(Reviewed on Xbox 360)
- The thrill of the chase
- Excellent handling of the motorcycles
- Fantastic sounds
- Real racing atmosphere
- Reward after hard work
- The frustration of mastering each motorbike
- Weak overall graphics
- Lack of racing variety
- The tough learning curve
- Lack of training
Think of the last rollercoaster ride you've ever been on. Put that into a game but this time you have to control the pacing and turning of each bend and straight. Make one mistake and you're face first on the ground wishing you did things right. After playing GRID 2 recently I was itching for a solid racing simulator whose sole purpose was to make me earn my keep. I got it, only, after the relaxed physics and delicious eye candy the reconditioning process was more intense than expected. MotoGP 13 is not a game you mess around with then.
Every track featured in the official MotoGP series is featured along with every team and rider. Milestone S.R.L. has taken pains to make this game as pure and realistic as possible, while also introducing players into the accessible Moto3 250cc-engined bikes before shaking things up with the aggressive 600cc-engined Moto2 and 1000cc MotoGP classes. How does it play? MotoGP 13 is the most hardcore racing game I've played all year. Every mistake is punished while everything done right is rewarded gracefully. This stark contrast is what defines this game's weaknesses and strengths.
It's the real thing
There are so many ways that this game succeeds. First there's the helmet camera. I often wonder why so many developers don't use this type of camera. It's just so immersive. The natural shift in direction toward corner apex, motion blurring and jaunts that go along with the directional shifts make it the only camera angle worth using in-game. Every other viewpoint just feels lacking.
Then we have the physics. If there was one area of the game that got the most attention it was this. So far this year, Moto GP 13 has the most engaging physics in a racing game this year. Using too much throttle in a bend leads to the backend losing grip and the inevitable loss of balance. This leads to some spectacular crashes, especially in the Moto2 and MotoGP classes. The use of effective braking, just-enough steering and quick application of throttle is an absolutely necessity for negotiating bends at speed. The slightest mistake or too much application of any controls backfires immediately. This kind of trickiness becomes more apparent with each promotion of motorcycle class. Moto2 and MotoGP bikes are particularly difficult to ride full-out with just the slightest extra movement of analog joystick causing your rider to fall off immediately. MotoGP 13 is easily the most difficult racer on the Xbox 360 so far, and the most rewarding for this reason. For those worried about the learning curve, there are scalable assists like joint brakes and steering help for those new to the game's inaccessible nature.
Presentation is hit and miss
Graphically speaking, the game serves its purpose but never really excels like Forza Motorsport 4 or GRID 2. Every mechanical piece of the motorbikes is animated and equally as functional. Tires show wear where they were used most. The motorcycles got the most attention during this game's development. Tracks lack detail, whether in texture quality or lighting. Framerates suffer while riding in rough weather and riding between many opponents. There of are plenty of issues like texture flicking and artifacts appearing on track too.
The sounds are great with each class of motorbike sounding distinctively different. Tires scrubbing against tarmac are great indicators of how much grip you had when entering and negotiating bends. Opponents' engines howled past when going too slow. The world around you became muffled when using the helmet camera just made things even more convincing. Metal scraping against tarmac is unnerving when crashes happen too.
MotoGP 13's authenticity extends to the game modes too. There are no arcade modes in single player to distract you, only a Grand Prix mode, instant race and career mode. Career mode transitions players from Moto3 through to MotoGP classes in seasons imitating the real-life structure of the MotoGP championship itself. Players can choose to do races only, choose between doing a qualification stage or do a full race weekend. My personal suggestion is to take the race weekend in its entirety, as it will afford you the time to practice each track and learn the motorcycle's ways before tackling already tough opponents. It has to be said that while opponent A.I. is quite strong and will compete quite tightly with you there is still a possibility for them to suddenly develop massive amounts of speed and grip on the last lap. This can be very frustrating, especially if you've been leading the whole way through and are suddenly overtaken on the last straight.
There is a leveling system included in the game that allows players to progress further up the food chain by turning off assists, increasing A.I. difficulty and reducing uses of the rewind feature. This unlocks top riders and motorcycles for use later in the game. As for tuning, players can opt to have a technical meeting with your mechanic to make changes to the motorbike's setup based on feedback such as understeering, oversteering, stability and overall speed. While I like the idea of a technical consultation, the conversational manner that this is done is often annoying because it lacks detail and often changes setups adversely while costing precious time during race weekends. Manual tuning is also an option with explanations given for each section of setup to help players understand what can be changed and why.
Too hard too fast
The transition into the Moto2 class happens far too quickly for my taste, especially since the latter two classes are so demanding in comparison to Moto3. Multiplayer offers a leaderboards mode for each track for players to compete on lap times. Everything from the championship rules to the flags raised are simulated, and fans of the series will find MotoGP 13 catered to their tastes.
The same Grand Prix mode in single player that gives players the chance to make their own championships and compete is available for online play as well. Unfortunately this is where the options for gameplay end. There isn't much more variety than that. It's unfortunate really, because a game with this kind of realism should offer more than just the usual MotoGP championship fare. This is where many will be put off because other racers very often offer more. Forza Motorsport 4 for example has a drifting mode and autocross mode, and GRID 2 has the extremely challenging Overtake mode that can be competed in both online and offline. The purity of MotoGP 13 does not allow the kind of flexibility that other racing games offer, and that may just be its downfall.
It's really not for everyone
While this is a very good racing simulator, the lack of accessibility to novice and arcade racers will push many away. A training program Gran Turismo 5's licenses as well as better introductions to the higher motorbike classes would've made this game far more appealing to more people. The rewind feature implemented by Milestone allows players to go back to the moment from before they crashed or made a mistake will be a saving grace for many, as mistakes are bound to happen in a game of this nature. Increasing the assists doesn't make the game much easier either due to the realistic physics.
For those willing to put in the practice and the hours, MotoGP 13 offers an unparalleled motorcycle racing experience. The lack of variety in game modes may also push many away, while purists will appreciate the authenticity of the racing experience. Is it worth putting in the hours to becomes better and faster? Yes, definitely. Just by getting better at this game, you'll almost automatically become better at other racing games too. I've spent roughly 20 hours so far on this game and am not even halfway near completing it. A lengthy career mode combined with steep learning curve will reward the committed. The principles needed to be mastered here will not only benefit motorcycle simulation racers but also car simulation racers due to the extremely high level of realism. Just don't buy MotoGP 13 if you're going get into a race and win the first time, because that's never going to happen.
Buy MotoGP 13 from Kalahari.com
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd