Moto Racer 4 Review

By Kevin Tavore,
When I was young, I used to love those arcade racers of the N64 and PlayStation era. When the weekend came and I was allowed to go to the rental store to pick one game, I'd often pick things like San Francisco Rush, Extreme G, Snowboard Kids, and Beetle Adventure Racing. Sure, those games were arguably quite mediocre or even bad, but at the time they were magical in their presentation. They'd transport me to exciting worlds full of speed and adrenaline. Worlds where flashy visuals and defiance of physics were plentiful. Worlds unlike anything else.

Many of you likely haven't heard of it, but the Moto Racer series was one of the myriad of arcade racers at the time. The series actually spawned six games previously, including three portable spin-offs, which makes Moto Racer 4 the seventh in a line of classic, if sometimes forgotten, racing games. But Moto Racer 4 and the team at Artefacts Studios haven't forgotten, and the game certainly would have fit right in twenty years ago. That begs a question though - does a game in a style that died out fifteen years ago have a place in today's market? Moto Racer 4 answers that question.

1

When I say Moto Racer 4 harkens back to those classic games, I'm not kidding. Immediately upon loading up players are greeted with music to the tune of exciting electronica typical of a fantastical racing game. There is an entire cast of characters with names and personalities that you can choose from. Each offers varying degrees of top speed, acceleration, handling and style, but part of you just wants to pick the one you think is coolest. The ones you like can be upgraded to be even better, which will be necessary to progress far into the game.

The music, charismatic riders, and presentation are all important to matching the historic style the game is going for, but it was always the tracks and environment that were make or break. In this department, Moto Racer 4 is an incredible success. The tracks are seriously very good. There are many different environments from desert canyon to South Pacific islands to more industrial areas, like a dam. These areas are inspired by the real world, but the tracks themselves are clearly not. There will be huge jumps, shortcuts and absurd vistas to get you excited. The track design itself is also good, with tracks feeling constantly exciting and fresh even after multiple runs. The tracks are simply fantastic - they're a blast to ride through and the shortcuts really do cut a good chunk of time off. The only negative I can find is that there are only fourteen of them across seven environments with one dirt and one asphalt track each. I'd have liked to see more.

Just one huge jump among many. These are the highlight of the game.Just one huge jump among many. These are the highlight of the game.

Sadly, the rest of the game does not hold up to the high quality of the tracks. Certainly the biggest issue is the way the bikes move. You can get boost in a few ways, such as landing on both wheels after a jump, hitting cn_A during various QTE-style prompts (such as the start of a race), and by doing wheelies. The boost feels good, but it's too important. If you don't have boost, you're moving at half speed and the AI is racing around you which isn't fun or competitive. This means you're constantly spamming cn_A to do wheelie after wheelie. Boost is fun in these games and it needed to be in Moto Racer, but here it's really too much of a good thing.

Then there's the handling, which is atrocious. This is an arcade racing game, so players should already expect things to be far from realistic, but this is ridiculous. The speed and degree with which you turn is way too high. If you push the stick even half way to the left or right, you'll go careening to the side. Precise movements require only the slightest touch to the left stick to perform. Considering half the maps are full of civilian traffic and other obstacles to avoid, you'll need to make small adjustments constantly, but thanks to the handling being so different than other racers, more often than not you'll be zig-zagging across the road frantically trying to straighten out so you don't hit oncoming traffic and to line up the next jump. It ends up being more frustrating than fun.

See that car ahead? I pushed left too hard when avoiding it so I bounced off the wall and slammed directly into it.See that car ahead? I pushed left too hard when avoiding it so I bounced off the wall and slammed directly into it.

Visually, the game is quite decent but nothing spectacular. While the tracks are varied with seven environments, the world hardly feels alive. To some extent, in a racing game, that isn't quite as important as you'll often be going too fast to see it. That said, it would have been nice if there was a bit more to flesh out the world. Something to make you stop even for a second just to soak it in. Instead, we're met with identical tree after identical tree in the forest, rocks in the desert, rocks on the island, etc. This is made more noticeable by some extreme pop-in that catches your eye as you race. But all of that could be forgiven on a technical basis if not for the fact that the game has severe framerate drops. In a game like this, 60FPS is the gold standard and it really does improve the gameplay. Moto Racer 4 took perhaps a few too many notes from those classic games and drops the framerate to the teens, if not lower, on occasion. For the most part it is playable, but that's not a ringing endorsement.

Even with all of that, the quality of the tracks alone may have been enough if not for a host of quality of life issues. The game simply doesn't feel well-designed. Before each race, you need to bet on what place you'll get. If you bet first and get first, you get three stars. If you bet first and get second, you actually lose three stars (though you can earn them back). This alone would be acceptable if not for the catch-up AI that will no doubt frustrate you to no end. It's nearly impossible to catch an AI who's ahead, but they will always be on your heels no matter how well you drive. This can make for some very frustrating last second losses. Beyond that, there are just little details that should have been noticed but aren't. Each racer has multiple color schemes, but your choice isn't saved between races so you must back out of the menu to switch your color back every single time. There are also spelling errors in the loading screens which only call attention to the lack of polish.

You can't deny that the tracks are varied, interesting and fun.You can't deny that the tracks are varied, interesting and fun.

Finally, there's the multiplayer. What might have been the game's saving grace by allowing players to compete in 10-player matches free of catch-up AI is sabotaged by a lack of players. I've been playing the game since its European release and only once was I able to find a single other player to race against in matchmaking. Multiplayer allows you to set up tournaments and generally seems really promising, but without the playerbase to take part, all of the features seem meaningless. I can't knock the game for having a low playerbase, but it is a little disappointing that something potentially great can't get off the ground.

Achievement-wise, it's gonna be a grind. There are very few gimme achievements. After six hours I'm still sitting at less than 100 Gamerscore. To complete it, you'll need to get three stars on every event in the game, which will be no easy task alone thanks to the frustrating star system and catch-up AI. You'll need to press cn_A 3500 times doing wheelies. Then you'll need to boost multiplayer for quite a lot of time to win 100 multiplayer races and win a 10 player online championship. Finally, there's this gem:

Moto Racer 4No competitionThe No competition achievement in Moto Racer 4 worth 317 pointsFinish a race 10s ahead of your nearest rival (single race - 'God' difficulty)

I haven't attempted it, but I'm pretty sure it will be a nightmare.

Summary

Moto Racer 4 is an arcade that pays homage to the late nineties when arcade racers were at their height. With awesome tracks and a unique roster of riders with their own personalities, it is a game that would have been fantastic twenty years ago. Sadly, poor handling, catch-up AI, framerate drops and a general lack of polish to all aspects of the game render what could have been a success into a middling arcade racer that is less than the sum of its parts. Someone who really wants to relive the games of their childhood could find something to like here, but they would be equally or perhaps better served simply playing an old favorite.
2.5 / 5
Moto Racer 4
Positives
  • Amazing tracks across a variety of environments
  • Cast of characters with fun personalities
Negatives
  • Handling is erratic and difficult to learn
  • Occasional severe frame drops
  • Mutliplayer is already dead
Ethics
The reviewer spent six hours playing the main campaign mode as well as an hour attempting to find a match in the multiplayer, gaining 6 out of the 50 achievements. This copy was provided courtesy of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.