MotoGP 15 Review

By Andrew Ogley, 1 year ago
Milestone have managed to capture the insane thrills and spills of MotoGP racing and brought it successfully to the previous generation of consoles. This year's offering, MotoGP 15, finally makes it onto the Xbox One. Has Milestone been able to bring their unparalleled racing title in all its glory to the new platform, and will this be the start of a new generation of virtual Rossi's, Marquez's and Lorenzo's fighting to tame the two wheeled mechanical monster bikes?

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When first starting the game it all looks vaguely familiar, in fact a little too familiar to the point at which last year's sense of Deja Vú is beginning to feel more like Groundhog Day. Cynically you might wonder if this a backwards compatible game with the presentation and look appearing very similar to previous seasons. However, once you start racing, you begin to realise that the folks over at Milestone have indeed been busy, very busy. In pure racing terms with the improvements to physics and handling, this could be the best MotoGP yet.

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As always with the title, there are multiple game modes for players to jump into. For those looking to work their way through the ranks of the different levels of the competition there is the career mode. For those looking for a quick race there is the instant race, Championship, and Grand Prix modes, and for those looking to test their racing abilities there are challenges based on both fictional and real life events where riders try to repeat history and emulate the heroics of their track heroes. An all-new mode for this year is the Time Attack in which players are challenged to race a particular bike under particular conditions in an attempt to beat a set time.

It is the racing that has always set the title apart and again Milestone has delivered. Racing on two wheels always demands a little more than racing on a stable set of four wheels. The learning curve is steep, but the game has a number of difficulty settings to ease players in and on the easiest the bikes almost run themselves. It's on the harder settings where the games physics really start to kick in. Heading towards a corner at breakneck speed, the player can find themselves trying to juggle a whole number of things in fractions of a second to try and get that perfect line: the position of the rider with the weight forwards or backwards, sitting up or hunkered low, the use of front brake, rear brake, or joint braking, and of course the feathering of the throttle. This all contributes to how the bike handles and whether you stay seated or not. For the times that you don't - and they are frequent in the beginning - there is a rewind mechanism that takes you back a few seconds and allows you to fix your error.

There is a great sense of progression and eventually you'll start to hit the corners with precision, remain on the bike for complete races, and stay ahead of the competition. At that stage you'll probably want to start working your way from the lower tier bikes, up towards the real monsters on the track, and it's good to take this in stages. Not only do the different classes of bike feel and behave differently, you will also begin to notice the difference between the different manufacturers with a Ducati feeling quite different to a Honda. Fortunately through the season of eighteen races and four time trials there is plenty of time to get used to the subtleties. This sense of progression is even felt when you get things wrong and find yourself in the gravel trap, there is a strange feeling of snatching an albeit pyrrhic victory from the jaws of defeat by keeping control of the bike and getting safely back on to the track.

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Over the course of a race weekend, the track and weather conditions will also contribute to your success or failure. At the start of the weekend, the asphalt is pretty clean but after a number of laps rubber from the tires starts to blacken the surface, and continues over the course of the two race days, getting blacker and blacker and stretching further. This isn't however purely aesthetic, those blackened areas provide more grip allowing you to corner a little faster each time and to push a little harder on each lap.

During career mode, participating in the different phases of a race weekend - practice, qualifying, warm-up and race - rewards the player with a data pack for the bike enabling the technicians to develop the racing machine a little further (effectively a leveling up mechanism). The rider too receives XP and credits for every race, with the XP building up the racing level (unlocking new customisation options along the way), whilst the in-game money can be used to buy new bikes and finance the player's own team - a feature making its debut this year.

Various camera modes from third person to first person are included, and the stomach churning helmet cam returns in which the horizon dips, lurches, and banks left and right with every turning, braking, or acceleration of the bike - a surefire way to induce motion sickness in even the sturdiest of constitutions. This view becomes even more challenging in the wet when spray starts to obscure the visor. In short, it's a terrifying spectacle.

