Genre: Simulation Racing
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Date: June 20, 2006
First of all, I have something to confess: I tend to avoid sim-racing titles. I drive a car in real life, so why would I go to a realistic driving game for my video gaming needs? Give me crashes, missiles, and transforming ice cream trucks. Give me anything but vehicles where you have to brake while going around a corner.
Despite this, I enjoyed MotoGP 4. My first move on playing one of these games is careening off the road and into a wall as I lose the race, but MotoGP 4 is a little different. You can't play it like you would play Burnout 3, but you can definitely play it a little fast and loose with the acceleration. This isn't to say that MotoGP isn't a sim racer. You have a little leeway in terms of braking and acceleration, but not so much that you can zoom around the tracks at top speed. There's an "Excessive Speed Lamp" that'll let you know when you're coming in to a corner too fast. Invaluable? Yes, it is. MotoGP 4 sports a mix between sim and arcade racing that basically equates to maximum fun.
This carries over to the online gameplay. Setting up a game is painfully easy, though I do have one gripe. You can only set up one race at a time, rather than a sequence of them, or a full-blown Grand Prix. Other than that, assuming you have a good connection, gameplay is nice and smooth. You can populate the track with AI bots if you're short on people to race against, or race up to eight actual players. Voice chat with your favorite USB microphone is enabled, too, for trash-talking purposes.
Season Mode is essentially the same as it is in other racing games. You can pick an established racer or create your own as you rise through the ranks. You'll race on 16 official tracks across three different engine classes while you do so. Do you fancy taking a 125cc bike screaming down Le Mans? Have at it. Winning races nets you Grand Prix points, which you can use to unlock riders and new bikes.
Since this is a PlayStation 2 title, it doesn't quite measure up to its bigger brother on the Xbox 360 in the graphics department. This doesn't mean that it doesn't make a strong showing, however. The graphics may be a little jaggy when you're up close, but the camera is placed so that you don't end up that close. It's set comfortably far away – not so far back that you can't tell what you're up to, but not so close that the imperfections in the graphics come through. The bikes look about as good as they're going to get nowadays, but the tracks look excellent. The framerate stays sharp throughout the game, and falling off your bike will treat you to a painful, but good, animation.
MotoGP 4's packaging reads, "2 wheels. 200 mph. 2 inches from the Tarmac." This is absolutely true. Despite the somewhat low-res graphics, you never lose that sense of speed that's so crucial to racing games. You're going to fight to pass the other racers so you can finish in first, and when you do, it's a sweet, sweet thing. The single-player alone is a fun ride, if you'll pardon the pun, and the multiplayer, be it split-screen or online, is just as good. It's nice to play a realistic racer where I spend most of my time racing rather than crashing into walls. This kind of hybrid gameplay appeals to both casual fans and the hardcore MotoGP nuts and makes for a better experience overall.
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