I wouldn’t last a hundred feet on a real MotoGP motorcycle. Their demonic speed and maneuverability requires stupendous skill and concentration. I’m ok with my four wheels. But that’s the great thing about video games, they provide experiences otherwise unattainable in real life. After a week of playing MotoGP 14, I feel like a seasoned racer. I now know how to properly lean into corners, how to handle wet tracks at high speeds and that MotoGP bikes are ticking time bombs. Unlike Superbikes, which are production based motorcycles, MotoGP are the Formula 1 of motorcycle racing. They’re faster and require laborious practice to master. It’s a good thing MotoGP 14 comes with a rewind button.
I periodically watched bike racing when I was younger. I remember twisting my head left and right with the television as the racers approached neck-breaking turns. Bopping my head around just about sums up my knowledge of the sport to this day. Who is Valentino Rossi? I don’t know. What I do know is that playing MotoGP 14 made me curious. While I can’t vouch for its sense of realism and authenticity, the challenging gameplay and steep learning curve certainly seem convincing.
"Unlike Superbikes, which are production based motorcycles, MotoGP are the Formula 1 of motorcycle racing."
Five minutes into MotoGP 14 and I was ready to toss my controller. Like a drunken unicyclist, I kept sliding off track before even completing the first turn. I thought all these years of playing racing games would prove useful. I was wrong. As it turns out, the tutorial takes you through various driving modes in order to demonstrate different pro and basic physics settings. It’s a brilliant idea. A few unsuccessful tries later, the handling starts making sense. The key is understanding weight distribution. Bikes accelerate quickly and reach high speeds in seconds. Unlike racing cars, bikes decelerate and brake earlier, meaning you have to lean into turns before the track starts curving. Accelerating while still leaning results in back tires spinning and the bike skidding. Perfecting that very first lap is exhilarating.
MotoGP 14 boasts an impressive number of modes: Time Attack, Grand Prix, World Championship, Sprint Season, Split Battle, Multiplayer, Quick Race, a Safety Car Mode (What?!) and of course Career. There’s a simplistic character creator where players choose helmet and uniform designs, their country of origin, driving style and a generic avatar photo. I’m not sure why developer Milestone even bothers with character creation if they can’t expand beyond such rudimentary choices. But to be fair, their talent and commitment is reflected in MotoGP’s tremendous gameplay mechanics, and that’s all that really matters.
"As it turns out, the tutorial takes you through various driving modes in order to demonstrate different pro and basic physics settings. It’s a brilliant idea."
The Career mode is MotoGP’s heart and soul. This is where players grow from clumsy amateurs to perfectionists. The competition is fierce. AI drivers are aggressive and precise, leaving little room for error. While the rewind function serves as a necessary aid during earlier races, the satisfaction lies in perfecting laps with minimal assistance. By turning each assist off one by one, the bikes’ handling inches closer to pro-mode. I admire anyone who masters full-simulation style physics.
As you become a better racer, you’re invited to join various teams. Picking a team isn’t as easy as choosing the highest ranked members. Finding a team with the right motorcycle is far more important. My experience with the Red Bull Team, despite their high ranking, was a nightmare. Their bikes flip like pancakes around turns, which makes racing around twisty tracks nearly impossible. The Sky Racing Team, on the other hand, is all about stability and balance. Once you’re on a team you can either upgrade your current bike with each race, or switch to other teams and have all upgrades reset.
"The competition is fierce. AI drivers are aggressive and precise, leaving little room for error."
The upgrade system is strange. Instead of the typical buying/upgrading mechanic seen in most racers, MotoGP 14 focuses on collecting Data Packs for different bike parts. Before each race, you’re asked to select between chassis, brakes, engine and suspension upgrades. The first lap of a race grants you a single Data Pack, and since some parts require several packs, it can take several races before a component is improved. It’s a bizarre mechanic that tends to get tedious over time, but at least the individual upgrades have a notable impact on a bike’s handling.
There’s a lot to do outside of Career Mode. World Championship MotoGP lets you race an entire season as a real MotoGP rider, you can relive highlights from the MotoGP 2013 season in Real Events, and the strange Safety Car Mode lets you race against the clock in a BMW safety car. Once you’re confident enough with your skills, you can attempt racing other players via Multiplayer. There’s some serious competition out there, so good luck catching up to the pros if you’re new to the series.
"Its steep learning curve and punishing AI are intimidating, but mastering the motorcycle physics and learning each track layout is undoubtedly awarding."
MotoGP 14 is built on an entirely new graphics engine and it shows. It’s a vast improvement over its predecessor, with improved lighting, clearer textures, smoother frame rate and of course full 1080p resolution. Unfortunately, the visuals are still underwhelming considering the new hardware. Milestone has done a commendable job of making MotoGP look cleaner and smoother, but we’ve yet to see a true generational leap. Animations in particular are laughable. When riders fall off their bike, it looks like they’re sliding off a chair. Victory animations are also the same clip being played over and over. It’s a shame that the meticulous gameplay fidelity hasn’t translated to MotoGP’s visuals.
MotoGP 14 is a tough racer designed for a niche audience, but I loved every minute of it. Its steep learning curve and punishing AI are intimidating, but mastering the motorcycle physics and learning each track layout is undoubtedly awarding. Milestone has done a superb job of emulating bike racing on the big screen and the future of the series has never looked brighter. It’ll take more visual refinements before MotoGP can call itself truly next-gen, but until then, MotoGP 14 is the best choice for fans of the genre.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4