Over a year has passed since the last edition of MotoGP
graced our consoles as the title took a season’s sabbatical. This season, the title is back, but has it come screaming out of the pits to take pole position, or is it a case of lamely limping back to the engineers for yet another refit?
Like its predecessors, MotoGP 13
gives gamers the opportunity to race various classes of motorbikes ranging from 250cc in Moto3 class up to speed monsters of 1000cc in MotoGP, with races taking part on famous circuits across the globe. These bikes are dedicated racing machines much like Formula 1 cars and are just as brutal, except on two wheels.
From the start, this game just wants you to race, race, and race. The main menu features all the title’s game modes, including Instant Race, Championship, Career, and Online. There aren't many choices left other than to race. Frills and additional features remain sparse, and this becomes increasingly apparent throughout the course of the game.
The game starts with the player creating his or her own virtual racer with a limited number of customisations such as the colour of riding leathers, crash helmet, and a character’s face that looks like a bad passport photo. The player also gets to choose a management team, along with their equally-bad passport photos. At least the photos of the real racing stars look normal, but as the riders all wear helmets when racing, the likenesses are only seen on the screen showing the starting line-up and on the occasional loading screens.
With the game being fully licensed, all the official courses are included, along with the teams that are participating. The game even manages to capture the different riding styles of the real life racers and allows players to adopt one of those styles for their own virtual riders. To keep the title up-to-date as the championship continues, the developer has promised free DLC throughout the season to keep pace with any changes in the sport.
The virtual racer can be used in the Championship and Career modes, and, of course, it can also be used for online racing. In Championship mode, the player can race through a short season of races across a selectable number of courses, but it is in the Career mode that players will probably spend more time.
Players can choose which class of racing to begin and will be able to participate in the races throughout the season. During each race, there is the opportunity to race a full weekend, qualifying rounds, or just the race itself. Racing in qualifying has the advantage of enabling the player to start higher in the grid and also to tweak and experiment with the bike. There are so many modifications available that you can leave it to the engineers to make adjustments at your request or go into detail yourself and perform your own tinkering, after which it is advised to use the limited practice time or qualifying period to fully test the adjustments.
Whilst it is fine to be given choices and various game modes in which to play, the core element of racing is where a title will succeed or fail, and here MotoGP 13
manages to do both quite spectacularly.
Whilst most racing titles make a concession to accessibility enabling new racers to jump in and compete, MotoGP
remains uncompromising with the demands it puts on even novice riders. There is very little hand-holding, and "Easy" really only means "slightly less difficult" when compared to the other levels in the game. Even with all riding aids switched on, any newcomer will still be faced with a sheer learning cliff whilst discovering how the bikes handle, and every single twist, turn, and bend becomes a learning curve in the most literal sense.
Those looking for instant gratification or simple arcade action in which they can easily blast around circuits on monster bikes are going to quickly be very disappointed and frustrated. This is not a standard racing game; this borders on a full-blown technical simulation.
Milestone have done their best to include as many real-life variables as possible in the racing. The player has control over the throttle, which demands fine control when coming out of corners or accelerating; otherwise the player is thrown from the bike. Braking becomes more treacherous with the player being able to control the front and rear brakes separately; get it wrong, and you're thrown from the bike. The position of the rider on the bike can also be controlled, whether settling down by the fairing or sitting high in the saddle, how deep to lean left or right, all of which affect the physics of the bike. Get it wrong… and you're thrown from the bike. Managing all those factors whilst approaching a corner at a simulated 200 kph with twenty-plus other riders in the rain requires a mental and manual dexterity of mythical ninja proportions. Fortunately, there are a limited number of rewinds available in each race which allow you to reverse time for a limited period and hopefully avoid whatever took you down.
Whilst most of the game can be played in third-person view, there is also a helmet camera first-person view which shows the ridiculous angles that the bikers lean to whilst cornering. It's frightening and vomit-inducing to anyone with any degree of motion sickness.
It is only after a number of hours in (and out of) the saddle that the player will begin to develop the fine touches and nuances needed to even subject a modicum of control over the seemingly demented racing machines. Players without that level of patience will no doubt label the game uncontrollable or unplayable, and that’s a shame as it is the gradual mastery of the game that makes it shine. As the player slowly learns all those little touches and finally has the finesse to control the bikes, there is a wonderful feeling of progress and satisfaction when it all comes together. Progressing through the field and finishing in the top ten, on the podium, or eventually in first place, really feels like an achievement that has been earned through the hours of blood, sweat, and multiple burn marks. The fist pumping celebration shown by a virtual on-screen rider feels genuinely matched by the player's own elation on obtaining that elusive win.
During the many hours spent on the courses refining those racing skills, there are a number of technical issues that become apparent. Firstly, and almost immediately, is the presentation. This is certainly a game that has chosen functionality over form on a design level. Menus are basic, as are most of the other visuals within the title. The mobile home/office in the career mode looks reminiscent of early PC games, not a title hitting at the end of a console’s life cycle. The courses also lack a certain degree of graphical polish. Whilst some of the courses may be recognisable from other racing titles, they are less impressive in comparison with other titles. There are also occasional frame-rate issues. On one particular corner on the Indianapolis Speedway, the frame-rate dropped alarmingly and consistently. However, the bikes and the riders are the stars and do look impressive when tearing around the tracks.
The achievements in the game remain pretty standard for such a title, being divided between online, offline, and career-centric play. There are some additional achievements requiring a rider from a certain nation win on a specific circuit. Almost all of the single player achievements should be attainable, with only the online ones demanding more time and skill, but even some of those could be boosted amongst friends.
Right from the start it is clear that MotoGP 13
focuses on racing and nothing else. It is a game that seems to have been developed by race fans for race fans, and anything outside of that seems to be superfluous. For those that are prepared to take the time and really master the controls, there is a genuine four-star racing experience to be had. It is one of the most detailed and nuanced racing simulations available and highlights that the difference between success and failure lies in the deftest of touches. Unfortunately, for most gamers, this will remain a case of too much effort and too little reward, and the game will be considered too uncontrollable. That, coupled with the lacklustre presentation and technical issues, will mean that most will find this a mediocre title at best. Motorbike titles are a niche market, and, sadly, MotoGP 13
will not be changing that fact.
The copy of the game was provided courtesy the publisher. The reviewer spent around 15 hours playing the various game modes including instant action, championship, career, split screen, and online. 31 of the 50 achievements were unlocked for 430G