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Within the confines of the track, the game looks fantastic. The bikes are spectacular looking and leather clad riders are captured brilliantly in all of their shiny colorful finery. On the starting line, it's possible to see heat haze around the exhausts of the bikes revving up waiting the green light, and throughout the race all of the reflections from sunlight and environments can be seen in the glistening metal of the machines. Off the track, almost immediately starting with the grass and curbs, things are not quite so glamorous. It's been a critique from previous years that the environments, the pits, and even the ingame menus lack a certain amount of polish, and this year on a new console it's disappointing that Milestone couldn't have put some more work into this aspect of the title. For the menu screens you can argue that it is just eye-candy, but the environments deepen the immersion level and if you compare the tracks here with those in those in Project CARS, MotoGP15 does come up a little short. The counterpoint here is that with racing that is insanely intense and demanding as it is, if you have time to sit back and admire the view then you're doing something wrong.

All of these features are replicated in the multiplayer modes; there is local split screen for two players wanting to experience a close face-to-face rivalry on the couch, and online where up to twelve players can challenge each other for a podium finish. Players can set criteria on the matchmaking screen to search and find games, and in the lobby players can then get to vote for the track and weather conditions for the race. Like everything else in the title, there are options to keep everyone happy. Unsurprisingly on the track it becomes even more intense as real players tend to be more aggressive than the game's AI, and there's no safety net of rewinds in multiplayer.

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Achievements in the title are well distributed with a number being linked to winning on each of the tracks, developing the bike, and winning under certain conditions. There are a few multiplayer specific achievements too, for competing in and winning races but nothing too difficult especially as a number can be won on the easiest of settings.

As mentioned earlier, there are a few issues with the title. A 1GB+ patch was released shortly after the game hit the console to fix some performance issues, but there is still some ghosting in some of the camera modes. However, the most frustrating will be ironically encountered by those hardcore players attempting a full race weekend during the career mode. The game consistently freezes between each phase transition and unceremoniously dumps the player back to the dashboard; going from practice to qualifying, from qualifying to warm-up, and warm-up to racing, the game maddeningly crashes every time. The only blessing is that this occurs after progress has been saved and after reloading the game, reloading the career, and reloading the course, the player can resume where they left off. How this ever got past the QA department remains a mystery but in testament to the brilliance of the actual racing, you still feel compelled to go through this and carry on challenging for the podium finishes.

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There is a caveat to all that has been mentioned. As good as the latest installment of FIFA might be, if you don't like football you are not going to buy the title. Similarly, if you don't like American Football, you won't be buying Madden. Motorbike racing is a niche genre on consoles and MotoGP 15 will only appeal to those with a genuine interest in the sport. It is a title, that really makes high demands of its players. It is a title that you only really get out of it what you're prepared to put into it. For those hardcore players who play on the most realistic settings, this is a genuinely thrilling and intense racing game bordering on a simulation that matches the real life counterpart. Unfortunately, for those outside of the sport, you're probably better sticking to racing games of the four-wheeled variety.

Summary

MotoGP 15 manages to delight and disappoint this year. The racing itself is better than ever due to the improvements in the physics and handling of the bikes. However, with the game making its first appearance on the Xbox One you feel that Milestone had the chance to impress and perhaps bring new fans into the fold, but with the lacklustre presentation and more severe bugs, it feels like a missed opportunity and that's a shame. To be fair, the title has always focussed on the racing - it just wants the player to race and race some more, and with this Milestone have continued to deliver an unrivalled two-wheel experience that is a thrilling and intense as the sport it represents. It is genuinely hard to find fault in the actual racing within the game.
3.5 / 5
Positives
  • Unique, intense and thrilling racing experience
  • Stunning visuals of the riders and bikes
  • Accessible to all levels of riders
Negatives
  • Lacklustre graphical presentation in menus and titles
  • A few graphical issues during races
  • Patch desperately needed to fix the broken career mode
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent over 13 hours racing by the seat of his pants, reaching level 39, whilst managing to unlock 13 of the 46 achievements. The Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.
Andrew Ogley
Written by Andrew Ogley
Andrew has been writing for TA since 2011 covering news, reviews and the occasional editorials and features. One of the grumpy old men of the team, his mid-life crisis has currently manifested itself in the form of an addiction to sim-racing - not being able to afford the real life car of his dreams. When not spending hours burning simulated rubber, he still likes to run around, shoot stuff and blow things up - in the virtual world only of course.