MotoGP 13
Developer: Milestone
Publisher: PQube
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1 or 2 split-screen, 2-12 online
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Having made about 12 SBK (World Superbike) games and had at least one ‘less than amazing’ foray into the MotoGP pit lane a few years back, Milestone have now thrown all their weight behind making an authentic simulation of the 2-wheeled version of Formula One and the 2 lesser classes (GP2 and GP3) that follow it around the world and act as support races and training grounds for future MotoGP riders.

The main menu gives you these choices; Instant Race (a 5 lap race on a random track with random rider), Grand Prix (full or partial race weekend on any of the MotoGP circuits), Championship (a full season in MotoGP, Moto 2 or Moto 3), Career (start in Moto 3 and work your way up), Xbox live, Split Screen, My GP (customization, stats, multimedia [unlocked photos and videos] etc) but here’s a question I’d like to ask someone at Milestone: Why does “Instant Race” have the travelogue intro video and start you from the pits? It couldn’t be less “instant” if it tried!

So jumping into an “instant race” and turning all the rider assists off, it’s immediately noticeable that the handling has been improved over the SBK games, and much like Codemasters’ F1 2012 feels like it’s been “unleashed”. Hugely satisfying power slides are now possible and easily controllable, and even those moments when you overdo it and would expect to get high-sided (flung off the bike as it loses grip then suddenly regains it) or low-sided (losing front end grip) are sometimes saveable if your reactions are quick enough. The rider’s animations even cater for these incidents, and now riders even trail their legs into corners (Valentino Rossi’s trademark “Doctor Dangle”). Some very believable AI means the other riders don’t all lap like robo-sheep, the field gets spread out in longer races and there are plenty of incidents, crashes and passing by the AI opposition.

From my own research (inviting some tame bikers to "have a go" or watch me play the game) the handling and physics have been given a firm “thumbs up” by every single one of them, and from what I remember of riding a street bike I’m not about to argue with them. For the first time I can remember I can keep a bike on the track lap after lap, eventually stick to the racing line and make minor corrections in corners (as we all tend to do in car racing games instinctively). This means I don't do what I have seemed to do seem to do in every single other bike racing game I’ve ever played: over-correct either inside or outside the desired line mid-corner and lurch either into the inside curb or off the track and onto the grass or into the gravel trap. It's a massively refreshing change and feels quite different to, and more instinctive and more realistic than both the last Moto GP game I played (MotoGP 9/10 by Monumental/Capcom and the last SBK game I played (SBK 2011 by Milestone/Black Bean.

As ever with Milestone’s racing games the options allow you to tweak the game’s difficulty in many different ways so everyone should be able to find their own level of comfort and fun. From auto braking (so you can literally just hold the throttle open all the way around a circuit) for kids and rank beginners to Pro handling with full damage, disciplinary flags and realistic AI lap times, from 3 laps to full race distance, with an indestructible bike or one that wears its tyres out and may suffer random technical problems... the choice is yours. The game also allows you to change the simulation setting/difficulty/number of laps per race during a career season. There are also options that allow you to control the rider’s weight shift or select independent front and rear brakes and a manual gearbox for added realism. And talking of added realism, there are now two on-bike views, one of which is a “helmet” view complete with the bottom of the helmet in view and added movement independent of the bike. Neither of these actually tilt the view of the track anymore, so I found them both much easier to use. Two chase cams are also included for those wanting a more arcade-like experience.

Having borrowed Codemasters’ rewind time gimmick (Flashbacks) and braking indicator line ideas, Milestones have now continued to copy their ideas by making the braking line 3-D (it’s raised from the track until you slow to the correct speed) – this makes it easier to see from distance and particularly when there’s pack of bikes in front of you. Unfortunately, in addition to this, they seem to have fallen into Codemasters’ trap of producing a convincing rain/wet track effect, and then having it occur “randomly” in seemingly every other bleeding race-this is particularly galling considering the heatwave most of us are experiencing at the moment.

Following a race there’s a highlights sequence or you can have a full replay, which is pretty good, with slo-mo, fast forward controls and the ability to pause and use the free cam, but why can’t you take a screen shot anymore? The bikes and riders have plenty of detail (although your bike and rider have slightly more than the AI ones) and the tracks and scenery do a passable job. The bikes and riders look wet when it rains and all bikes throw up a plume of spray on a wet track (which didn’t happen in the last SBK game I played). The replays reveal just how strained this ageing game engine is getting with occasional frame rate drops and graphical glitches like missing shadows and rain effects, and like the SBK games there are still some frame rate issues in the replays, and the nice wet track effect seems to disappear when you watch a replay of a wet race too. An animated interactive scene in the pits and after-race celebration are of a high quality; behind their tinted visors the real riders likenesses are pretty good, and it proves that there’s no need for a crappy Champagne-spraying sequence or anything like that.

A number of people have reported achievements that don’t pop or “glitch”, and while this may be insignificant to some I know it’s a game killer for many. I wouldn’t have mentioned it but this is the third Milestone game I’ve had this happen in.

Between races in the career mode there’s an interactive office hub (that every racing game seems to have now.) Here you receive regular emails from your team and personal managers either congratulating you on your performance or criticising you for underperforming. This all seems like a bit of a waste of time, they’re simply repeated messages before and after every race and soon become a pain in the arse. This could have added some realism to the game if the correspondence actually meant anything and anything came from the social networking side (like possibly extra non-championship races or PR demonstrations etc), but it’s done in a very slapdash way-even some of the different team manager’s pictures are the same.

Starting your own online game allows you to specify things like class, single Grand Prix or Championship, laps, weather, AI level/on/off, physics level, damage, collisions, tyre wear, qualifying/race-only, private/public and obviously the track you want to race on and whether the next track is selected by voting or by you. As with most precision online racing games the fairest racing is to be had with collisions turned off, this removes the problem of being rammed off the track and means the mistakes are all yours. Racing with collisions off however, isn’t as exciting as when they’re on, but MotoGP 13’s netcode doesn’t allow for really close racing, and nearly all collisions, however minor, result in one or both riders being hurled from their bikes-in one race I was in at Laguna Seca what felt like a minor ‘bump’ resulted in the other rider being hurled straight into the perimeter fence! However, most races you join online have collisions on, and while you can have plenty of fun, it always seems to be just a matter of time before you get punted off the track through no fault of your own.

The “Extras” department hosts unlockable (they unlock as you level up with XP gained via career, single race and online play) high quality still photos and montage videos of riders, bikes in action and with plenty of incidents, all of which are worth a look.

The best part of MotoGP 13 is without doubt the bike handling; the way the bike spins up its rear wheel, “shakes its head” under heavy acceleration. The way the bikes slither around under heavy braking and generally handle is very convincing, and much like Codemasters’ F1 2012, you aren’t going to fully appreciate how “unleashed” the handling feels unless you play it from the most realistic view with all the assists turned off. This isn’t to say you can’t have fun with an element of safety, you can still power slide with the traction control on, it’s just less likely to end up in a high-side crash if you overdo it. MotoGP 13 plays extremely well without blowing you away, it’s a solid, competent title from an experienced developer, and there’s plenty to do. It’s just a shame they didn’t show a little more imagination when designing the game and give it some va-va voom.

Best Bits

- Race as your favourite MotoGP rider or play your own career.
- Fully licensed 2013 MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, tracks, riders, teams & sponsors.
- Make it as easy or hard as you want.
- The most realistic bike handling yet.
Worst Bits

- The game engine creaks under the strain.
- Iffy collision detection and netcode means online racing is an annoying lottery.

by: Jensen Buttons

Copyright © Gamecell 2013