For any motorsport fans, the Isle of Man TT needs no introduction. Its history, legacy, and fearsome reputation is well known and well deserved. Brutally unforgiving and difficult, it is the longest motorcycling circuit still being raced competitively, with riders hurtling along the public roads and narrow country lanes, some of which have barely changed since the inaugural race of 1907. Once downloaded, there was only one thing to do, pick the biggest and fastest bike, and hit the legendary Snaefell Circuit. 23 minutes, 60.9 km (37.9 miles) and 264 turns — plus many falls — later, I was left amazed. Outside of open-world racing, it's hard to recall such an expansive and lengthy circuit that has been so stunningly reproduced. From the famous landmarks, the drystone walls, the padded trees, bus-stops, pubs, houses, signs and road marking. It's all included, along all of the 60 km. It certainly had the wow factor. So much effort, care and attention to the smallest details went into creating a one-to-one copy of the circuit. It's truly an amazing feat. It's just a shame that Kylotonn forgot about the rest of the game in doing so.
That first lap on Kylotonn's TT Isle of Man
was a joy to race. Following the rules of the Tourist Trophy, riders are started 10 seconds apart, similar to rallying, so you're left alone racing through the countryside, with the sounds of the wind rushing around you. Despite the difficult controls and the frequent falls, the majesty of the course persuades you to overlook some of the idiosyncrasies of the title. Graphically, it's impressive. Scenes hurtle by at a locked 30 FPS, with no stuttering or tearing. The riders and bikes look realistic with liveries and sponsors perfectly captured from the real-life counterparts. Shadows and sunlight change when you choose to race in the morning, noon or evening. The sound of the engines, in both classes of bikes, superbike and supersport, is captured and realistically created. Swapping from one of the chase cameras to the first-person helmet camera, you could almost believe you were there. In short, presentation-wise there is little to complain about it.
It's only when you leave the joys of the Snaefell Circuit behind and venture into the rest of the title that the wow factor starts to wear off. At the start of the career, you'll be able to create a rider and deck them out in racing leathers with a customizable tri-colour scheme. Choose wisely, at this point, as there is no further personalization possible. This lack of customization also applies to the bikes. You'll be able to buy your first bike — albeit it with limited funds — which will look resplendent with official liveries and sponsors, but you won't be painting wheel rims and brake calipers. Whilst most would say that this is not part of the racing experience, it is part of the gaming experience, and it does seem to be lacking.
Away from the main circuit, there are a number of fictional circuits included from different parts of the British Isles to race on throughout the racing career. Whilst they still look good, somehow they don't quite feel up to the standard of the real-life TT circuit. They vary in length and you'll find yourself thrust into various events, either racing laps against AI racers or attempting to set the fastest times, TT-style. Unfortunately, at this stage, the career becomes a little confusing with your manager seemingly putting you forward for every single race on the calendar. Emails arrive in your virtual inbox offering you a choice of races in which to compete, but the amount is quickly overwhelming. Each race earns you money and fans on social media, but interestingly each race can cost money too, from entrance fees through to repair costs and maintenance. One of the tips on loading screen warns that if you end up in the red, your career will be over and you'll have to start again, which is worrying given that you will be falling off and crashing far more frequently than you'd expect, resulting from a combination of brutal handling, strange physics, and spatially unaware AI riders.
Racing is tough. It's difficult to judge if it is realistic but there are moments where the bike will oversteer uncontrollably or throw the rider for no apparent reason, and there is a steep learning curve. Perhaps, this was my own ineptitude handling crests and dips with the controller, but interestingly I watched as the AI race leader fell off at the exact same spot on two consecutive laps. Apparently, I wasn't alone in my struggle. The AI also makes the game tougher when you hit the circuit at the same time with nine riders all trying to negotiate the same track. The country lanes often feel narrow enough when you're alone, trying to thread the needle between two kerbstones that already look perilously close together. Add the AI riders and the opening corners on a circuit become very crowded, very quickly. This is compounded by the fact that your first bike in the career seems underpowered and the AI racers always seem to out-accelerate you and have a little extra grip where the player struggles for traction.
More nervewracking though is the lack of spatial awareness demonstrated by the AI. Occasionally, they will register the player's presence on the track but most of the time they will single-mindedly hold themselves on the racing line, either attempting to drive through the player or overtaking and cutting back in front so aggressively that they clip the player's front wheel. In both cases, things end more catastrophically for the player than the AI, and racing a clean lap can be an exercise in frustration especially as there is no rewind function in the title. For those who are looking for even more of a challenge, it is possible to change gears manually and work the front and rear brakes individually giving an extra level of finesse to the racing.
Overall though, it feels like the gaming elements have been secondary to producing the stunning Snaefell circuit. Menu presentation is basic, there's no personalization and there's no tuning for bikes. Additionally, only the modern riders and teams are represented. With a history of 98 races, you might have expected to be able to race as some of the greats from time past, such as Joey Dunlop or even Guy Martin (who is still racing), but this is not possible. You might want to race some of the legendary machines from history too, again not possible, although playing devil's advocate, the first-ever bike to win had an average speed of 38 MPH, whilst modern bikes have an average of 133 MPH, so racing an historic bike would take a lot longer than the current lap record of 16 minutes, and not many players would have the patience to complete a full lap. For the record, the game allows the player to complete a full race consisting of six laps of the legendary circuit. That's nearly two hours of racing.
There are some concessions for the gaming community. There are leaderboards to track your lap times against the rest of the community. In single player, you can set up a quick race on any of the circuits, selecting the race type, number of laps, and the time of day. There's also online and offline multiplayer. Couch co-op involves each player taking it in turn to race and then passing the controller along to the next player. Online multiplayer features up to eight players racing on any of the circuits with the host being able to select the bike class, track and the type of race. Unfortunately, during the review period, it was difficult to find a single online race, with lobbies never filling and players leaving ahead of the start.
There are only 31 achievements in the title and whilst some — fall off ten times — are easy, there are some career goals that will take some time to complete. It's worth noting that only one of the achievements is for online play, so the rest can be unlocked solo.
With the lack of customization in the title, it's not surprising that there are currently no microtransactions or loot boxes included. However, in a move that will please the fans, Kylotonn has already announced a free DLC pack that will bring sidecars to the title later this year.Check out our Best Racing Games article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
The circuit at Snaefell is an absolute masterpiece and a work of art, but the focus and attention to detail on that part of the title has come at the expense of fundamental gaming elements. Fans of TT racing and the Isle of Man circuit will certainly love racing on the legendary roads. It is simply spectacular but the gaming fraternity may be left feeling a little left out with no customization, tuning options, and a career mode that feels quite confusing at times. With more attention to those elements the game would've been something very special. Nevertheless, running that first lap around Snaefell is not something that will be quickly forgotten, and Kylotonn should be commended for that. What we have is a game that is based on one core experience — an exceptionally good one — which comes at the cost of a solid gaming experience and ultimately feels like a title of missed opportunities.
- The stunning reproduction of the full Snaefell Circuit
- Great TT style races
- Good reproductions of bikes and racers
- Confusing career mode
- Overly protective AI
- No bike tuning or upgrades
The reviewer spent around 15 hours racing around the various circuits. 12 out of the 31 achievements were unlocked. A digital download code was provided by the publisher for the sake of the review, and the title was reviewed on the standard Xbox One.