Final Glimpse: Get ready for some more hot crotch-rocket love.
Climax's MotoGP series has quickly earned a reputation as the motorcycle racing simulator of choice amongst hardcore racers. This is both good and bad: good because if you can satisfy your toughest critics, then you're obviously doing something right; bad because making it too
hardcore will put it out of reach for the average gamer. Such was the case for MotoGP 2, whose ultra realistic bike physics generated glowing acclaim by purists and teeth gnashing frustration by casual gamers.
Climax recognizes that MotoGP 2 may have been too extreme and so is trying to make the latest sequel a bit more accessible. Purists will no doubt be worried that the game will be ?dumbed down? into a cheesy arcade racer, but fear not ? the game is even faster than before, and the devotion to realistic bike physics and racing will remain intact. Climax is not so foolish as to change the fundamental core of the game, which would destroy what makes it so unique and attractive in the first place. Instead, they have tweaked the controls to make them more user friendly, and added two new game modes to help widen the series' appeal ? in fact, one of the new game modes is even designed to help turn the casual gamer into a more serious fan.
Average gamers typically found the previous edition way too difficult with an extremely steep learning curve; Climax believes that this is mainly due to the fact that most gamers don't know how to race motorcycles properly. Unlike car racing, where you basically only have to worry about the gas, brake and steering, motorcycle racing requires knowing when to lean and transfer body weight, differentiating when to use the front or rear brake, and hitting the line through a corner (which is much different than in car racing). To help correct this, Climax has added the helpful new Training Mode which will teach gamers the basics and nuances of two-wheel racing, along with learning how to handle the chillingly realistic bike physics.
In fact, realism seems not only to be a goal in this game, but a fundamental philosophy. The heart of the game, Grand Prix Mode, will recreate the entire 2004 MotoGP racing season and will include licensed riders, bikes and tracks that all appeared in the circuit last year; bikes will even line up in the three-across starting grid pattern that was introduced in 2004. You will have access to 16 real bikes and will race on 17 tracks, including Assen, Catalunya, Le Mans and Mugello (unfortunately, Laguna Seca is not included since that track officially debuts in the circuit in 2005). To top it all off, BBC sports commentator Suzi Perry will provide the play-by-play as you rocket along at ludicrously insane speeds with only air molecules between you and the road.
Normally, you will be racing against 19 AI opponents but if that sounds a little boring, you can always hop onto Xbox Live and compete with up to 15 other players online. All of your stats and seeding will apply to your career whether you race online or off, so you can race the entire Grand Prix season online if you want. Cool.
Naturally, the better you perform, the higher your seeding. Seeding is important because it helps match you with equally skilled players when you hop onto Xbox Live; this ensures you won't have to compete against some pasty-skinned hardcore fanatic who plays 12 hours a day and could leave you in the dust even before the race starts.
The addition of the new Extreme Mode is like getting two games for the price of one. You will get 16 new street bikes (licensed, of course) and will race through the streets of the circuit's host cities. Purists may not like the ?arcadey? flavor of this new gamemode, but the realistic physics and handling remain, so winning on the street won't be any easier than on the track. In fact, it may be even more
challenging since the streets are often a lot narrower than the track ? which may explain why the field is limited to only 10 riders both offline and on Xbox Live. Sure, Extreme Mode may be an obvious attempt to widen the game's appeal, but even the most hardcore racer would no doubt be excited at the opportunity to go on a leisurely 200MPH sight-seeing tour of the host cities.
Customization is also a key component of the game; as you progress through Grand Prix or Extreme Mode, you will you be able to tweak your bike's performance by upgrading various attributes like acceleration, braking and so on; you will even be able to replace your engine if you like. You will also be able to customize the appearance of your bike and rider by choosing from several different helmets and designing your own logo; you can even take your spiffy new look online. But the most important customization option will give you complete freedom to map your controller to your heart's content (in fact, it's surprising every game doesn't have this option).
If you want to take a break from racing and just sit back and watch, you will be able to choose the new Spectator Mode which will allow you to watch real people race over Xbox Live and let you switch camera angles ? again, another feature all online games should have. The new Commentator Mode puts one player in the role of sportscaster, where his or her comments are broadcast to everyone competing in the race. This mode will no doubt be dangerously hilarious if you have mouthy, smart-ass friends (which I do; in fact, I'm shuddering at the possibilities right now).
MotoGP 3 is obviously emphasizing online play, but for those who are not Xbox Live subscribers, don't worry. The game will support four-player split screen and System Link, so you will still be able to enjoy the same multiplayer fun as your online colleagues.
Graphically, the game is beautiful. Not surprisingly, the bikes and riders are highly detailed, complete with realistic rider animations as they lean and shift weight. The race tracks are lovingly and accurately recreated, though the city street tracks in Extreme Mode appear to be more along the lines of ?close enough? than ?accurate?. The building fascias seem a bit cookie-cutter and lacking detail, but you probably won't even notice when you're hitting triple-digit speeds. Not only do the bikes move fast, but the game as well; how does a constant 60 frames per second sound? Add in support for widescreen, progressive scan and realistic audio effects pumping through Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound, and you've potentially got the next best thing to being there.