Format – PS4
Fast motorbikes and fast cars are exciting things indeed and none more so than those piloted by experts around well-established tracks. Whether they are paid professionals or unpaid amateurs, their skill, cunning and bravery are all easy things to spot and appreciate from the comfort of the trackside while tucking into a beverage or two.
I’m fortunate enough to know a few racing drivers and I’m known to frequent different tracks around the UK, following and supporting them whenever I can. I enjoy the spectacle, the noise, the smell of fuel and the speed. Car racing is a quick and dangerous sport and I’ve seen my fair share of accidents, something I never ever want to see. Sure they are exhilarating and breath-taking, just as perfection turns into a costly mistake in a heartbeat, but the aftermath is scary and worrying. In my opinion, bike racing is a whole other level above car racing in terms of scary.
MotoGP™ is now in its 65th year making it the oldest motor sport championship in the World. Comprising of eighteen races across thirteen countries, with riders of ten separate nationalities taking part; it’s a big deal indeed. MotoGP™ weekends are filled with racing from different classes of bikes, Moto3™ (250cc since 2012) Moto2™ (600cc since 2010) and the premier class (1000cc since 2012).
For me, Motorbike games in recent years have mostly been about performing tricks and jumps and the first things that pop into my head when I think motorbikes are Hello Games’ Joe Danger and Red Lynx’s Trials Evolution. Both extremely fun, a little similar, but very different.
MotoGP™ games have never really gone away since the time I last bought the 2006 version, but I tried demos of subsequent years and never really got on with them. Either their controls had become too twitchy or they had done something a little odd with the look of the bikes or the viewpoint felt wrong. So I gave up on motorbike racing games and played Forza, Gran Turismo, Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Most Wanted in the meantime to get my racing kicks.
MotoGP™ 06 on the Xbox 360 was a leap forward for me in terms of bike games and I was impressed by it. It hasn’t really aged that well, but it is still quite playable and I had many hours of fun playing with my friends, but that was years ago.
Booting up MotoGP 14, a series of options allowing you to play different classes, play a career mode, recreate famous racing moments, multiplayer options and even drive a safety car are presented for you to choose.
I quickly create a character, a name, a face from a small set selection, a helmet, gloves, suit and boots and colour options. There’s enough to choose from to be honest, but someone will want more, I’m sure. Perhaps creating your own logos and graphics like in ModNation Racers is a missed opportunity, but then this is MotoGP™ not a karting game.
I choose quick race rather than career to get a feel for the controls and quickly realise I’ve some learning to do. All the other riders are quicker than me, they are able to slide and fly around corners seemingly effortlessly. I’m annoyed, but not put off. It’s clear that I need more practice.
Firing up the multiplayer with my son, we play horizontal split screen and I’m impressed to see there is a field of other AI riders in front of us. Great, I’m going to lose. My eight year old struggles with the acceleration and crashes constantly while I remain at the back of the pack for the first lap and then lose control myself. Never seeing another rider for the rest of the race.
From a point of view of racing gameplay, you will need to practice, learn the controls, working to remove all the racing aids you can to make the experience better. I like to leave the racing line option on, not because I don’t know how to take a corner at speed, I just find inertia difficult to “feel” in racing games from a joy pad alone. I switch off everything except automatic gears and try again.
I begin my racing career at the age of 37, a late starter when you consider 16 is the youngest you can be to enter Moto3™. Racing two preliminary races before the season starts proper. The change in racing aids helps me visualise the bike handling much better, auto breaking and auto acceleration really did hinder me.
Graphically, I was hoping for more. Sure the bikes and the riders look great, but the track surroundings look static, flat and a little arcade-like and simply look like a game running on a previous generation console. Only in this case, on the PS4, the image is crisp and appears to be solid 1080p with no visible screen tear; something that racing games, much-like first person shooters, suffer with. The feeling of speed is apparent when you accelerate and the graphics are more than fit for purpose. It’s not unattractive by any means, it’s just that as a multi-platform, multi-generation title, it suffers with a lack of depth in terms of textures and additional elements like smoke, wheel skids and grass. Skid marks and grass are there, but they seem under-utilised and blink and you’ll miss them. The backgrounds feel flat and lifeless and duplicate trees populate the outside of the track with static boring branches.
I notice as I race with the rest of the riders that when they drop in an out of the tuck-in (where you pull yourself as close to the bike as possible to reduce drag) unlike your own avatar, that they are animated in a very on/off manner. When they reach a breaking point they pop up with no variable in between making them look odd and very digital. Even in the replays of the races this occurs. It is something I’m sure they could fix in a future patch if they wanted to.
The viewpoints available are of interest to those that like to be more at one with the bike, an in-helmet view is there. It seems a little squiffy at first but with a little practice it works ok quite nicely, expect to feel a little motion sickness in the process though. I suddenly wonder what this would be like with Sony’s 3D Morpheus headset, perhaps once that device is released we can really feel involved in racing games like never before, or simply throw up. On the whole I prefer a 3rd person view just behind the bike and this seems fine to me, otherwise I might not ever realize I’m playing a bike game other than at the start and when I’m lapped.
Sound in racing games is always a funny one, especially when it comes bike games. Rarely do bikes sound like they seem to in real-life, even if they are sounds taken from a real source. MotoGP™14. It suffers a little and at times the noise is more of an annoyance than something you feel you connected with. Bumblebee in a biscuit tin springs to mind.
MotoGP™14 has a useful feature that allows you to rewind up to ten seconds and I did find this a feature that helped to prevent restarting races. Yes, the purists amongst you will wince and whine, but that one incident where someone slams into you through no fault of your own forcing you to restart the entire race is a pain. I don’t have hours to spend restarting and certainly if you’re racing real-life numbers of laps, I see it as a handy addition. I’ve not worked out as yet if there is a limit to the number of rewinds you can do as it seems I was allowed to use it many times in the same race with no penalty.
The Good Stuff
- Racing feels fast and fluid
- AI is tough but this brings the challenge
- Plenty of additional challenges to play long after you’ve won your first championship
- Feels authentic MotoGP™ experience
- High Definition solid frame rate
The Bad Stuff
- Bike sounds can seem low quality and more annoying than they should.
- Low quality last-gen textures
- A distinct lack of dust, smoke, dirt effects to push for some track realism
Racing in MotoGP™14 is a fun thing and does feel worth the effort to learn to control a bike using the more complicated controls that see you separately handling front and rear brakes, lean and tuck in. Once you get the mixture, perhaps after you have reconfigured the buttons to make sense for your fingers, MotoGP™14 sees to it that you have to work on your racing lines while out breaking and out leaning the other racers. It’s good solid racing and I’m happy to recommend it if you’re the kind of person who likes their racing to be a little bit more intense than simply accelerate, break and turn.
With more additional features than I remember being available in the last version I played, MotoGP™14 appears to have plenty to try to challenge you. It seems the only real let down are the graphics not really feeling next-gen yet and I can’t help wonder if the ties to previous gen will slow down graphical improvements that are now possible in future versions of MotoGP™franchise for a few years to come.
Technical Competency – 8/10
Graphic Quality – 7/10
Entertainment Value – 7/10
Sound Quality – 7/10
Network Stability – 8/10
Overall – 7/10