Hands-on with MotoGP

THQ had its own version of MotoGP for the Xbox on display at its annual editors' day.

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THQ held its annual press event in Las Vegas over the weekend, where it showcased the company's lineup of console games that are scheduled for release throughout the year. While every current-gen platform was well represented at the event, the most impressive game on display was undoubtedly MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology for the Xbox.

This game shouldn't be confused with Namco's MotoGP series of PlayStation 2 games, although it's easy to see how confusion can arise. After all, aside from sharing the same logo and a very similar interface, both MotoGP games are based on Dorna's 500cc Road Racing Grand Prix series. And while THQ's Xbox version of the game has the same teams, riders, bikes, and an equal number of tracks as Namco's MotoGP 2 for the PlayStation 2, the former looks markedly better. The game makes good use of the Xbox's robust hardware capabilities, and even in its incomplete stage, MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology looks markedly better than any driving game to date. The tracks, for example, are rendered with a liberal amount of bump-mapping, and at times you can make out numerous tiny indentations and imperfections in the asphalt. The bikes are also rendered beautifully using significantly more polygons than those in Namco's games.

But what stands out more about MotoGP: URT than its graphics is the level of control that you have over the riders and bikes in the game. Using the left analog stick on the Xbox controller, you can actually shift your rider's weight left and right, and you can adjust his center of gravity to the front or rear of the bike. In real life, doing so is essential to optimal cornering, braking, and acceleration, and the adaptation of this mechanic within the game seems to be well done. What's more, the controller's two shoulder buttons are mapped to your bike's front and rear brakes by default. While there is an option for a generic mode of braking, having control over the separate wheels means more precise cornering for more experienced players.

THQ says that MotoGP: URT will have 10 of the season's 16 total racetracks, but it will have all of the major teams like Respol Honda. There are PC and Game Boy Advance versions of the game currently in development as well, although only the Xbox variant was on display. MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology is currently scheduled for a late March or early April release. We'll have more coverage of this game as its release date approaches.

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