Game Over Online ~ Superbikes

GameOver Game Reviews - Superbikes (c) EA Sports, Reviewed by - Umax / Prolix /

Game & Publisher Superbikes (c) EA Sports
System Requirements Pentium 133, 32MB Ram, DirectX
Overall Rating 78%
Date Published Thursday, February 11th, 1999 at 12:48 PM

Divider Left By: Umax Divider Right

There’s nothing like flying around a course on a ridiculously overpowered motorbike at 300kph, and unfortunately, SuperBikes is nothing like flying around a course at 300kph. Maybe its just me, but racing games should give the player a feeling of traveling at speed, not just have a speedometer that says you’re traveling at 300kph. This is something SuperBikes totally failed to accomplish. Wait though, that’s not to say this is a bad game in its own right… read on.

The first thing I noticed when I loaded up SuperBikes were the excellent loading times. In a gaming scene filled with sloppy programming, and where abuse of graphics boards as a means of slacking on code is commonplace, it was nice to see what appeared to be a game of excellent quality programming. It was fast, crisp, and I found no annoying glitches. There was a good menu structure, but I didn’t like how hidden the options were. (They’re under Single Player Race if you’re wondering.) There are initially three modes of play; quick race, single player and multiplayer. Quick race drops you right on the start line of a random track with no setup options, which can be fun for a bit. Single player leads you to another vital choice: Action or Simulation modes. Action is a very simplified, ‘arcadish’ version in which you only chose the make of your bike, the track, can participate in single races, or the championship, and have access to the graphics/game options. Simulation is a whole other world. Simulation has different levels of difficulty with varying settings for auto braking, transmission, speed help etc. In beginner mode, its easy, one notch up though, and you’ll be surfing turf a lot until you get used to how the bikes REALLY handle. This seems at first to be too much of a jump between levels, but really it’s only the stability of the bike that changes drastically. There is also a custom level setting where you can chose your own settings for each individual option. Now that you’ve chosen your mode you can either participate in the single races, or go for championship mode. In ‘Simulation’, your options in both worlds are drastically increased over ‘Action’; it becomes possible to customize everything from the driver of your bike, to the tire pressure and spring settings in your suspension. It seems to be a bit too much at first, but once you figure it all out, its not too bad. Single race is just what it says: a single race on the track of your choice with the bike of your choice. Incidentally, all of your favorites are here including Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. Each has their own ups and downs. Championship mode is ,as well what it seems. You start out going through the paces before each race; qualifying, practicing, getting to know the tracks… it’s all very in depth. The point is that this game has all corners of desired types of gameplay covered. How it executes them is another story.

Action mode was the first mode I played in, and it is by far aimed at someone who wants to save their quarters. It is definitely an arcade game, quick easy and fun. Your bike controls are very simplified; throttle going into corners and braking are taken care of for you. After completing the championship very quickly in action, I was anxious to see how I fared at simulation mode. This would make or break the game for me. I started this time in simulation mode and went straight into a single race. It was a whole other bag of tricks, kids, let me tell you! Now things like handling the bike off the track, braking, leaning backwards and forwards on the bike, throttle, gear use, and tires came into play hugely. Even on the easiest setting in championship mode it took me a good half hour to get accustomed to the new handling bike again. The first thing I noticed was how unstable the bike was. When you go into a turn, assuming you’ve judged your speed and telemetry right, you have to now worry about your throttle through the turn; too much and you’ll wipe out from scraping your knee on the ground, and too little and you won’t have enough speed to make a good run coming out of the turn. Too much speed going into a turn results in overshooting it and ending up in grass with little to no control over your bike, whereas too little speed will usually result in one of your over eager competitors hitting your bike from behind. I finally managed to get all the speed judgment and throttle/gear/brake control down pat and upped the difficulty one notch. Again it was a very different bike, in some ways. It was similar in speed control but the bike’s stability was drastically reduced. Now, honestly, who thinks that the better you are at riding a motorcycle, the hard it physically becomes? This didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I suppose from the standpoint of continuity in difficulty levels it kind of did. Whatever…

