MotoGP 14 is a game of two halves. On the one hand we have fine, high-quality motorcycle racing that you just can't get anywhere else. On the other, we have visuals that look like they're from a previous generation, clumsy presentation, and the occasional glitch.
However, despite its bugbears, I'm a fan of this officially licensed game of the MotoGP World Championships. Mostly due to the fact that I love motorcycles, and developer Milestone has done a quite remarkable job of capturing the feel of riding one.
When riding on two wheels, finding the right line into a turn, making micro-adjustments mid-corner, and then gassing out at just the right time requires a lot more precision than driving a car, and this is what this game is all about. Of course, on the absolute limit, both require a high degree of skill to control, but even so, you at least have an extra two wheels to rely on when driving a car. You're not going to highside or lowside your auto.
Even with assists turned on, MotoGP isn't a game for novices. Its racing is challenging even on low settings, and the game requires a good degree of practice before you can even think about stepping foot on the podium. That's because there's less margin for error than other, generally more forgiving auto-racers. In this game, it only takes a few mistakes and you become a backmarker for the rest of the race.
Initially I found this somewhat frustrating, before realizing that this was simply stemming from a feeling of entitlement I've gotten from playing too much Gran Turismo and Forza, where wins come far, far easier – particularly in the early races. I started out a novice in MotoGP and was finishing amongst the middle of a 21-bike pack, race after race. However, once I'd changed my mindset about the game, and approached it with a more long-term view, it actually began to feel much more like a realistic racing game. MotoGP isn't here to flatter me - I really have to work to win, rather than simply turn up, twist the throttle, and hop onto the podium.
MotoGP has an impressive array of racing options, including a career mode (where you earn rep, switch teams, look for your dream ride, and so on), GP mode, individual races, and even a challenge mode where you can play through key moments of the previous MotoGP season and attempt to either re-create or best the results of that race. Couple that with reasonably comprehensive rider customization options, and you have a broad spread of play options that give the game a high degree of legs – assuming you're a dedicated bike racer.
While the racing is top-notch, the game feels somewhat let down by its audio-visuals and general presentation. It just feels a little low-budget. The bikes and riders look great, and the recreation of the MotoGP tracks are quite impressive in terms of feeling authentic. However, the ambient textures and general atmospherics come across as feeling a little last generation - much closer to those in Gran Turismo 6 than DriveClub.
It's not like they're poor, but the game seems to be missing the subtle details and touches the new generation of machines are capable of. Almost like the team was told to make sure the game featured all the "must haves," but weren't given the time to add "nice to haves," like more complex light filtering, richer building textures, and more organic-feeling trackside grass and tree textures. It almost feels like everything was rendered very cleanly, was given a quick once-over to add some dust, grime and noise, but didn't have quite enough time put into it to make it look truly lifelike. I guess that's my issue with the game. It just looks too much like a computer game – accurate and faithful though its modeling may be. It's one of those games where if you squint a little, it looks perfect - but get too close, and you can see exactly how it's made.
Sound is similarly lacking. I'm glad there was an option to turn off the menu music, because after a while I think its repetitive nature would have driven me nuts. The motorcycle engine noise is also pretty feeble. It has the right tone, but it just lacks the kind of visceral scream and oomph that you hear emanating from a real MotoGP motorcycle.
But all that is easy to overlook once you get into the game and start racing. I initially used a third-person view, as that gave let me see exactly what my bike and rider were doing, enabled me to power-slide out of corners, and avoid spills when I ran wide. Once I'd gotten used to the way the bike worked, I switched to a first-person view, and that really took the action up a notch. There's a real feeling of speed, and because the bikes are so fast, and it's so easy to fall off, you feel like you're always racing on the edge – because you essentially are. That makes it feel very exciting, and really, this is where the game works best – and indeed is viewed best. At high speed, you barely have time to look at everything around you, and as a consequence, you don't see any flaws: it's all just thrilling, high-speed two-wheel racing.
MotoGP is fast and challenging, and not for the fainthearted. I can't imagine there are many non-motorcycle fans who'd be interested in playing this, but if you do like racing, this provides as much excitement as any other racer out there. It's just a shame that it's let down by its audio-visual presentation. Were MotoGP on par with the likes of Forza and DriveClub, it'd be quite spectacular. It's still great – it just doesn't always look it.
MotoGP's tracks feel authentically recreated, and the motorcycles and riders look great. However, ambient trackside objects and buildings lack detail and look last generation.
Weak on the whole. Engine noise feels shrill and reedy, and lacks a visceral feel. The music is unfortunately repetitive.
Clunky and last-gen. Or indeed the gen before the gen before last. It's all old-school clumsy menus.
Despite being let down in other areas, MotoGP's racing action is terrific, and that's what counts. It's challenging, and has enough options and modes to keep racing fans busy for months.
MotoGP 14 delivers exciting, challenging and surprisingly deep motorcycle racing action. It's audio-visuals feel disappointingly last-generation, however.