MotoGP 13 – PS3
Four-Wheel Racers Beware
Niche. That is the word that best describes the MotoGP series. Case in point, in 2006 American rider Nicky Hayden won the MotoGP World Championship, a feat not achieved since Kenny Roberts Jr. won in 2000 and which no other American rider has done since. And I’m guessing you’ve never heard of him. And why would you? MotoGP gets about as much coverage in the US as Championship Bull Riding (perhaps less). As of now races can be watched on SPEED channel (albeit with awful coverage) and soon Fox Sport 1 will have the contract (fans like myself are hoping this will be some salvation). Despite the excitement of seeing a rider flung off his saddle at 150mph or riders bashing fairings in the final chicane before the run to the line, MotoGP has never seen the success that its older brother Formula 1 has and couldn’t dream of the coverage NASCAR receives.
Yet, they keep racing. Over the years Dorna (the governing body of MotoGP) has implemented more and more restrictions and regulations to try and cut costs to keep the grid at a healthy 24 bikes. With the global economic crisis, racing sponsorship was one of the first cuts big businesses made and no series suffered quite as much as MotoGP. The factory Yamaha bike with last year’s championship winner Jorge Lorenzo DO NOT HAVE A TITLE SPONSOR! Let that sink in for a while. That would be like Tony Stewart showing up to Daytona in a car that just said “Chevy” on it.
Well, you might say to yourself, it’s like Formula 1; popular in Europe and the rest of the world just not in America. And you would be right. However, did you know that 3 of the 18 races on the calendar are in the US? That’s more than England, France, and Italy combined! The only country with more tracks on the calendar is Spain and if you ask around you’ll learn that the Spaniards are dominating every class.
It’s not just you either. I ride a Yamaha R6 and occasionally I’ll run into other sport bike riders and talk shop. I mean some of these guys are bike fanatics and would ride circles around me. Would you believe I haven’t found one that even knew what MotoGP was? Most of them think I’m talking about dirt biking or some obscure car series. So it should come as no surprise that MotoGP 13, the game I’ve waited almost 5 years for (more on that) is not being released on US soil. That’s right, import only (much like the bikes in the series), I ordered mine a few weeks back and it should be getting here via Royal Air Mail from the UK any day now (sorry Xbox users, you might be out of luck this time).
Oh yeah, I’m doing a GAME review, sorry, just thought a little back story would help. The official MotoGP videogame series has had a long and tumultuous history. Some good, some bad, and most of them can be found for under $10 at GameStop. In 2007 there were actually two different games released; one for Xbox developed by Climax and published by THQ (remember them?!) and the other on PS2 developed by Milestone and published by Capcom. In my opinion this is where everything went wrong.
2007 marked the division of MotoGP game fans. On the right you had the THQ/Climax fans and on the left Milestone (I stand firmly with the latter). The two games couldn’t be more different, especially when it came to the handling which is the bane of any motorcycle game developer’s existence. After years of talking with idiots (myself included) and trolls on MotoGP game message boards I can say I’m glad I do not have that job. Not that making physics in a car game is easier, but there certainly are fewer variables.
Unlike NASCAR/Formula 1 driver, MotoGP riders are much more than pilots, they truly are part
of the equation. The rider’s knees are part of the shock absorbers, the rider’s feet distribute weight over one peg or the other, the way the rider actually sits on the bike can be the difference between winning and being mid pack.
But I digress, when the dust settled Capcom won the exclusive contract (whoopee, I’m sure it was practically given to them) for MotoGP games through 2012. The first entry of MotoGP08 was fairly well received. Folks like me enjoyed the handling, but those “hardcore” sim addicts felt it was too arcade. Sometimes these “sim” people REALLY piss me off, it’s a GAME, you want it “sim” so bad why don’t you just go out riding for real? I love “sim” handling more than your average but some of these guys take it too far.
The years that followed will (in my mind) forever be known as the Dark Ages of MotoGP games. After the lackluster sales MotoGP 08 Capcom did something very, very rash. They dropped the developer Milestone and went with Monumental instead. First let’s look at Milestone a bit closer. Milestone is a small Italian developer that loves nothing more than making World Superbike (MotoGPs even more obscure cousin) and MotoGP games. They’ve been doing it since 1999! With only a few distractions like WRC and Superstars V8, two wheels are Milestone’s bread and butter. Monumental, on the other hand made some RPGs (I think) and after two abysmal excuses for GP games closed shop at the end of 2011.
Now in 2013, Capcom’s contract was not renewed, and that little developer in Italy stepped up and brought MotoGP back to its rightful home.
Coming from a hard to please GP fan I can say, without a doubt, this is one of the greatest GP games to date! If that’s a stretch or you don’t accept that, well it is certainly the best GP game of this console generation.
Literally everything has been improved from the menu screens with super slow motion footage in the background to all the glory and beauty of the Tuscany hills that surround the Mugello Circuit. Now, to your experienced Gran Turismo or Forza player it’s still quite a ways behind but to anyone who’s followed the GP game series this is like going from Mortal Kombat II to Mortal Kombat 2011! My head exploded in similar fashion.
The game consists of four modes; Grand Prix, World Championship, Career, and Time Attack. Grand Prix is basically a full race weekend which can be customized to include all practice and qualifying sessions. World Championship is a full 2013 season which sessions can be adjusted similarly to Grand Prix. You can compete as either an official rider or your own custom rider. Rider customization is nothing to write home about. Players can select various helmets, choose the color of their gloves and boots, racing number with a few font and color options, and a stock photo to represent their riders face. On a side note, you can create a female rider and as far as I know this is a first.