There were only a couple of real problems I found with gameplay in Superbikes. One of which was a rather major one for me. When I’m out on the highway, and I wind up to 120kph from 50, I notice a very large difference in the speed; objects I pass, and the background, become a blur in my peripheral vision. This is a sensation known as velocitization and yes, everyone experiences it. Basically it’s the ability to distinguish one speed as being faster then another. This was my big beef with SuperBikes. When you wind your bike up from 100kph to 300kph, there honestly isn’t a huge difference. Yes, the ground moved by a BIT faster, but not 3 times faster. I just didn’t get the feeling of speed that 300kph in an open air motorcycle with your head 3 ft off the ground would give someone. The game lost points here. Putting aside this little irritation, the graphics were technically excellent. Throughout the many views of my Kawasaki, the textures were crisp and varied, and those 2D trees everyone uses in the backgrounds of their racing games nowadays actually looked pretty good and could pass as 3D-ish while the bike is in motion and a small distance away. The bikes all looked excellent, and true to their real life counterparts. All of your standard bike-racing-game effects were there: tire smoke, flying grass and dirt, and even your polygonal man in skid suit flying off your bike when it runs into a wall! It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a man skid for 500ft on his knees, but my rider did it, and got up to go riding again! Wow, what a trooper! Maybe its just me but that doesn’t seem… oh, nevermind.

The second big problem I had with this game was multiplayer. I hope you indulge me a moment and allow me to rant. I am SICK AND TIRED of gaming companies who just don’t know or seemingly care how to program racing games to run in TCP/IP multiplayer properly. Some gaming houses have a horrible history with their racing games and multiplayer. I don’t want to rag on EA too much because they do make so many excellent games for us, the gamers, to play. Without EA, the PC (and heck, lets face it, the console-) gaming community might as well die, but honestly, they need to reevaluate whoever is in charge of TCP/IP in racing games over there. As I’m sure you can tell from this rant, the multiplayer in SuperBikes is, in short terrible. I can say without boasting that running the game on two of the fastest gaming computers available today over both LAN and TCP/IP (using cable modems incidentally) that the game was STILL jerky!

Instead of finishing the review on a bad note, I think I’ll finish it on a happy one. The sound in this game is very good. I don’t know why, but after trying all of the bikes out, each with their own distinctive high pitched whine, and listening to the skids, crunches and bangs of the collisions, I concluded that this game has some of the best sound effects of most racing games now. Just try cranking up the sound on a good sound system, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The realm of superbike racing games has remained relatively untouched for a while, but now companies are trying to get into this genre a bit more. There aren’t nearly as many of them as there are car racing games so I suppose a bit of leeway is deserved for a relatively early effort. The game is technically superb; good graphics, excellent graphic card support, cool looking bikes, large breasted polygonal women presenting trophies to you after winning races (and kissing you after winning the championship!) and lots of options for the bike-nut. It simply lacks that overall sensation of feeling one’s eyeballs turning into salsa on the inside of your skull when you open the throttle up.


Pros: Good graphics, lots of gameplay options for many different skill levels, realistic looking and handling bikes, good interface, good support.

Cons: Doesn’t give the feeling of speed a game like this should, might as well have left multiplayer out seeing as it is so bad. Maybe we’ll get a patch?


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Divider Left By: Prolix Divider Right

Superbike racing is one of the world’s most dangerous and fast paced sports. Accessible to only a select few men, average people have not had the privilege to experience the sheer rush of racing a motorcycle at 280kph. That’s where EA comes in. Realistic super bike racing is a rarity in the gaming market, however, EA has tried to create an exact replica of the real thing. Games like Motoracer have tried to imitate super bike racing, but have opted to go for the arcade game rather than a realistic simulation. SuperBikes focus is mainly on realism, but attempts to cater to arcade racers with an arcade racing mode option.

