Back in the days of the original Xbox, the Climax developed, THQ published MotoGP games felt like genuinely cutting edge experiences. With their gorgeous visuals and unique dual analogue controls, these were games that I held in the same regard as the Project Gotham’s and Gran Turismo’s of this world. That’s simply not the case anymore. Sure, the games since have never been bad, but the days in which the MotoGP franchise could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best four wheel racers on the market are long gone.
I would love to say that MotoGP 15 has turned the tide and that the series is now ready to take its place at the top table of racing franchises, but, well, that would be a lie. As always, this is a very solid game in its own right with plenty to like for both enthusiasts and more casual observers of the sport, but other than a few successful, but ultimately incremental improvements to its overall design, MotoGP 15 delivers an exceptionally similar experience to what Milestone S.r.l put out this time last year.
Don’t get me wrong; this is a better game than the 2014 vintage, and is unquestionably the best that the series has been in quite a few years, but for those waiting for the first genuinely ‘next-gen’ two wheel racer, I’m sad to say that the wait goes on. Of course, that might have something to do with the developers’ insistence on continuing to straddle generations, but honestly, with games such as Forza Horizon 2 and Need For Speed Rivals delivering stunning visuals for cross-generational titles, that argument does really hold water. The fact is, despite some improvements to the lighting, this still looks like a game developed primarily for last-gen hardware.
That’s not to say the game is ugly mind – the bikes themselves are actually something of a sight to behold with each vehicle across Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP created with a startling level of detail and accuracy. The problem lies with the tracks; while each track certainly represents an accurate recreation of its real world equivalent, the low rent character models and ropey track details really do take the sheen off an otherwise technically impressive game. The first person pre-race garage section is also kind of cool and certainly increases the level of overall authenticity, but again, by nature, you’re going to compare this with what has come before, and sadly, it just doesn’t look as good as it does in other racers.
Yes, visuals aren’t everything, but in racing games, they’re more important than they tend to be in other genres. Racing games are often used as visual showcases for both new and long standing consoles; be it Forza, Gran Turismo, Driveclub or Project Cars, racers are expected to be visually stunning (at this point, it’s almost a pre-requisite for the genre), and while MotoGP 15 is certainly no ugly duckling, as an overall package, it’s still a long way behind the big boys of the genre. It also doesn’t help that the game runs at 30fps, something that, while unlikely to be noticed by the majority, is yet another technical benchmark that the game has failed to meet.
As for the gameplay itself, this (as always), is where the game fares best. Whether you want to go for the full simulation, complete with separate front and rear break controls and manual leaning mechanics or the more beginner friendly standard mode complete with assists and a simplified handling model, MotoGP 15 is rarely anything less than fantastic when in motion. With solid AI to boot, this is the kind of racing experience that provides a solid challenge at just about every level with podium finishes feeling like genuine victories regardless of the level of simulation.
Some will inevitably scoff at the rewind feature, but with crashes and falls both easy to come by and hugely detrimental towards your chances of success, I for one found them a welcome addition. The sense of speed (despite the capped 30fps) is fantastic, but as is so often the case, it’s when you find yourself on the limit of your vehicles’ grip as you come out of a particularly precarious corner that the game really shines. With the back wheel wobble providing a perfect visual indicator, MotoGP 15 delivers both visual and physical feedback as you feather the accelerator coming out of the bend. It’s at these moments that MotoGP 15 overcomes its minor technical gripes to deliver a genuinely exciting racer, providing a sense of danger and immediacy that four wheel racers struggle to match.
With an improved career mode that incorporates Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, the ability to create your own team and an upgraded token system used to improve your vehicles, the career mode here is certainly better than ever. Add to that the opportunity to relive the greatest moments of the 2014 season via the Events Mode and MotoGP 15, despite being a little too similar to its immediate predecessor, is certainly a better game and a better overall package than last year’s release.
It’s hardly essential for those who forked out last year, but judged on its own merits, MotoGP 15 is a highly enjoyable, highly technical racer that is only let down by its limited ambition and slightly ho-hum visuals. The moment to moment racing is consistently fantastic, but as an overall experience, the MotoGP series still has plenty of room for improvement.
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