Release Date: May 22, 2003
Not long ago, THQ released MotoGP for the Xbox. It was an excellent title, with near-perfect control, a number of challenging race-tracks, and a cool point-distribution setup that improved your rider's stats over the course of the career mode. It really did give you the feeling that you were driving a kickass motorcycle, with it's brutal physics and spot-on control. Now, MotoGP 2 has been released, with a number of improvements, on both the Xbox and PC. How does it hold up?
By itself, the game is quite good. Folk new to the series will be in awe over the detailed graphics, intricate engine sound, authentic tracks (all sixteen), and difficult-to-master controls. As a sequel, the game will seem pretty familiar to anyone who's played the original. There's still the career mode, there are still stat points to be earned, and the control is basically the same. It's still a great game, but there really aren't a ton of notable additions. True, there are now all sixteen racing events as in real life, and there are several new real-life riders. There are also a slew of unlockables, ranging from mirrored tracks to funky visual filters.
The main mode of play is, of course, it's career mode. You start off by creating a rider. You can pick your model of bike, it's colors, it's number, and even add a logo on it. You can also pick the style and color of your rider's suit, and your initials will be emblazoned on his back. Then you'll be given the opportunity to distribute a number of stat points to four categories: braking, cornering, acceleration, and top speed. From here you can hop into the game's tutorial session, or go straight to the first race. It may be a good idea to go through as much of the training as you can, even if you're familiar with the game - showing that you can do certain tasks will grant you extra stat points.
The first thing you'll notice is how difficult the game is to control. Even if you've played MotoGP on the Xbox, you may have a tough time. This is thanks in part to the poor porting job here; all of the menus are straight from the Xbox version, and the only way to customize your keyboard to fit your liking is to exit the game and do it through the launching utility. This can be annoying when trying to set things up, but I eventually settled on having acceleration at W, my back brake at S, and leaning to the left and right at A and D. I decided to have weight control on the arrow keys - so leaning forward was on Up, and leaning backward was on Down. These can be important, as leaning forward will help give you extra speed, and leaning backward will pull you into a wheelie. Not exactly helping matters is, of course, a lack of analog support, but the game holds up fairly well without it, surprisingly. Still, I have some trouble with the controls; the Xbox version is far, far better in this respect.
After setting things up as best as I could, I headed to the first race, Suzuka. Much like the first game, you have several options; you can practice on the track, doing whatever you please, you can participate in a qualifying race, which will grant you a position at the beginning of the real deal - or you can just hop straight into the real deal if you'd like. A new addition are stage-specific Challenges, which will grant you extra stat points if you complete them. Some of them are pretty creative; you might have to navigate a certain part of a level with extra obstacles in your way, or race a lap with someone else and finish within five seconds of him. These challenges are actually quite challenging, as the ones with time limits will subtract precious seconds for clumsy driving when you go off a track or hit cones. These same rules tend to apply to the Training levels, too, and even at the Rookie difficulty level, the game is pretty tough.
It's tough in part thanks to it's brutally realistic physics. You will need to master the art of leaning around corners, powersliding, and when to use your front or back brake. You'll also need to study each track's nuances and work out tricky parts. And you can't just ram into other racers to get around tough turns; at high speeds, colliding into others usually means you'll both end up crashing. The game's new crash camera makes each crash look really painful and motivates you to, well, not crash anymore. Your opponents' AI is actually pretty good, too. There are usually some slower riders that like to take it easy, and then the ones who would like to win but don't want to be too aggressive, and the ones that will really hassle you for the top spots.
You'll want to complete the career mode, as it's the main way to open up new tracks and beef up your character, but there are also a few other modes of play that deserve some attention. There's the clever and addictive Stunt Mode, for one. Basically, you earn points for doing things like powersliding, pulling wheelies and endos, burnouts, or simply staying on the track. Not only is it great fun, it's an excellent way to practice, and can also open up extras if you score high enough. It's fun to take turns with a friend to see who can rack up the most points. But if you don't have a friend nearby you can participate in LAN or online matches. The interface isn't all that great - you'll want to use a third-party app like GameSpy Online to find any servers - but it's actually a lot of fun, and a good alternative to Xbox Live.
The graphics in the game are very detailed. Everything is rendered with excellence - the bikes look awesome, the riders look realistic and the scenery is stunning. The animation's great, too. There are lots of subtle details, like the way your body shifts when you lean in a direction, or even cute little touches that pop up, like shaking a fist when an opponent hassles you. The crashes look super ugly, in a good way, thanks to the dynamic camera that I mentioned earlier. It gets down close to the road and catches all of the action from a side view. Watch as your rider tumbles along a gravel patch and your bike continues to slide down the road. It's all very, very nice and the game continually runs at a nice clip.
The sound is also quite good. Engines sound fantastic, whether it's your own revving up, building up speed, or others when they blister past you. You won't find much in the way of voice-work, but the game really doesn't need any. The audience does sound great, though, and really reacts to what's going on nicely. The music is pretty good, too. There's some decent rock music and some okay techno tunes, but you can also import your own custom soundtracks. You're going to have to encode them in Ogg Vorbis format, which is a little annoying since it's not exactly a common format - but it's probably worth it if you like to listen to your own tunes while racing.
Overall, MotoGP 2 is a very solid title. The Xbox version is undoubtedly better, but this still holds up well. And at $20, it's certainly a pleasing price tag. Even though there aren't a ton of notable additions, there still are some - but even if there weren't, it's still a lot of fun to race through the same tracks I already have in MotoGP along with the new ones. The arcadey Stunt Mode is pretty similar to the original's Arcade Mode, but it's a ton of fun and can unlock some cool things if you're good enough. Overall, this is a great title, with solid gameplay, good graphics and sound, and a challenging - but rewarding - control system. The Xbox version is recommended over this, but it's still great, and it is even cheaper.
Score : 8.4/10
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