More Bikes, Less Excite.
Decades have passed since I have sat down to play a motorcycle racing-inspired video game. Excitebike was a favorite back in the day, with its timed bunny hops accompanied by those 8-bit whirring sounds. As I grew up, I stayed current with car racing games like Gran Turismo and lately the amazing Forza series, but two-wheeled competition fell off for yours truly.
In all honesty, I didn’t know that a plethora of MotoGP titles had taken the world by storm in the years since NES. Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it with the “by storm” hyperbole, as motocross entries are still by and large fairly niche compared to their four-wheeled road-hog siblings. So I was very curious about where this very specific racing genre has gone and what progress, if any, had been made.
Those hopes sorta hid the skids with Valentino Rossi: The Game, developer Milestone’s generic MotoGP title that works well enough as an interactive game for the sport’s most famous racer, but can’t figure out how to make racing fun, much less inspired.
For those (like me) who don’t know the most famous Italian on two wheels: Valentino Rossi’s dominance in the MotoGP circuit is legendary, culminating in an unprecedented seven championship wins. From that point on, number 46 became "his" number, like 23 was Michael Jordan's in the nineties. Naturally, the mode dedicated to the man is easily the best reason to pick up Valentino Rossi: The Game.
Split into two sections, the highlight here is the mode Legendary, which allows players to relive some of the best races in Valentino’s career. Spread across 20 tracks, the Rossipedia will allow you to experience Rossi’s first big win at the BRNO circuit in the Czech Republic. There’s also Rossi’s first major win riding a Yamaha at the Phakisa Freeway in South Africa. (For fans of Rossi this is a big get, apparently.) You even get Rossi himself doing commentary on each race, and he also offers tips for the tracks. There's also cool archive footage to check out. If you’re a fan of Rossi, you’ll love all of this.
The other section is Career mode, which is what you’d expect from any racing game. This is where you'll find the standard time attack and multiplayer options. None of this is, well, very thrilling. Plus, the main career mode, which offers leveling up, and customization to the rider and bikes fail to, err, excite and can be downright inconsistent. Minor note to Milestone: Don't let me play as a girl if when I finish my race the female announcer still calls me a guy. #WhyDidYouEvenBother?
Back to those lack of thrills. The core gameplay feels like a car racing game, but more claustrophobic. The roads are thinner, since everyone is on a bike. Still, that sense of making razor sharp turns where the player’s knees are just inches from the pavement (an option you can choose in the player creator) isn’t there in feeling. These bikes feel like cars to me, or at the very least not different enough. Is this just the way it would be IRL? Maybe, but I was hoping for a zippier feel.
Still, there are tweaks in the form of racing options that make jumping into a game more pleasurable and not as grind-heavy like racing games of the past. By that I mean, flat track racing events get mixed with rally car events and drifting. To me, this might be why the motorcycles don’t feel as different as it would seem. This attempt at variety means the normal boredom of doing the same type of race can be shaken up with the occasional rally car event. This doesn't really make the controls more fun, but props to loosening up a bit regardless.
You can also switch between teams and classes if you choose. You begin with only three teams, but success means ranking up from Moto3 to Moto2. Still, none of this leveling up seemed to change how my player felt in a race. Sure, the bikes handle better, but that’s hardly worth noting.
As a non-racer guy, Valentino Rossi: The Game felt more like a curiosity, one that was rewarded in the ways I played and learned more about the man himself, Valentino Rossi. As a racing experience, though, this was generic. Obviously, mileage will most certainly vary depending on how big a fan one is of the world of MotoGP. At best, for fans of Rossi himself, this is at least a rental.