Motorcycles are cooler than cars. I know it, you know it, the Fonz knows it, hell, even your mom and dad probably know it, yet all the best racing games roll on four wheels instead of two. Polyphony Digital, developers of the foundational Gran Turismo series, seemed set to shift this paradigm into reverse with Tourist Trophy, a motorcycle racer in the Gran Turismo vein, but thanks to anemic single player content and no online option, this crotch rocketeer doesn’t zoom to the front of the pack, even though it’s still a lot of fun to play.
On the surface, it is easy to see similarities between Tourist Trophy and the Gran Turismo games. Like its automotive ancestor, Tourist Trophy lets you run a quick race in the simple Arcade mode or go for it all in Tourist Trophy mode. The menu layouts bear a striking resemblance to those found in Gran Turismo 4 and you still have to qualify for licenses, collect a garage full of vehicles and participate in a large collection of races (both single and championship style), most of which are only open to certain bikes or types.
[image1]One notable difference is the lack of a monetary system in Tourist Trophy mode. New bikes are earned by completing challenges in Challenge mode or winning races. Aftermarket parts aren’t available, either, and though there are options to tweak things like brake balance and gear ratios, you won’t get a chance to really upgrade your machine. The whole game boils down to simply winning one challenge after another, in a sort of stripped down imitation of Gran Turismo.
At least there’s a decent collection of real world bikes to gather as you complete events. The major manufacturers are all in attendance, and you’ll also find bikes from lesser known manufacturers like Aprilia and Buell. Best of all, there’s more than just a selection of super bikes. Scooters, classics and even a motard or two can be unlocked and raced.
Although you can’t tweak your bikes, you can change your change rider’s clothes. Winning races occasionally adds some new riding gear to your collection from manufacturers like Arai, Shoei and Alpinestars. It’s a nice touch, but it does make you wonder why you can change your helmet, but not the paint job on your bike.
[image2]It’s also a disappointment that there aren’t any other modes or race types to play with. How about a few off-road tracks with dirt bikes or a race manager mode similar to what we saw in Gran Turismo 4’s B-spec mode? An even bigger limitation is the fact that races at most consist of four riders. Those coming from the MotoGP camp are used to twenty-something racers and even the Gran Turismo series had six opponents. Don’t even think about trying to go online to find more riders either, since Tourist Trophy isn’t playable on the internet, leaving the multiplayer game a mano-a-mano experience. Motorcycle racing was meant to be experienced with a large field, yet Tourist Trophy’s is about as small as they come.
That’s a shame, because Tourist Trophy is fun to play. Dubbed “The Real Riding Simulator,” Tourist Trophy lives up to its moniker by giving players an accurate picture of what it’s like to jump onto a bike and smash around like a speed addicted maniac. For the most part, it strikes a steady balance between playability and realism. You usually pay for things like slamming on your brakes in the middle of a high speed turn, but the game isn’t merciless about knocking you on your backside at every curve, either. Things do tilt a bit to the arcade side of the spectrum when you bump other riders or scrape along the sides of walls without losing an arm or a leg, but overall the game feels pretty realistic.
The controls are intuitive and the basic moves can be picked up without much trouble. At default settings, the left stick steers and the right accelerates and breaks, making the game easy to pick up and play. From there, you can show off with moves like wheelies, which are fun and appropriately dangerous, or even make adjustments to your riding style. If you want to drag a little knee in the turns or sit further back in the seat and tuck down low, you can. If you think you went through a race in serious style, you can review it with Tourist Trophy’s great replay feature. Thanks to shockingly smart camera angles, you can relive everything from stupendous crashes to snazzy stoppies from a view that suits your fancy. Tourist Trophy may miss some of the big turns, but it nails the little ones.
[image3]The in-game visuals are silky smooth. Just like its Gran Turismo forebears, Tourist Trophy runs smoothly, with a solid frame rate, and shows great attention to detail. The bikes and riders look realistic, and the environments meet the high standards set by the Gran Turismo games, even if they don’t surpass them. Your eyes won’t be disappointed.
And your ears will envy them. The whiney engine sounds are more pesky than powerful, and the soundtrack is made up of an odd mash of quirky tunes that usually get lost in the engine whine. From what we’ve heard, though, that isn’t a bad thing.
Neither is Tourist Trophy. It may not pack the depth we’ve come to expect from the Gran Turismo games or offer online content, but that’s mostly made up for by the solid, fun gameplay, a nice selection of bikes, and smooth, clean visuals. Take it for a spin.