MotoGP 18 Review

By Andrew Ogley, 11 months ago
Another year, another new sports season and another new installment in the MotoGP franchise. This year's release is, however, potentially more than just the yearly incremental update. This year, Milestone has brought the title in line with its other games by using Unreal Engine 4 to power the title. Although anyone familiar with Milestone's other UE4 powered games may know what a double-edged sword that can be for MotoGP 18.

MotoGP 18

With any yearly update to a sports title, you'd expect to find the liveries, teams, riders and sponsors up to date, and sure enough, this is indeed the case. The track roster has also been updated to match the current season, including Buriram International Circuit in Thailand for the first time alongside fan favourites such as Assen and Silverstone. However, a more powerful graphics engine opens new possibilities and this year's tracks are all drone-scanned. Whilst it might not capture the nuances and subtleties of tracks like laser-scanning, it does mean that the layouts, dimensions and scaling are more accurate than before, along with the placement of the buildings and trackside furniture. This year's addition also allows players to create their own rider for the first time selecting different heads and hairstyles. It's not quite as detailed as any RPG character builder but that extra level of personalisation is always nice to have, especially to have your own character placed amongst the complete roster of riders from the different tiers of the sport.

But it's here too that you will see the first, and very familiar, issues with Milestone's use of the UE4 engine. The studio has clearly used the same rendering techniques as its other titles. The same 'smudge' filter returns making some of the textures on the riders or billboards appear blurred as if painted with watercolours. The menus have improved but overall the visual presentation lacks the finesse and crispness of competing titles. Comparing the graphics alongside Kylotonn's recent TT Isle of Man title, Milestone's effort comes up short and it's something the studio might want to look at now that they have some competition in the genre.

MotoGP 18 - Reveal Images

However, with the use of the new engine, Milestone has enhanced some of the already excellent parts of the franchise. The handling and physics, which were already stunning, have been tweaked and improved further. Bikes dip on braking and the rear suspension and wheels respond realistically when cornering or reacting to the changes on the track. If you're careless enough to head off track, the wheels will pick up dirt, giving less traction until the dirt is worn off. Weather effects too are improved. Distant rainclouds carry a sense of impending dread, and when the rain comes, it has a clear impact on the riding surface, reducing both the bike's grip and your own visibility.

Milestone plays to another of its strengths by making the game accessible to just about any level of player, from novice through to veteran. Adjusting the various race options and assists, enables the player to make the game as challenging as they want. Casual gamers can make it play like an arcade racer only having to steer the bike. Enthusiasts can tweak it towards a simulation, controlling individual brakes, rider position, traction control and bike setup. There's a new manual start option giving the player the opportunity to get a proper racing start.

Whilst the visuals might not be as strong as they could be, Milestone has excelled in the audio this time out. The ambient soundscape truly captures the aural essence of a race circuit. The sounds of the bikes around you, the pitlane, the cheers from the crowds as you race past the grandstands, even down to the tannoy announcements. It all captures the atmosphere of a race circuit on race day. Immersion is also enhanced by small details such as the increasing crowd numbers and activity over the course of a race weekend. Smaller crowds at the start of free practice, building up to a full and very active flag-waving public on race day.

Milestone has also done its best to make the game match the TV experience as closely as possible with pit cameras and grid cameras capturing behind the scenes action and all of the pre-race build-up. Fans used to watching the sport on TV will no doubt feel very much at home with all of these visual elements.

MotoGP 18 - Reveal Images

Of course, all of this is only wrapping for the actual racing experience which remains as solid as ever. The career begins with the Red Bull Rookies Cup and advances over the course of subsequent seasons through the ranks up to the elite MotoGP level. During the season and over the course of the various races, the player is set specific team objectives which can result in either being promoted to number one rider or being dismissed from the team. A full weekend can be raced, with full-length practice sessions, qualifying, and warm-up. All of which provide ample opportunity for learning a circuit, but can be skipped if the player wishes.

The actual race can be set to full-length or one of the preset percentage lengths, it is all up to the player but the more you race, the more experience points you will earn, increasing your own prestige level. There is, however, a rather hefty price to pay for playing through all of the different sessions and that is the number of loading screens and the loading times. They are overly abundant and frustratingly long. Even going from a simple warm-up session to the actual race requires a new loading screen.

Players can contribute to the betterment of their bikes by earning development points during races or by performing development tests during free practice sessions. The development menu and choices are relatively straightforward, perhaps too much so, with players simply leveling up specific areas of their motorcycle. It's worth mentioning that development is about all a player can do outside of racing, as the management part of the game is missing from this year's installment.

MotoGP 18 - Reveal Images

On the track, the AI can be tweaked to match the player's own skills. Whilst the AI is not overly aggressive, the riders still have an occasional blindspot for the player, and will more than occasionally attempt to ride through them. It's frustrating to have your rear wheel nudged, sending you flying whilst the offending AI rider merrily races off into the distance. Fortunately, crashes generally only cost time and position as the much-lauded damage model seems to have little effect. But when given the chance to race, the handling remains sublime, a real forte of the studio. Those moments of leaning the bikes from one side to the other whilst hurtling through a chicane feel as rewarding as they ever have.

Along with the career, there are quick races and time attack modes for singleplayer. There is also online multiplayer, although connections are not entirely stable at the time of writing. However, there is already a patch on its way which Milestone says will address the problem.

Achievements remain fairly straightforward. There's an achievement for winning at each of the circuits and those for general progression. There are also a few for online play, so hopefully that end gets sorted. It's worth noting that one particular achievement has not yet been unlocked by any of our community, although it is unclear why.

This game was featured in our Best Xbox One Sports Games Available in 2019 article. Why not check it out to see what else made the cut?

Summary

MotoGP 18 is a clear step forward from its predecessor with the previously used proprietary engine already looking dated. However, it still feels like a transitional title as Milestone brings the UE4 engine to the franchise for the first time. The latest installment reinforces the studio's strengths with the physics, handling, and racing remaining top notch but it also highlights Milestones continuing struggles with the visual presentation. Overall, fans of the sport should still find that it is worth taking the plunge, but with Kylotonn also venturing into the two-wheeled racing genre, it will be up to Milestone to bring more to next year's installment.
3.5 / 5
MotoGP 18
Positives
  • Accessible for players of all levels
  • Great soundscape and atmosphere
  • Impressive handling and physics
  • Immersive TV presentation
Negatives
  • Underwhelming visual presentation
  • Long and frequent loading times
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 10 hours hurtling around tracks desperately trying to stay on two wheels. 23 achievements out of 50 were unlocked. The download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. A standard Xbox One console was used.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
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.