struggling with the wasp like buzzing of the lower powered bikes so much I had to turn the engine effects down substantially. The main disappointment of the game for me personally is the aural aspect of the game. There is no real weight to what emits from intense machinery on display.
Even with my minor issue in mind, Developers Milestone have given us a fantastically accurate racer aimed predominantly at fans of the series as well as purists and those who like their driving sims with a steep learning curve. Whilst casual gamers and those used to the predictability of recent car racing offerings may be put off at first, it is worth sticking with. With an expanse of options and modes, once the unforgiving baptism of fire is over there is so much to enjoy.
If this level of improvement is a yearly occurrence in the franchise, then I am genuinely excited what MotoGP 2021 will bring us next year. MotoGP 2020 sits at the top of motorcycle racing games for me, and by quite some margin.
MotoGP 20 is available now one PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Google Stadia