Look Ma - No Hands!
Moto GP allows you to race high end motorcycles on closed tracks that represent some of the world’s most famous curves. You’ll be given the chance to don the mantle of 29 different world class riders, or create a custom avatar to represent you on the field. In addition to the standard quick race mode, you’ll find that this title straddles the several genres by providing an arcade experience where you earn points for both your racing and some low-level trick riding, and then settling down to a longer, more involved career that requires considerably more dedication to master.
Regardless of which direction you intend to go, or which riders you recruit in your quest for the gold, Moto GP will apply some key variables to every game you play. Holding true to the belief that the man is as much a part of the race as the machine (and perhaps more so), your driver’s skills largely determine your performance on the line with rating acceleration, cornering, braking and top speed all vital. You begin your career with ten experience points to allot among these four stats, allowing you to either enhance your natural tendencies or to simply make up for weaknesses in your driving style. No matter how you assign these points, you’ll soon long for more. Luckily, the career mode offers you the chance to do just that by placing high in the standings as you move through the ten licensed tracks included in the game. Should you find yourself constantly at the AI’s mercy, though, there’s always the training sessions waiting to help you hone your abilities.
Learning to master your bike means that you’ll need to learn the controls of the game, and luckily, most racing veterans will already be familiar with elements of the layout. While the right analog stick may be used as an accelerator, most drivers tend to switch to the controller pad buttons. For the most part, you’ll only be using the A button, since the braking is handled in a much more realistic method in which the flippers control your front and rear brakes independently. These are important for handling the bike adequately, but also for any trick riding you may find yourself wishing to pull for the crowd’s benefit.
At the heart of the game, lies the championship mode, which incorporates the unique character system and also offers the most rewards in terms of experience. As you run through the ten races you’re rewarded experience points, but you also increase your rider’s statistical maximum in each category as well. This can push your rider’s maximum skills to roughly thirty points in each of the four categories, making him an absolute master of the road.
Rider customisation may seem a bit of a frill, but the good folks at Namco understand that your bike has to look as good as it runs. To this end, they’ve included a wide selection of the most popular models and then allowed the player free reign with the paintbrush utilities to customise the main areas of the bike. Should you wish, you can simply apply the same colours to your riders’ leathers, but you can further personalise them by picking custom duds. Speaking of appearances, new bikes, tracks, outfits and more become unlocked as you make your way through the training and Grand Prix modes, so there are some collateral benefits there. Also affecting the overall visuals are a series of filters you can apply that let you race in wireframe, sepia, black and white and so forth - all of which are visually interesting.
All of these customisation options might seem a bit extraneous, but they make sense when put into the context of multiplayer gaming. While Moto GP doesn’t leap into the online arena, it fully supports Link Cable play and will automatically search for fellow games and other races across a network of up to sixteen other systems. Split screen play supports four racers going head-to-head in Moto GP.