Born to be mild.
license is the red-headed stepchild of the racing genre. It’s been passed around to so many different publishers and developers over the years that I wouldn’t be surprised to see it meet up with the Artful Dodger
and start singing about considering himself at home. Over the past three iterations alone, the MotoGP
series has been split between two publishers and three developers.
finds the series in the hands of yet another development team, Monumental Games. While Monumental has gotten the broad strokes right—it definitely looks
like a MotoGP
game—they lose traction on all the important details. They include many different courses, conditions, bikes, and play modes, but they aren’t able to distinguish them enough from one another. The physics engine isn’t quite right, and the meager simulation features emphasize all the wrong aspects of the sport.
At no point in MotoGP 09/10
did I ever feel connected to the road
. There are many ways of communicating this connection in a racing game: sound, controller rumble, physics, graphics, etc. These bikes should sound unbelievably powerful, like they’re going to explode right beneath your tenders (they don’t call them “crotch rockets” for nothing). But for the most part, the game is hauntingly quiet, and sounds closer to a casual go-kart cruise than an intense MotoGP
The controller almost never rumbles, not when you’re losing traction, not through the corners, and not when you change surfaces. Like a premature ejaculator, any racing game worth its salt knows how important a subtle and well-timed touch of tactile feedback
can be. Notably absent are any graphical touches—like tire marks or believable wobble and crash animations—that would have added further to the feeling of being connected to the road.
Bike physics is a tougher nut to crack. Back when Climax Studios made MotoGP
games, they pretty much nailed how a MotoGP
game should feel. So it’s little wonder that when Climax was bought by Disney and rebranded as Black Rock Studios, they were able to produce a surprisingly solid new racing IP
. In stark contrast, Monumental’s first stab at the license with MotoGP 09/10
feels like a watered-down rehash of bike physics from last generation. It struggles to translate the experience of flying into and out of corners on a sleek, two-wheeled beast.
Steering into a corner feels strangely sticky, allowing you to corner tightly at a wide range of speeds. There is little difference between your front and back tire traction. While you can shift your weight to front and back, it plays little role in how you corner.
Collisions with other bikes also have little effect on overall handling. For example, if you crash in the middle of the tarmac, not only will other bikes not steer around you, they won’t be affected in any way by your body or bike in the road. It might make for a kinder, gentler image of the sport, but it looks absurd. And crash animations are an ugly mess. One instant you’re taking a corner and inadvertently catching some loose gravel; the next instant, your bike is on its side and your rider is tumbling end over end like a steel mannequin.
There are four main single-player race modes: Championship, Career, Arcade, and Time Trial. Career mode is a linear series of races where you hire staff and purchase bike upgrades as you progress through multiple seasons of racing. There’s no branching, no choice, and no real sense of simulating a racing season. Rather than focusing on bike modifications and race selection—as good simulations should
do—too much time and energy are focused on doing inane things like recruiting press agents.
Championship mode is just a pared down version of Career mode. Just choose a pre-made bike from one of three classes and go race a series of races. No staff hiring or upgrades are necessary, but it’s otherwise the exact same thing as Career mode. Time Trial is a more promising departure in which you can set your own racing line, but it ends up seeming much more like a lazy afterthought. There’s little reason for people to share their racing lines, and the game has no built-in community features to encourage doing so.
As a pleasant surprise, Arcade mode returns to the old-school arcade racing games of old—especially Hang On
—where you have to reach certain checkpoints to gain more time in order to continue a race. The catch is that you gain time not only by reaching checkpoints, but by taking a corner well, drafting off of other racers, and overtaking opponents. The problem is that it doesn’t change how
you race. Just like in Career mode, if you crash or take a turn terribly, you won’t win. Miss a gate or let opponents pass you, it amounts to the same thing: you lose.
Online, MotoGP 09/10
proves even more monotonous. You can race either in Arcade or Championship mode, but as with the single-player mode, there’s little difference between the two race types. The point is simply to win. The matchmaking options leave much to be desired, and with so few other players racing online, the courses seem even more spartan than the bland environmental designs already suggest.
You would never know there had been a two-year break between iterations in the series. MotoGP 09/10
looks even more rushed and inattentive to overall design than its immediate predecessor. While you die-hard MotoGP
fans might eke out some brief enjoyment, you’d be much better off if you went out and bought a bargain-priced copy of MotoGP 07
. That three-year-old game has more heart, soul, and chutzpa than either of its lackluster follow-ups, and it makes MotoGP 09/10
look like a snapshot of a series spiraling quickly into oblivion.