Motorcycle mechanics have always been hit in miss in games, even those focused on the mechanic (I am looking at you Ride). But it’s no secret that Milestone has been the leader in the industry for nearly 20 years. However, their games have never really become mainstream as much as they could have been.
Based on my most recent experience with MotoGP 20 (Stadia), it’s not hard to see why. Don’t get me wrong. MotoGP 20 is very well made. The game is beautiful in every way, and also happens to be the only one in the industry holding the official MotoGP license. But, the thing that’s holding it back from really becoming big is the near impossibility of actually getting even somewhat remotely involved with the game, unless you’re a devoted fan of the MotoGP world.
This year, Milestone reintroduced the managerial career mode. I went this route, and created a character I was pretty proud of. Next, I move on to the task of choosing… well, I don’t know what I am choosing. A person. For what? You have to choose one person, of three, whose minute differences in stats have no real context. What the game doesn’t tell you is that you are choosing a manager. Um. Okay.
The guidance, or lack thereof, doesn’t just end there, though. Your whole career lacks guidance. There is more than enough to do there, but there is no real clear direction on who anyone is or what they do. Now through discovery, I found that you search for better contracts, hire staff, and even research better tech for your sled, which, to me, seems pretty standard, but you are never told any of this. Poor use of the in-game calendar just gets baffling as you watch empty weeks fly by between races. I am assuming that anyone well versed in the franchise, both the motorsport and the video game, will have no problem with any of this and be familiar, but for those of us noobs, it can be a struggle.
Events aren’t much easier either. Let’s look at the Grand Prix Weekend for example. There are a number of events, including qualifying stages, practice periods, engineering test, all leading up to the main event. Now, you can opt out of one, or all, of these things, if you just want to get straight to race-day without the “authentic” experience, but how would you know. The game certainly doesn’t tell you this. Milestone makes a big assumption that you know how this works and explains nothing. This leads to an exceedingly unfavorable experience.
Getting past all of this, the game, at its core, really nails it where it counts. The track is where this title really shines, and it even gets down into the nitty gritty of fuel management this year. The racing is impenitent. Even with many assists activated, the handling is ultra-realistic with little to no room for any error. It is a sim, so controls are delicate, with the constant need to manage steering and throttle to keep yourself from sliding across the tarmac like cheese on a grater. While it may take some time to master the controls, Milestone has graced us with a rewind feature, which in my case, was used profusely until I got the hang of it.
Not much for career modes, then take a gander at the Historic mode. With a daily refresh, this mode allows you to race as a number of famous riders in numerous challenges. Success here gives you (in-game) cash, which allows you unlock more teams and riders. However, all teams, drivers, and circuits will be available through Quick Modes, which include the ability to setup your own championships, time trials, and Grand Prix Weekends. There is plenty to do within the game, and we haven’t even talked about the passable online multiplayer.
In terms of visuals, as I mentioned this is a beautiful game. The riders and the bikes look excellent, and the photo mode just allows you to see so many breathtaking details. I wish more detail would have been paid to the rider’s faces themselves, and the gameplay graphics a little more. Photo mode is great, and you typically won’t catch things as you are in a fast-paced race, but there are deficiencies throughout in the graphics. And in terms of modern technology and capabilities, some just seemed a little out-of-place.
MotoGP is undeniably a solid, well made racing game, and a testament to the work of those at Milestone. The only thing they didn’t get right was the antagonistic first few hours, which will no doubt drive many people away from the game. Which is a shame, because once you can get past this speed bump, there’s a compelling and challenging racer waiting for you on the other side.
3.75 out 5 stars