It's been a while since we've had a solid motorbike racing title for review, so imagine our delight when Moto GP 08 arrived in the office. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for our enthusiasm to wane.
The newest game of the MotoGP series from developers CAPCOM and Milestone Interactive begins by giving you the chance to start a tutorial race, designed to help players new to the series get used to controlling a two-wheeled vehicle at 100mph+ speeds, which is really quite difficult.
Unfortunately the tutorial provides little guidance on how to control your machine. Whilst attempting to race through the introductory track you will occasionally get a message pop up under the turn guide notifying you that there is a new tip in which you must pause the game, read the relatively unhelpful and unspecific note, and then proceed to exit the menu and resume driving. It’s an unnecessary process which doesn’t get you too excited about playing any further.
Whilst in the tutorial race, you will be prompted to change your Riding Model. There are three options for this, Arcade, Advanced and Simulation. The Arcade mode is the easiest of the three, being more suited for new players of the series. Simulation is incredibly difficult, making it somewhat impossible to win a race if you’ve never played a game such as this before, and Advanced Mode is a balance between the two.
The game features the usual race modes including Career, Quick Race, Time Attack, Championship, Challenges, and the Xbox LIVE mode. The Career mode takes you through all three 18 MotoGP events where you will race against real-life racers and upgrade your bike stats as you continue playing. Quick Race is exactly that, Time Attack is where you race against yourself to set personal records on each track, Championship is another competitive mode that allows you to modify your season however you want, and Challenges is a lengthy mode with fifty events for you to show off your skills in braking, handling and racing your bike. You can also unlock more difficult challenges as you progress.
When you first begin the Career Mode you will be prompted to select your first helmet, bike, class, and number. There will be a selection of three classes you can choose for your bike, MotoGP, 250cc and 125cc with each offering a different race experience, though only the latter class is available to start. You will notice whilst selecting your options that some will be locked, these are unlocked as you proceed to play through the game, you continue this same process through to the number selection, from 2 to 98, take your pick.
After creating your first career profile you will have the option to change your Bike Setup before each race with a selection of five options affecting the performance of your bike such as changing tyres, suspension settings, turning speeds, and gear ratios. You can upgrade your bike with points in which you earn from winning career races, these points can be used to increase one of four stats, Max Speed, Acceleration, Braking and Traction. There are also options to change you helmet, view available teams, check the standings and choose whether you want to race a practice round, qualifying round or just start the race.
Before every race you will be notified that you cannot repeat the qualifying or practice round if you choose to ‘Start Race’. This happens even if you choose to start the race on the qualifying/practice rounds themselves. It is a pointless pop-up that gets annoying very quickly. Depending on what position you come in the qualifying round, that is what determines the position you start in on the actual race; come first in the qualifying round then all you have to do is keep your lead for however many laps in the real race.
The menus in the game all look very generic, before a race you will be shown information on the track while it loads, and these are shown in a dull grey, black and white colour scheme with a map of the track to the left. There could have been a lot done to improve how this information is shown.
Compared to the previous MotoGP game by THQ & Climax, the tracks seem rather flat and uninteresting, the crowds look like cardboard cutouts, the environments are static (flags stand as still as statues) and every riders' animations look exactly the same.
There's no bike customization, you can't create logos or change your bike's colours, and the rider creation process is generic. There are three weather conditions you will encounter while racing, rainy, cloudy, and sunny, however the only weather that affects gameplay is rainy, and this is mainly because 70% of your view is blocked by water drops across the screen. I have to say that the bikes and riders look great, but the environment and overall art style feels outdated.
I was disappointed with the multiplayer aspect of the game, there is no local co-op mode to race against friends or family at home, and the Xbox LIVE races are usually slow. Everything works very similar to the other modes in the game, you can search for a player or ranked match, create a race with options such as bike class, track selection, laps, weather, game style, collisions, max players and private slots, you can also select your bike from the specified class once you enter the lobby.
MotoGP 08 features only a few different types of bikes throughout the game including, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Alice, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati, and JiR. I never noticed much of a difference between each type of bike in regards to performance; they all just look a little different. As I have already mentioned, you will not have the ability to customize anything but performance with your bike, and even then your options are limited.
Overall the game is fun at times, you can try see how many AI Racers you can knock down in single player, the multiplayer is fun once you can join a game that actually finishes without most of the players quitting before the end of the race. The career, challenges, and championship modes can get addictive at times, which seems to suck quite a lot of time away. More sound effects would have been nice, you wouldn’t expect a superbike to make a soft thud as it scrapes and rolls along the tarmac would you? Rider animations and environments can sometimes seem blocky and unnatural but does little to distract from the realistic sense of speed.
Whilst MotoGP 08 contains elements of gameplay that will appeal to motorbike enthusiasts, they’re largely offset by the lack of polish inherent in the basic presentation and bland environmental details. There’s fun to be had, but it’s a chore to find it, and those expecting an outstanding racing experience should probably look elsewhere.