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MotoGP

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:   Climax
Publisher:   THQ
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   System Link
Date Posted:  

7-24-02

The MotoGP license is a rather unique one in the world of sports. Typically a company will license out its games to one developer only; but MotoGP has actually licensed their brand to both Namco and THQ. The result can be rather confusing to consumers, but this MotoGP is in no way related to the MotoGP found on the PS2. Namco developed the PS2 MotoGP, while THQ is handling the publishing for MotoGP on GBA and Xbox. Surprisingly (given Namco's racing heritage), THQ's MotoGP has actually come out as the best version available. Of course, the power of the Xbox has something to do with that.

Like the PS2's MotoGP, this game aims for a more realistic approach. Naturally an arcade mode has been thrown in to help novice players get a feel for the game, but the real beef of it lies in the very deep Grand Prix series. In the Arcade Championship, the player must make it a series of checkpoints before the timer runs out (AKA every other arcade racing game ever). How the player finishes one race will determine where they start in the next race, with the ultimate goal to of being in first place at the end of the final race. Points can also be earned by performing stunts like endos and wheelies, with a running total of points kept to open up special locked features.

The Grand Prix series is a simulation of the 2001 season. This mode uses the championship point system found in real life, with 1st place getting 25 points, 2nd place 20 points, etc. This plays out over a full season, with the ultimate goal of being first in the point standings at the end of the 10th race. The player can also take advantage of a very nice Create a Rider mode, which allows the user to customize the bike appearance, rider leathers, and allocate initial starting credits to four different attributes: cornering, braking, top speed, and acceleration. The created rider can then be trained through a series of challenges in a very nice training mode, with each challenge categorized by the attribute completing it will increase. Performing well in the Grand Prix mode will also open up a variety of various unlockable items, most of which are more rewarding than the rather lame ones found in MotoGP on PS2. Once a season is completed, the player can move on to the next while retaining the same rider's skills.

The bikes control very realistically, but at the same time are a bit easier to control than other games in the genre. Naturally all of the elements of the sport are well represented here (cornering is extremely important, bikes slow considerably off the road, etc.), but the controls seem a bit tighter than other cycle racing games. I don't know if that's due to the Xbox controller or what, but all that matters is that they do feel tighter and more responsive. The result is an experience that still feels like the real thing, but isn't extremely frustrating to all but the most hardcore players.

I fawned over the graphics in Namco's MotoGP back when it was released, but amazingly this game looks leaps and bounds better than that effort. The most striking aspect of the graphics is the excellent weather system. When it rains it really pours; realistic spray flies up behind each rider (and onto the player's windshield if that camera angle is chosen), thunder and lightning light up the cloudy sky, and the "rain on the camera" effect actually tops the effort found in Wave Race: Blue Storm. Racing in the first-person camera angle thus takes on an extra element of challenge, as the player must not only battle the more restrictive camera angle, but also the elements. Rider and bike animation is flawless, with mud gradually disappearing from the back tire after going off-road. Particularly, close attention was paid to the riders as they'll turn their head when looking behind, shake their fists, lean into every turn realistically, etc.

Sound-wise MotoGP is a bit less spectacular, but solid nevertheless. The soundtrack is your typical Euro-racer stuff, which sounds great but very similar to every other rally/bike game out there. Of course MotoGP does support custom user soundtracks, so including that feature alone makes this complaint almost moot (but there's still no excuse for a merely "average" included soundtrack). The sound effects are sparse but ultra-realistic, and perfectly fine as long as you can put up with the constant whine of the bikes. The volume and location of sounds changes slightly whenever the player switches camera angles, which isn't necessarily groundbreaking but adds to the aural experience anyway. Environmental effects are solid as well, including very realistic thunder and crowd noises. Xbox fanboys can take comfort in the fact that the thunder in this game and Morrowind trump Wave Race's, and establish the Xbox as the console of choice for weather effects.

Highs:

  • Nice tight controls that aren't too demanding on the player.
  • Plenty of unlockable extras and an excellent create-a-rider mode give this game plenty of depth.
  • The weather effects in particular are awesome, but the entire graphic presentation is stellar.
  • Supports custom soundtracks.

Lows:

  • The soundtrack is standard fare.

Final Verdict: 

With tight gameplay and a wealth of options, MotoGP is one of the best racing games currently available on the Xbox and probably the best MotoGP game ever. Even racing fans not particularly fond of the genre will find a lot to like here.

Overall Score: 9.1

Additional Images:

 


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