TGS 2000MotoGP Hands-On

We take Namco's upcoming PlayStation 2 motorcycle racing game for a spin.

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One of the more impressive games at the TGS was undoubtedly Namco's MotoGP, a motorcycle racing game based on the popular GP circuit. While the version we played only had one selectable bike, the final game will feature 35 real riders and 12 licensed motorcycles from manufacturers including Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki. MotoGP also features five real-world tracks to race on. They are Suzuka, Donington, Motegi, Paul Ricard, and Jerez.

The game has a simulation setting that you can turn on or off. With it off, the bikes drive very much like a car, meaning that they're more forgiving and predictable. In this mode, handling becomes relatively simple. If you approach a turn too fast, you'll understeer to the outside. Applying the brake will correct your trajectory and point your front wheel back to the inside of the turn. It's almost impossible to make your rider crash with the simulation setting set to off, unless you slam headlong into another bike. With the simulation setting turned on, the bikes become somewhat trickier to handle. Applying throttle in a turn will cause the rear tire to spin faster than the front, causing the bike to enter a slide. If you let this slide continue, the bike will suddenly snap upward and you'll be treated to a spectacular high-side crash that sends your rider and bike tumbling end over end. Braking will usually stop your bike's rear end from sliding outward, but too much pressure on the brake button can lock up your front wheel, which causes the bike to fall flat. Thankfully, MotoGP features two bars in the lower right-hand corner of the screen that display how hard the gas and brake buttons are being pressed down. Also, with the simulation setting turned on, your rider will lean backward while braking and turning and lean forward while during accelerating and driving. Normally this is done to adjust the bike's center of gravity for added traction. In MotoGP, however, the rider movement is purely cosmetic.

The game's graphics are crisp and the textures are sharp. Additionally, there aren't any visible jagged lines, which is a problem in several other PS2 games. The tracks all precisely depict their real-world counterparts, and they make use of long, streaking textures to further enhance the sensation of speed. Even the driving line around each track is visible, thanks to the use of darker textures and skid marks. On a sour note, it's a bit disappointing that MotoGP's replays, which are all rendered using the in-game engine, look markedly better than the actual game. Unsteady cameras and effects like heat rising from the asphalt give these replays a realistic appeal that's missing from the actual gameplay. Regardless, the game is still one of the best-looking titles due out on the PlayStation 2 in the near future.

We'll have more on MotoGP as its release date approaches.

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