Going fast seems to have become as basic a human need as eating and sleeping. There are few experiences that can rival cruising around in a car or on a bike, hearing the wind rip around you and having yourself thrown from side to side, a hair away from disaster. Game developers have long strived to accurately simulate these feelings in the digital world. Each generation of gaming hardware brings us one step closer to living the dream. Okay, so enough cliché, let’s talk about Moto GP.
Moto GP from THQ is one of the newer racing games to hit the Xbox, and I feel gives great insight into what this console is capable of. Moto GP places the player in the scariest of situations: sitting on top of a big engine, limbs inches from the ground. The game does all this with spectacular graphics, strong gameplay, excellent production, and fabulous sound (phew, enough positive adjectives!).
The visuals are one of Moto GP’s strongest points, and truly demonstrates what is possible on the Xbox. Bike models are dead on accurate, with excellent detail and great animation. Model textures are well done and burst with color. The real pleasure though lies in the environment. Bump-mapping is used extensively and you can almost feel the texture of the pavement through the screen. Lighting effects are incredible and are used perfectly to simulate rain, dusk, and other conditions. The standard details that you expect have also made their way in: skid marks, dust clouds, lens flares, shadows, etc. You can pick from several different views. I personally found being in the first-person view to be a tad bit difficult, but definitely worth experiencing. This game does an excellent job of giving the illusion of high speed, and the graphics intentionally blur a little bit to bolster that illusion.
Outside of the actual game, the menus are very well done and show the thought that went into creating this title. I especially enjoyed being able to look at each bike in more detail. Overall, I think this is one of the better-looking games I have seen on Xbox. Sometimes it’s a little bit overdone though, and feels almost like I am watching a tech demo of some sort.
Well, it’s a bike game. This means you get bike noises, which generally amount to my lawnmower, but about 3000rpms faster. The engine whine is authentic and well done. I especially enjoyed it when I was surrounded by several bikes, the Dolby 5.1 sound could truly be noticed then. There are also several other environmental effects that add to the realism. The soundtrack however, leaves a bit to be desired; it’s pretty standard racing fare. Of course, soundtracks really don’t matter when you’re playing games on Xbox. Moto GP fully supports creating custom soundtracks.
Moto GP is interesting in that it attempts to place itself halfway between an arcade game and a sim. While the riders are all real riders on real bikes, the gameplay allows for a little bit of leniency in control. There is an arcade mode and a Grand Prix mode. The arcade mode allows for a little bit more fun and involves pulling off cool bike tricks like the fabulous “Endo” (a little bit of bike lingo I picked up while playing this game). Grand Prix mode is all about precision racing and is the real challenge. You need to build up your player in training mode and exercise his skills out on the track. The training is relatively difficult but necessary if you want to stand a chance at competition. Going through the training gives great insight into how accurate Moto GP is. While you may be pulling off various crazy tricks, they all require good timing and excellent control. The game allows you to independently control the front and rear brakes. This independent control gives the experienced player the ability to manipulate their bike at will.
The track selection leaves a bit to be desired, but the tracks are certainly huge. I found races to be a little bit tedious, but the computer opponents do give you a run for your money and the nature of the game requires constant attention. It is difficult to maintain focus for so long, but I think that the real racing nuts will truly enjoy the realism this game offers.
Split screen multiplayer and link cable support are also included. I enjoyed playing against friends but have always believed that the more arcade-like a racing game, the more fun multiplayer is.
I was pleasantly surprised by Moto GP. It has great graphics, solid gameplay and, while not very original, is a lot of fun to play. The Xbox is truly demonstrating its potential as a platform for premium racing games and I am happy that Moto GP has been added to this lineup. I would like to see some more tracks in the next version and I don’t like so much emphasis on training before you can actually compete (but then again, I’m quite impatient). Overall, I really enjoyed this game and think that both racing nuts and arcade fans alike will find a lot here.