MotoGP 07 PS2 Review

Motorbikes have always been the underdog compared to cars when it comes to videogames. Games like OutRun and Gran Turismo grab the headlines for four wheels, while riders have to make do with the occasional hit like Super Hang On. Capcom and Milestone are the latest to try and bring the excitement of the sport to the screen, having gained the official MotoGP license.

From the start things seem good. Menu screens are straightforward and there is a choice of riding models to give even a novice a chance. Starting out on Arcade handling would be a bad move for serious riders though. It is only at the Advanced mode and the full Simulation mode that you get the real feel of riding a bike. Leaning the rider’s weight into a corner, waiting for the right moment to accelerate out of a corner and sitting up to brake sharply into a hairpin are all done with the analogue sticks. For authenticity, separate front and rear brake controls are available as well as a choice of automatic or manual gears.

A short Tutorial mode lets you get acquainted with the bike, and then it’s into a Quick Race of a few laps (the default is three) to hone your skills. The twenty-one different riders with authentic looking bikes from the 2007 championship can all be chosen. After a qualifying lap the rider is placed on the grid and the light goes out.

The real heart of the game is the Championship mode, although the player must remember to manually save their progress rather than rely on the auto-save. (If there is only one championship save slot used, there is no “load championship data” option – a serious oversight). Each race of the calendar is introduced with a short video of the country and the detailed track diagram showing speeds and recommended gear for every corner. With the weather option turned on, each session can have different conditions requiring a change of the bike (and tyre) set-up.

Having circulated for a few laps in the free practice, it is then time to qualify and a major flaw becomes apparent. Even at the Easy difficulty setting, the computer riders head off into the distance and set what would be world record lap times. This is disheartening on the first attempt, and galling with repeated play. With luck the player can get in two or three fast laps in qualifying and make it higher up the grid than the back row.

In the race, the computer AI is relatively strong. It is possible to catch and overtake the field, even at the shortest race length of three laps. The higher the difficulty, the more aggressive the other riders will become – which can lead to a few bumps and scrapes. With the handling model at Advanced, the player does have to ride the machine like a bike, leaning into corners and holding off on the throttle to avoid wheel spin. Cutting through the field is exciting, and getting a high finishing position feels good. It’s just a shame there is no podium scene to add that extra touch of pride.

To extend the life of the title there is a split-screen two-player mode and a series of Challenges. Like the license tests in Gran Turismo, these require the player to hit speed targets, follow the racing line or beat a specific time. Additional targets can be reached in Championship mode – driving a certain distance for one team, or winning the MotoGP title. Passing a challenge unlocks photos of the real riders.

Graphically, the edges of the track are well recreated but the track surface itself looks poorly textured. Rider and bike animations do the job but lack real character. Sound is a mixed bag, with crowd noises mixing poorly with the engine notes. Presentation is good throughout, but the niggly auto-save takes away from the polish.

Despite the high difficulty level, perseverance will bring reward. With all the real circuits to race on and the famous names to compete against, there is a long-term challenge. Bike fans will be satisfied, but Capcom will have to up their game (particularly so for the next-generation consoles) to make this franchise a success.