It’s interesting to see Capcom publishing Moto GP 2008, not a product we would automatically associate with this Japanese developer but it does show how the publisher is expanding its awareness of the western markets and looking for new IP’s with which to build a regular base. A first toe in the water perhaps but motor racing (both 2 wheels and 4) is one of few sports to genuinely be popular both in Japan and Europe, their general sporting tastes being heavily influenced by the American market.
Kicking off we have the obligatory intro and that all important Moto GP logo flashes into view, it’s all very stylish and matches the commonly associated image of the sport. On pressing start you are offered the chance of a tutorial where the game suggests which riding model suits your current skill level. These come in 3 categories; Arcade, Advanced and Simulation with the latter certainly being a challenge. Arcade is as you would expect, very basic but the perfect difficulty for those new to the genre or casual gamers who just want to hit some laps. Advanced represents greater braking distances and less traction mid corner meaning you have to get those exits right but there is still a lot of room for aggressive racing. Finally Simulation, longer braking zones and the importance of not locking the wheels under braking, cornering is a complex tip toeing experience, getting on the power progressively out of the corners making for smoother riding, however the latter does expose a flaw in bike feedback. Usually in racing games more powerful vehicles convey their feedback with a rumble, the rumble lets you know the wheels are spinning loosing traction, on the simulation mode the line between riding round a corner at high speed and seeing yourself flailing from your bike is a slim one so this rumble is all the more important. It should tell you the limit of grip and what angle the bike needs to be before the grip can sustain more power being injected, on Moto GP 2008 that feeling simply isn’t conveyed well enough, in effect cause some frustrating instances where your rider can be suddenly thrown from the bike without warning.
On first impressions the graphics are solid if unspectacular, the frame-rate is not at the hoped-for 60fps and it’s a shame because this really would have added a touch more class. Environments are as you would expect being more of a box ticking exercise but these certainly aren’t the best interpretations of the Moto GP courses to be seen. In particular the limited gradients which are especially noticeable on the Monteigi circuit, surprising that the Japanese circuit was one of the worst realised? The circuits also lack atmosphere, there’s very little going on? Apart from the distant drone of crowd noise there’s very little to make you believe this is a racing spectacle, it just feels lifeless and by the numbers. The biker animation too is a touch jerky, limited animations taking away some of the realism, lets hope next years iteration can work on these areas. Graphics are solid and get the job done but don’t push the envelope, its all treading a very standard line in keeping the current Moto GP audience happy.
Initial play impressions are very positive, yes it is a simpler system than the THQ/Climax versions having a feel more akin to the Namco PS2 iterations but it is good fun and the playing models really do make it an approachable experience for all skill levels. In aiding the development of players Moto GP 2008 also includes a balanced career mode with 125cc and 250cc classes, these too give a reasonable difficulty curve as you work your way up that ladder, though enter the tougher difficulty settings and Moto GP suddenly delivers a challenge for even the most hardened racers. Of course as you move up, upgrades become available and simple tuning options grow in importance. Simple being the word which stands out, don’t expect any complex set-ups in finding the edge on performance but again changes made here shouldn’t be underestimated in their importance. Eventually players work their way into the fully fledged Moto GP season, the meat and potato’s of the package and it’s all pretty solid if unspectacular. A big loss that should be noted here is the lack of proper replays; those included only show highlights of usually your worst moments and the lack of a photo mode which always aids in community activity. Another loss has been the racing line system adapted by many racers, this is almost an expected feature but not only do we loose this input but a colour coded system would have worked well for training players on when to best use their front or rear brakes, a missed opportunity.
Sound too is limited, bikes need more grunt but the lack of vital sound effects relating to traction combined with the aforementioned lack of feedback from the rumble needs some work, besides these the game lacks a decent selection of music tracks, not only expected but music really can add to the marketing opportunities, again a solid job if unspectacular one.
However the single greatest failure of this game is its complete lack of online connectivity, in many ways it’s a step backwards and this will greatly affect the titles longevity. A good example would be the time trial mode; there are no online scoreboards for this mode? Lap times are only recorded via ranked matches, compounding this is the developers lack of understanding of what players are willing to do in cheating, cutting corners results in no penalty and this immediately destroys the long term drive for real racing fans to compete.
Much of the online interactivity long seen in titles such as Forza Motorsport or Project Gotham Racing is missing here, scoreboard systems, penalty systems, online community tournaments, team modes, TV system? None of this has been covered by the developers. It’s a shame to see so many aspects missing but its not worth being too over critical, as their first pop at the genre Moto GP 2008 will give Capcom a good shot in the arm of a new genre, the hardcore will stand by it and on the whole there are many positive aspects.
Overall Moto GP is a fun game, its great racing round with friends and the one player game can be quite challenging. But this is a perfect example of a box ticking exercise, it does nothing to improve the genre and many of the said boxes haven’t been ticked especially when it comes to the online aspect. This lack of foresight greatly restricts the long term replay value of the title and in this regard it’s a title best suited to direct fans of bike racing rather than the racing community as a whole.
7 out of 10
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