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Tourist Trophy

Platform(s): PlayStation 2
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCE
Developer: Polyphony Digital

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PS2 Review - 'Tourist Trophy'

by Andrew Hayward on May 18, 2006 @ 1:11 a.m. PDT

Tourist Trophy will be the real riding simulator as its subtitle inplies and will be try to compete with other motorcycle franchises such as the MOTOGP series. TT will features fully customizable bikes from the 80s and 90s, with models from top brands such as Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc. While details are still slim, Tourist Trophy is scheduled for release in Japan early 2006. Read more for the first trailer...

Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: April 4, 2006

My own history on two wheels is less than stellar. I have yet to ride on a motorcycle, though I have been presented with the opportunity and quickly turned it down. On the first day of seventh grade, I was hit by a car while on my bicycle (an event that failed to assist my bid for popularity). The very next year, I had an amusing mishap on a mini-bike, which pretty much sealed my opinion of motorcycles. I consider myself to be a very good driver, but the subtraction of two wheels is something that simply cannot be underestimated. Learning how to balance myself while flying down the street at tens of miles an hour is not something I plan on doing.

Yet, when given a choice between a car and a motorcycle in a video game, I almost always go for the motorcycle. There is something really appealing about weaving in and out of traffic, and being able to feel like the vehicle is merely an extension of your physical self. Driving a car is so pedestrian; I have driven a dozen cars in my lifetime, and they are all pretty much the same. But as stated earlier, I have no intention of actually riding a motorcycle, due to the likelihood of causing physical and financial harm. Therefore, I do all of my bike racing with my controller.

Unfortunately, only a couple of games have made riding motorcycles fun. Most notable are the Grand Theft Auto games, which thrust you into a huge, living city in which you can go anywhere and do anything. When Grand Theft Auto: Vice City first came out, I remember spending hours just riding around and pulling random stunts. It may not be realistic, but it sure is a blast. On the other side of the spectrum, the Moto GP series presents motorbike racing in a realistic fashion, though for non-aficionados, it can be an exercise in futility. Maintaining balance while taking sharp turns at high speeds typically ends with my character rolling around in the grass, much like my real-life mini-bike incident.

Cue Tourist Trophy from Polyphony Digital, the creators of Gran Turismo, arguably the most realistic car racing series on the market. Billed as "The Real Riding Simulator," Tourist Trophy attempts to work the same magic for the motorbike racing. However, it does little to escape the title of "Gran Turismo with bikes," as nearly every track has been lifted from Gran Turismo 4. Still, Tourist Trophy picked an incredible series to base itself upon, though I find one key difference between the titles. While Gran Turismo appeals to a wide range of gamers, Tourist Trophy will please few outside of the hardcore cycle fan base.

When starting the game for the first time, you are greeted with a request to set the rider's height. Tourist Trophy is unlike any racing game I have previously played for one reason above all others: the insane amount of customization. In what other racing game does the height of your driver make a significant impact on how well you play? Customizing your riding options is much deeper than just the height of your rider, though. In the career mode, there are 11 aspects of your rider's form that can be adjusted, including Head Roll Angle, Lateral Slide, and Torso Yaw Angle. Excuse me? Calling all enthusiasts!

The two main game modes in Tourist Trophy are Arcade Mode and Tourist Trophy mode, which is essentially their version of a career mode. Arcade Mode is split up into four sub-modes: 1-on-1, Race, Time Trial, and 2-Player Battle. The 1-on-1 mode pits you against one other rider, while the Race mode tosses in two additional competitors. The Time Trial mode pits you against the clock or a ghost version of yourself if you have already completed a lap. I found it amusing that I kept crashing at the same place on each lap; my lack of progress after a certain point was disheartening. The 2-Player Battle is a pretty standard split-screen mode, though it is often more fun to sabotage your buddy than simply race to the finish line.

The real meat of the game is the Tourist Trophy mode, which has you starting from scratch as you work your way up the ranks of the racing world. You will have to start off with the license tests, which require you to prove you can take various corners and come to a complete stop when necessary. I found the tests to be much easier than I remember the Gran Turismo ones being. As long as you do not crash or go out of bounds, I found the game to be very forgiving with the time limits. Granted, I rarely got higher than a "bronze" rating, but that is good enough to pass (therefore, good enough for me). The only issue I had with the license tests is that they do not really teach you how to ride, and only test you on it. Specific details would have improved the experience.

Once you have a license (there are a total of four to get), you must tackle Challenge Mode to get a bike to ride on. There are over 130 bikes available, and can be divided by manufacturer or displacement (between 124 and 1670cc). This mode proved to be the most challenging to me, by far. After choosing the bike you want, you are expected to race a computer player with a bit of a lead. Your objective is to either win the race or maintain a lead for 10 seconds. It sounds simple enough, but keep this in mind: you are not allowed to crash or go out of bounds. Essentially, you have to be better than the near-perfect computer A.I. I would often do these races 15 or 20 times before eventually getting lucky on a turn.

After you get a starter bike, you can customize it in the garage or modify your clothing via the Riding Gear option. There are over 170 unlockable accessories in the game, many of which are obtained by completing the license tests. Once you have gotten a license and a bike, you can finally a Race Event. Each of the 22 events features between three and seven races, and each has a different bike requirement for entry. Unless you are already very familiar with the genre, prepare to be annihilated. Placing second fails to be an accomplishment when you are only racing one other rider.

My two biggest complaints with the game are as follows: it lacks personality, and it is amazingly difficult. All of the pre-race action takes place on a still image of a map, and you never feel like you are progressing as a rider. Part of that is because of the difficulty, which can kill off the interest of a casual gamer within minutes. I stuck with it, and was starting to enjoy it after a few hours, but then I hit a brick wall. I got to a point where I could not obtain any faster bikes and I could not win any more races. It seems as though gamers must be intimately familiar with motorcycles to have a fighting chance.

As with the Gran Turismo titles, the in-game movies look amazing during the replays. Various camera angles are employed to make the animations very real-looking. Sharp details are seen on the roads and in the backgrounds, and at times, the game comes off as almost next-gen. However, the in-game visuals are a bit less impressive. Everything seems much less detailed from the stationary viewpoint, though I found the lighting and shadows to be very impressive. For a thrilling change in perspective, switch to the first-person view, handlebars and all. I found it easier to race from the third-person view but definitely had more fun in first-person.

The sound effects are expectedly strong, as the programmers at Polyphony Digital have always had an ear for detail. Engines roar in glorious stereo or surround sound, and vary by bike model. Unfortunately, the game does not have the type of impressive soundtrack we have come to expect from the Gran Turismo series. Instead, it recalls the type of music found in the Ridge Racer games: generic, repetitive synth-rock that will surely aggravate you. While the U.S. version saw the addition of seven additional tracks (from artists such as The Faint and Death From Above 1979), they do not pop up frequently enough to outweigh the junk.

Tourist Trophy is a well-made game, but one that lacks any kind of excitement for the casual gamer or non-enthusiast. As much as I love racing games, I had trouble mustering up any kind of genuine enthusiasm for this title. It does not seem right to punish the gamer for every mistake, especially when the game does not do enough to teach you the right way to ride. As the E3 demo of Gran Turismo HD revealed, this game was likely just an experiment to see how bikes could function within the GT gameplay model. Gaming experiments are fine, but rarely worth paying full price for. Invest in Tourist Trophy only if you already love motorcycles or are willing to invest the time to learn how to love motorcycles.

Score: 7.3/10


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