Capcom took over the reins of the MotoGP licence last year, and its first game featured all of the excitement of the motorsport's most illustrious two-wheeler competition. While Milestone developed last year's version, Capcom has tapped Nottingham-based Monumental Games--responsible for Football SuperStars and Hunter's World--to redesign the franchise for Moto GP 09/10. The game spans the full 2009 and 2010 MotoGP seasons, with the 2009 season included on disc and the 2010 season available to download for free once the game is released. We got a chance to talk to the team at Monumental and play a new build of the game, which is looking very promising indeed. It manages to combine mouthwatering visuals with rewarding gameplay, and the many game modes should keep racing fans hooked all season.
One of the most interesting additions to this year's game is the Career mode. You start off your professional career by choosing your home track, number, and nationality. You're initially limited to the 125cc class, with only a few team sponsors from which to choose. You need to employ engineers who will research specific parts; for example, engine or crankshaft technology, which will yield a more competitive bike later on in the game. Once you've earned enough experience on the racetrack, you can also hire a public relations manager to help attract better sponsors. You gain experience by earning "reputation" on the track from winning races, completing clean sections, slipstreaming, overtaking, and showboating. If you earn enough reputation, you'll be invited to compete as a wildcard entrant in individual 250cc and MotoGP events. And, if you're successful, you'll eventually be asked to try out for a team. While Career mode lets you participate in the business behind the sport, the Championship mode lets you pick an officially licensed rider and take him through a full season. Although it features arcade gameplay, you can tweak a number of settings on your bike, including ABS and throttle control, to make the Championship mode more challenging.
MotoGP 09/10's Arcade mode features a time-attack scenario that reminds us of OutRun. While skillful riding is crucial, you will also gain additional time by earning reputation, and making mistakes, such as being overtaken, or causing collisions will shave valuable seconds off your score. The ultimate goal is to finish the season under the par time, so it is vital to earn as much time as possible in each race. You can also participate in single races; however, the idea of racing a full season against the clock in Arcade mode really appeals to us. MotoGP 09/10 also includes a Time Trial mode that lets you race against your own ghost data, as well as those set by others on the online leaderboard. If you earn the best time on a track, the racing line will update to represent your time. Time trials were rewarding, and we found ourselves going back for just one more race around the Valencian circuit as we tried to beat the developers, as well as other journalists.
Monumental has added a new "tuck in" option to MotoGP 09/10, which presses your rider's body against the fuel tank to reduce drag. This results in faster acceleration, but it also means your handling is reduced, so it works best on the straights. It's an interesting feature, and the benefit of tucking in becomes apparent when you're tearing down a straight at over 200 kilometres per hour. Also new this year is a rewind feature, which is dubbed "second chance." Similar to Forza 3 and Dirt 2, it lets you rewind the race at any point, so if you mess up, you can have another crack. It's a sensible inclusion to the game because cornering can be more challenging on a motorbike than in a car.
A new feature called "fluctuating catch-up" also makes its debut this year. While it's similar to the rubber-band catch-up in other racers, this feature aims to simulate the way real riders pace themselves throughout a race. Monumental told us that in a typical race, the grid changes significantly at the beginning of the race, settles down during the middle, and fluctuates toward the end as riders go all out to win. As a competitor, this means that the best chances for overtaking are likely to be toward the beginning and end of a race, although it's still possible to overtake at any time if you're skillful enough.
Moto GP 09/10 is looking great, with a solid frame rate and detailed visuals that reflect the action and atmosphere of MotoGP. Each track features a slightly different colour palette that is meant to reflect its real-world appearance, which Monumental describes as exaggerated lighting. Valencia features washed-out blue skies and bleached sand, which reflects the hot Spanish climate, for example. Qatar's Losail track, which takes place at night, has greater contrast and the light bloom reflects vibrantly off rumble strips. Not only is this eye-catching, but it also helps you navigate the track. Our only complaint is that the menus and fonts look clunky at this stage, but we hope this is addressed before launch.
Capcom has promised a free downloadable content pack with all of the official 2010 MotoGP riders, teams, and circuits around the time of launch. Unfortunately, as the teams are still a long way from finalising their plans for the new season, we'll have to wait to see what next season will offer. MotoGP 09/10 will be shipping for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in March. Until then, check out our previous coverage and stay tuned to GameSpot for more MotoGP goodness in the future.