IGN Review of Moto GP '07
The MotoGP series has always been known and loved (or hated) for its unforgiving simulation aspects. This makes sense because the sport itself relies on almost inhuman precision, careful tuning, and a touch of insanity. After all, if a rider makes even the slightest mistake, he will careen headlong into something quite unpleasant; an unpleasantness that will most likely be forever captured on Youtube.
MotoGP is a very good representation of all of this (you can even save replays and pretend it's Youtube). Hence the sharp learning curve that will probably aggravate you if you're new to the series. If you try to play this game like most racers out there, you will find yourself constantly flipping over the handlebars. The trick is to actually use your brake before a turn (shocking!), lay off the gas, lean into the curve, and accelerate out at breakneck speed. MotoGP captures this pretty simple dynamic perfectly, and it's quite exhilarating when it finally clicks with you.
But this is not a review about the MotoGP series, it's specifically about MotoGP '07. Developer Climax has taken a few criticisms to heart and set about to make the game more accessible to new players. At least that's what they said. I can feel some of you hardcore MotoGP fans out there cringing at the words "more accessible," but don't worry: they didn't really change the main mechanics of MotoGP '06 at all. Cornering is a touch more forgiving with the default settings (you can increase the Sim percentage), but it's not like you can magically barrel around corners at 200 mp/h now. There's also a new visual effect that causes the back of your bike to fishtail a little bit if you're in danger of wiping out during a turn. It's kind of a goofy effect because it looks like a puppy wagging his tail. Also I'm not so sure if it would actually help beginners. They would probably be more confused as to why their bike is wagging its behind at them in a slightly scandalous manner. However, the hardcore tuners out there can use this as an indicator for what works and doesn't so I guess it has a purpose.
Also helpful is the new telemetry function. This feature lists lap times (not all that special) and a color coded map that shows where you crashed, went off course, or incurred time penalties. It's a nice way of replaying the race in your mind without actually watching a replay.
These additions are nice, but they seem to be more geared towards people who are already invested in the series. So how is the game actually more accessible? To be frank, the developers cut corners. On lower difficulty levels, there's this weird stats manipulation present. Say that you come in first place for a few races but then come in sixth place on another race. The computer will adapt to this by having someone who's been consistently coming in eighth place all of a sudden rally against the other players and come in second. The result of this is that you keep your overall number one position because the point spread becomes all wonky. This is not exactly realistic.
Instead of tricking players into thinking they're better than they are, you would think that the developers would opt to actually teach the players how to play the game. However, the "Training Mode" is utterly useless. In fact, it doesn't really train at all. Telling a player to "follow the arrows" without saying anything about how to get to the arrows isn't exactly training. It's like taking a driving class and having the instructor say, "Ok, the most important thing is to drive well. Now go."
At any rate, all of the MotoGP modes you've come to know and love are still present. The two main career modes are Grand Prix and Extreme, and there are the usual assortment of Challenges and Time Attack. Grand Prix focuses on real life courses and will probably incur cussing if you're not used to sharp turns. However, completing Grand Prix mode unlocks the vastly different Extreme mode. This is probably the mode that casual players will keep coming back to because it's more arcade-like. The bikes are tweaked to allow for easier power sliding and the tracks emphasize wide open turns that are simply fun to race on (not to mention that they take place in the middle of cities so there's a lot to see). Both modes offer their own thrills: Grand Prix emphasizes perfecting your skill, while Extreme mode is all about the pure adrenaline of blasting around curves. Extreme mode also adds a host of tuning aspects that actually change the appearance of your bike. You win money for races and this can be used to buy things like new wheels, brakes, swingarms, and the like. This tuning aspect is greatly expanded from past MotoGP games so that is a very welcome addition.
However, the biggest change in MotoGP is really the atmosphere now present in races. Each person in the crowd is individually modeled and does various things like drink nondescript sodas, set off fireworks, or cheer. It works pretty well even if the only way to catch all of this stuff is in replays. Each race is also preceded by short cutscenes that show the hustle and bustle of setting up a race. Unfortunately, these cutscenes use the crowd models; models that were never meant to be seen up close. They basically look like distant cousins of the space marines in Halo. Halo 1. These ill-shaped people also walk through each other, cause the framerate to drop, and stare blankly at each other. It was a nice thought, but you'll be jamming on buttons to skip them.
Thankfully, the rest of the game looks great. HDR lighting was added to the already solid MotoGP '06 graphics, and little details such as smoke, rain, and reflections look beautiful. The screen tearing of MotoGP '06 is largely fixed, but there is still some slowdown when you're taking turns in traffic. Nothing that really causes bike crashes, but it's still noticeable.
In terms of new modes, there is Championship Mode (which is exactly the same as Grand Prix mode, only you play as real MotoGP racers) and two new online modes, Pink Slip racing and Online Tournament that joins the standard sixteen player online. Pink Slip racing is self-explanatory: You race one on one with someone, and the winner keeps the loser's bike. Online Tournaments involve racing your customized bikes from Extreme mode in tourneys that have specific restrictions (i.e. you can only race Japanese bikes). Unfortunately, these restrictions are not even explained in the game. You'll have to go to the manual for any indication of what "Fight Club" means. To add to the slipshod nature of this, standard things like customizing the track order aren't even an option.
In fact, this is a part of my greatest problem with MotoGP '07: There is a sense of sloppiness that really shouldn't be there because the issues are easily correctable. Other multiplayer modes such as Tag Mode aren't even explained at all in the menu or the manual. I had to wait until a random loading screen told me that it involves capturing the best times on taking curves. The loading screens are also pretty cheap. They literally shake a still frame and add a helicopter sound to make it seem like a helicopter shot. You're not fooling anyone guys. Also, customizing the look of your bike and rider is pretty limited. Only eight layers to play with? I'm not even asking for a Forza 2 level of insanity here. But eight?
©2007-08-31, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved