MotoGP ’08 Review «

If mere adequacy is what you seek, MotoGP ’08’s got you covered. Its much-hyped emphasis on rookie orientation is generally successful, its selection of modes, bikes, and other assorted options helps sustain your interest, and its depiction of life on the seat of a wobbly two-wheeled death machine is challenging enough to occasionally make you sweat. However, it should be a better game.
The development history of the MotoGP series is more than a bit confusing, but suffice to say that MotoGP ’07 designer Climax is gone. This year’s Xbox 360 game is instead a product of Italy’s Milestone, the team behind the Superbike series. And the changeover produces some positive results.

Click the image above to check out all the Moto GP ’08 screens.
Perhaps the coolest innovation is the inclusion of 125cc and 250cc bikes. Less powerful, less dangerous, and honestly less stressful than the MotoGP variety, these smaller motorcycles are nevertheless fun to ride and provide a great introduction before tackling the big leagues. Racing newbies can find additional assistance in the game’s tutorial (it’s more a series of rudimentary tips) or by adjusting the difficulty level. You can choose from three modes: Arcade (easy), Advanced (takes it up a notch), or Simulation (MotoGP at its most realistic).

Whether you wind up enjoying Milestone’s approach to the MotoGP physics model depends on what factors you deem important. In Simulation mode, for example, it’s not at all necessary to master seemingly realistic parameters such as rider positioning or front and rear brake modulation to compete effectively. Yet the game ruthlessly punishes anyone who wobbles or gets down too low through a turn or contacts a competitor while negotiating said turn, mercilessly dumping both bike and rider to the ground.

Purists should appreciate the lack of powersliding, but they may not be so keen on the brake response, which feels more like sharp deceleration than true braking. Nor will they be enamored with arcade-type sliders that take the place of the previous game’s realistic setup adjustments. These tweaks really make a difference in your performance, but MotoGP still isn’t quite authentic enough for the ultrahardcore crowd…nor is it fanciful enough for action junkies.

Click the image above to check out all the Moto GP ’08 screens.
It doesn’t help matters that the A.I. drives with robotic precision — to the degree that you soon feel like the broken cog in a well-oiled machine, trying desperately to adhere to racing lines the rest of the gang has no trouble handling. Had Milestone opted for rumble feedback to indicate loss of grip (as previous editions did), your job would be a lot easier. And had it rid the game of a steering glitch wherein your bike sporadically refuses to turn, quality control might not seem as questionable as it does.

The game’s presentation is just as erratic. The lighting and weather effects are exceptional, and the factory bike models are solid, yet you never see tire smoke, heat haze, or bike/rider damage…and the aftereffect of collisions feels staged. I hit a barrier at 200 mph and watched, underwhelmed, as the rider toppled over as if he’d fallen during a slow turn. As for podium shots, postrace celebrations, prerace pageantry, and audible perks such as track announcers or broadcasters, you won’t find any of that here.

On a more positive note, MotoGP ’08 allows you to run full-distance races. It also lets you create your own racing avatar (complete with a distinct helmet) rather than just assuming the persona of some pro. The load times are far faster than last year’s horridly sluggish effort and should also be a real treat for returning players.

Click the image above to check out all the Moto GP ’08 screens.
The game offers a typical racer’s diet of modes, including Quick Race, Time Attack, and a season-long Championship, though the emphasis is clearly on Career mode. Here, you start off aboard a 125cc machine, collecting bike upgrades as you progress in the four key areas of acceleration, top speed, braking, and traction. Winning those upgrades isn’t easy, and you can expect a full career to take a very long time.

Multiplayer racing includes online ranked and unranked events but precludes leagues or championships. My experience proved erratic — some races ran smoothly and felt incredibly rewarding because I wasn’t dealing with those annoying A.I. bots, while others were laughably bad. When your competitors jump about the screen like manic rabbits (thanks to lag) and you see players fall when they don’t actually fall, something is amiss.

An uneven effort, MotoGP ’08 is a decent game that should please most newbies and occasional riders but proves that Milestone has a ways to go before it fully grasps the handlebars.


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