Career mode takes your created rider through the path of an aspiring MotoGP star. You start with a few wildcard rides at various races (this is actually how many riders get their start) until you sign your first contract with a Moto3 team, then Moto2, until you reach the pinnacle of MotoGP.
Moto3 is the “junior” class of MotoGP. The grid consists of 250cc single cylinder engines that can reach speeds in excess of 140mph and many of the riders are as young as 16 and 17! Moto2 is the intermediate class known for its large grid number and exciting close racing. Moto2 bikes are 600cc Honda powered engines and it is the only series in MotoGP with “stock” engines. Everyone uses the same engine but the chassis are from various manufacturers. Most people are going to forget all that and just hop onto the 1000cc 210mph+ fire breathing GP bikes. And this is what will turn off most new Moto gamers.
Just like in the real world, your understanding of the MotoGP bike is going improve 10 fold if you follow the path from Moto3, Moto2, to MotoGP. Not only do MotoGP games frustrate newbie’s with the handling but that frustration can be double once your rider goes flying down the track while the bike is dancing in the wind. Unlike car games, for the newcomer crashing in MotoGP can be enough to throw the controller and move onto something else.
BUT STICK WITH IT! I’ve always loved racing games but ever since I’ve gotten into the bike genre I haven’t looked back. There’s nothing like having the bike slide sideways, millimeters from going into a high side, only to have the control to right it and hit the apex perfectly. Or to set up your friend online going into a turn wide only to cut it back through the next turn right by them untouched. MotoGP games are difficult because they DEMAND perfection.
That being said, MotoGP 13 is probably the most forgiving game in the series to date as well. Even on Pro handling (which should be default by the way, don’t cheat yourself!) running off track is not the end of the world. In previous entries if you so much touched the grass you might as well take your hands off the sticks and just pray for the best. In GP 13 the grass is definitely slower but it won’t spit you off the bike at the first sign of lean angle. In fact, it’s coming back onto the track where I seem to fall the most! The tire dirty system Milestone implemented is pretty good along with the other 300+ parameters they have worked into the physics model. No longer can you drive onto the curb of the apex with total disregard, you’re front tire will wash right out.
MotoGP 13 also adds in some other areas. Track progression has been a staple in Milestone’s World Superbike series but this is the first time they’ve had the chance to use it in GP. As the race progresses more rubber gets laid on the track (artificially in this case) and a “best” line starts to appear. The line provides much more grip braking into turns and accelerating out. The newest edition however is the progressive weather feature. After many seasons of having to start a race dry and then cut it short if it began to rain, teams are now allowed to return to the pit and hop on a bike with wet tires (or vice versa if the race started wet) and this has now been implemented in the MotoGP 13 game.
The various riding styles are also represented by the official riders and can be used for your custom rider. Will you have a more orthodox style like 9 time World Champ Valentino Rossi or the hanging-off-your-ass-knee-to-the-ground-ELBOW-TO-THE-GROUND?! style of MotoGPs newest phenom Marc Marquez. I have to say when you’re in a race being able to actually notice the various styles is pretty impressive.
The handling of the bikes themselves is going to take some getting used to even for a weathered vet like myself. Milestone has added a “tuck-in” button (much to my chagrin) this time around that hunches your rider over the tank and under the bubble (that’s the windshield in moto-speak) for max aerodynamics. It feels a bit like a turbo button but if you’ve played MotoGP 09/10 first I apologize ‘cause that game was awful and second, don’t worry the tuck button in MotoGP 13 is much more realistic, I’m even beginning to love it. However, if you hate it then, like most things in MotoGP 13, it can be set to auto with no penalty from what I can see. When tucked the bike is much less eager to turn. Going fast in MotoGP isn’t all about the best line but when you tuck and when you don’t.
The bike feels light yet connected to the track (in a good way) but a little too much throttle coming out and even less rear brake going in will find you sideways at first and in the gravel shortly after. The new rider has to get used to getting most of their braking done while the bike is perfectly upright and THEN lean in (huh, kinda like REAL LIFE). It takes time but once it’s understood the whole game opens up. Soon you’ll have that rear tire stepping out under braking or having the bike do a drift that would make Casey Stoner jealous.
However, my favorite addition so far is the traction control. In previous Milestone games there has either been no traction control at all or the traction control was auto and could not be adjusted. In MotoGP 13 the traction control can be adjusted on the fly! Having trouble going into Turn 1? Crank up that TC on the home straight. Think you can exit that turn with more power? Click the TC down a couple notches and use the rear to steer.
The throttle is also extremely responsive (assuming you use the trigger) and can be progressively rolled on. It can make for some very precise lines, but managing the TC and throttle becomes a science.
Once you’ve wrapped your mind around the bike and the handling you might want to venture online and get ready for some REAL competition. Even though most two wheel games haven’t seen the US shore there is still a group of extremely passionate US players. OK so there’s only about 10 of us but worldwide (Europe mostly) there is more than enough for a full grid. Unfortunately after years of 16 player rooms Milestone has been forced to cut the max to 12 players. Disappointing, but if it means less lag when I join a room being hosted in Portugal I won’t complain.
MotoGP 13 delivers the most robust motorcycle racing experience to date. Never has a game in this series focused so much on minor details or had such a complex physics engine. After being dropped from MotoGP 08 Milestone has come back with a vengeance and they have more than delivered with MotoGP 13.
(+) MotoGP finally has a proper developer
(+) Menus and overall graphics look great
(-) ... just not as great as Forza or GT
(+) Custom rider and riding style
(-) Steep learning curve for new moto gamers even with low difficulty and full assists
(+) Progressive weather and track rubber
(+) tons of race and assist options and bike tuning options