SuperBike Features:

  • Locations around the world
  • Real bikes like Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Suzuki
  • Real racers such as: Carl Fogarty and John Kocinski
  • D3D Support
  • Realistic crashes and racer modeling

    Rendering options aren’t given, so I can only guess that D3D was used as the rendering driver of choice. Super Bikes runs great in 800x600 with most of the options on, even on a p2 233mhz with a TNT there was little choppiness or slowdown. Individual racers are so extremely realistically rendered believing what you are seeing takes some getting used to. A Technique using separate modeling for the bike and the racer create an unprecedented realistic look to both the racer and his bike. Unfortunately the locations around the world aren’t as well done as the bikes and racers. Most of the locations look the same, that is, they all have the same green grass and the same drab color pavement, etc. The most drastic difference is sand or the addition of trees around the track, but nothing that fits the location. Background graphics are below average, they are nothing more than flat one-sided pixels. Camera angles are very effective, racing can be viewed first person or 3rd person, accommodating to everyone’s needs. Wipeout animations are some of the best in the industry, ex. huge clouds of billowing dust trail the fallen rider. Creating dazzling graphics certainly was not on the minds of Super Bike’s creators, however, realism was. Those of you who are after a pure arcade racer with pretty colors and flashy effects will be disappointed. Gamers who focus on realism will be very pleased with SuperBike’s graphic engine.

    The control device of choice was a gravis game pad. With options to customize sensitivity and buttons, getting started was a breeze. I’ll admit, I’m an automatic man and very rarely do I drive stick in a game. However, I found it almost necessary to drive manual transmission in SuperBikes. Due to the fact that the computer would automatically downshift for me before I approached corners and it made the game too easy for me. In addition to making the game easier, the automatic downshifting slows the pace down quite a bit, therefore, some arcade racers might not appreciate this feature. After adapting to this feature, adjustment to breaking/accelerating came next. To adapt to the physics of the game, I accepted being in last place so I could take my time to see how things worked. Overall the control learning curve isn’t to steep, just be prepared to finish last in your first half dozen or so races. One of my biggest complaints is the sense of speed in the game. Racing at 290kph is extremely fast in real life, however, I did not feel I was going that fast in the game. Although, some gamers might not be affected by this and will appreciate the slowed down atmosphere.

    SuperBikes lacks realistic sound effects and lacks support for EAX and A3D sound cards. The first thing I noticed was the lack of a real powerful sounding engine roar, something that is essential to any racing game. Even with my speakers turned on high, engine effects just weren’t there. Some speech effects from the racers would have been nice as well, like taunts and cheering. Speaking of cheering, the roar of the crowd as you get nearer to it is completely generic. It becomes very annoying after a while, due to the unchanging tone of the roar of the crowd. The musical score is average as well, it doesn’t spice up the game or make it any worse.

    Game options consist of arcade/simulation mode, single race, and championship mode. In addition to the game, EA has decided to add something rather rare, a super bike museum in the game. Players can research riders, view track statistics, and even stare at the super bike babes. What more could you ask for, girls and bikes, its all here. There are twelve tracks, each in a different location of the world; Locations range from Sugo Japan, Laguna Seca USA, Monza Italy, and Brands Hatch UK.

    Multiplayer support is done through Lan, TCP/IP and a serial connection. EA is well known for not giving too much attention to multiplayer, SuperBikes definitely doesn’t break the mold. EA continues their undeclared motto of "when we work on lag free multiplayer, that’s when hell freezes over." On a 56k modem with a cable modem host, the lag made the game unplayable.

    For the most part, SuperBikes is an enjoyable experience. Serious arcade racers should take into consideration this game is geared towards simulator fans. However, there are several faults, which really need to be addressed, mainly multiplayer. The lack of multiplayer really diminishes on replay value, so decide wisely if you don’t mind playing alone.


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