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SBK X: Superbike World Championship

01 Aug 10

WHEN IT COMES TO simulation motorbike racing, there are really only two choices for gamers. On one hand, there’s Capcom’s MotoGP series, which simulates the motorcycle Grand Prix. On the other there’s Black Bean’s SBK series, which recreates the Super Bike world championships. With Capcom’s MotoGP series getting pretty mixed reviews from the critics, an opportunity has presented itself for SBK X to jump ahead this year. So how does it fare?

SBK X presents the option for both an arcade and a simulation mode upon start-up, with arcade mode seeming like the easiest way to get a feel for the title.

The main feature in arcade is called Story Mode, a strange choice of words considering there’s actually no story to speak of. Story Mode is instead a set of challenges that, determinant on the set conditions, reward players with either a bronze, silver or a gold trophy. These trophies turn into points, which can be used to unlock the next set of challenges. There’s a good range of challenges, ranging from lap times, to race placing or unique bike modifi ers. The effort has certainly been made here, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. Some more arcade-esque challenges would have been welcome, as many of these seem to fi t better in the simulation section.

While the arcade mode seems like it was tacked on relatively quickly, simulation mode has always been the crux of the SBK series. The centrepiece of the simulation section is the more appropriately titled Career Mode. Career Mode is an eight-year project, beginning in the humble superstock class. From here, players work their way right up to the Super Bike class.

Every race consists of four distinct stages: practice, qualify, warm up and the actual race. Between these stages, players can try new race lines, strategies and confi gurations of the bike itself. The customisation level is fairly impressive, with a high level of adjustability from tyres, suspension, gears, steering and so much more. If like me, this was all a bit over your head, you can question your mechanic as to his recommendations.

Career mode is certainly solid and it’s very entertaining, but it requires patience. Customisation and progression through the different stages before even getting to the race takes a lot of time and even more loading screens. The learning curve is also pretty steep, especially for those crossing over from arcade mode. The bikes handle very differently and it takes a while before players can stay the right way up for a whole race.

In terms of presentation, SBK X is solid. Graphically, the environments are nicely mapped out with lighting effects and real time motion blur complementing each other nicely. The bikes and riders look good, but could have done with some more detailing to separate themselves from last year’s instalment. The range of views is very well done, with the cockpit view especially so, adding a new dimension of simulation. Sound effects work well, with the range of bikes all having recognisably unique sounds.

SBK X is undoubtedly a good game; it’s not a great game, but not poor by any means. The simulation aspect is really good, but the reality is many players will tire of the diffi cult controls and lengthy preparation times before they hit the big time with the Super Bikes.

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