Release Date: October 28, 2008
In the last generation of consoles, the MotoGP games stacked up to be quite a reputable racing series. Although users only had one option for mounting a motorcycle not legal for civilian roads, at least they did have a good one. In MotoGP '07, it was obvious that things were beginning to slow down (and "slow" is never good word when talking about racing), but with the release of MotoGP '08 from new developer Milestone, it's plainly clear that the series is in trouble. The core gameplay has developed in no way whatsoever, and many of the features in last year's title have been removed, if you can believe it. All this makes MotoGP '08 a hard sell for a full-priced game, and even if it were a budget title, fans would still have good cause to complain.
This year's game offers the standard season modes like Championship, where players can inhibit the body of any professional rider, with 18 rocket jockeys to choose from. For those who prefer a more personalized racing experience, Career mode has been where you give your bike a custom paint job and tweak the logos on the rider's outfit. The folks at Milestone apparently don't understand what a big deal customization is in racing sims because not only have cosmetic options been left out, but so is the ability to swap specific parts on a bike. Performance can still be tweaked by adjusting tire compounds and gear ratios, but it's certainly not enough to satisfy the hardcore crowd.
While participating in each of the 18 different global races, players used to be able to search for similar events online that would count toward their career progression, but not anymore. Don't worry, though, because no matter how good your performance is, the only rewards are rider points, which can be used to upgrade bike attributes such as acceleration and braking. As far as yearly sporting games are concerned, developers are usually expected to push things forward since consumers are being asked to shell out the dough for a new game every year. By cutting key features that could have been taken further, Capcom has made it difficult for any gamer to see why he should spend money on this year's MotoGP offering.
Of course, for those interested in cutting right to the hot nasty speed that is MotoGP racing, there are quick race modes available such as Exhibition, Time Attack, and Challenge. But even with genre basics like these, MotoGP '08 comes up short. Players can race their own best time in the form of a "ghost" in Time Attack but cannot partake in the same activity with friends or the top riders on leaderboards. Add in the fact that users can't save replays to share with friends, and any possibility for community growth is seriously stunted. There are 50 individual tests to master in challenge mode, but very little variety is provided, with only a few different activities like following a line or completing a lap with limited brake life.
Heading onto the track itself, I didn't find that MotoGP '08 controlled badly at all compared to previous iterations, but nothing has really changed in terms of the feel. The same control set returns, and an Arcade mode is present for those who don't feel up to the challenge of playing on Sim difficulty, where it can be quite easy to wipe out if you don't handle a corner in the correct manner. For all of the MotoGP newbs who are playing on Arcade, though, remember that this series is all about realism, so expect a bit of a learning curve when it comes to proper braking. The Arcade mode is good for beginners, but a more in-depth tutorial would be nice since the one included is far from helpful.
I was hoping for at least a little more content in MotoGP '08's online multiplayer, but only discovered that the game's shallow nature is unified on all fronts of its design. The Pink Slip mode seen in last year's game, where players could bet their custom-built bikes on the outcome of a race, has been scrapped because well, you can't make any custom bikes! There are no unique options to be found when creating a race besides setting the number of laps, and in another bizarre occurrence, the player count has actually decreased from 16 to 12. I've argued in the past for a higher count to get closer to the actual 35-member MotoGP races, but a further reduction is just absurd. Things would also be better if users could sub in some AI riders to make up for any empty spaces, but I guess I'm getting ahead of myself by asking for more features when the staple ones aren't present in the first place.
One thing that we have always been able to count on the series for is visuals, and to a degree, MotoGP '08 does offer highly detailed bikes, along with riders carrying intricate textures on their leather suits. There are, however, some pretty noticeable instances of texture pop when viewing replays as the racers get closer to the camera. Some basic animation glitches are present as well, making MotoGP '08 look good, but not as good as it could be this far into the current generation of consoles.
The soundtrack might be a little perplexing for any players outside of Europe, but the lineup of tunes is still pretty solid, ranging from Groove Allegiance to Vandal. One thing that I am a little miffed at, though, is the lack of any real punch to the crashes. For a hunk of metal flying off the ground and back down at hundreds of miles per hour, the wipeouts are pretty silent, and looking at the bikes afterward, it's hard to tell if the machine even received a scratch. I realize this isn't Burnout and the object is to race in a precise, artful manner, but do a search for MotoGP crash compilations on YouTube, and tell me that the fans don't like to see a good crash.
MotoGP '08 is a game that is unabashedly lacking in features, and if it weren't for the visuals, it could easily be mistaken for a racing game out of the '90s, as it does nothing to keep up with what other titles are doing in the genre today. The total lack of customization and other key options makes it difficult to recommend to the hardcore, so anyone who likes their custom-painted bike in MotoGP '07 might do well to stick with that, because there is absolutely nothing to miss out on in this year's game. It pains me to see the series degenerate this rapidly, and a change in developer really didn't help. In order to win back the consumer, the MotoGP titles are due for a major upgrade in all aspects.
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