In attempting to be all things to all PC motorcycle enthusiasts, Moto Racer 3 isn't quite as enjoyable or as polished as it could have been.
Released six years ago by Electronic Arts, the original Moto Racer capably blended the two distinct disciplines of superbike and motocross into one explosive package and proved to be one of the first truly satisfying PC motorcycle racing games ever produced. 1999's Moto Racer 2 offered numerous new perks and even more options, yet it failed to deliver an appreciably better ride at a time when motorcycle racing was really beginning to take off with the likes of Microsoft's Motocross Madness. Now, with Moto Racer 3, returning developer Delphine Software and new publisher Infogrames have upped the ante considerably by somehow squeezing almost every conceivable form of two-wheeled competition on a single disc. From speed-drenched blacktop racing to dirt-encrusted supercross and motocross, trick-crazy freestyle, painstaking trials, and even a certifiably suicidal "traffic" mode, the game seemingly covers all the bases. Unfortunately, it also feels awkward and incomplete. In attempting to be all things to all PC motorcycle enthusiasts, Moto Racer 3 isn't quite as enjoyable or as polished as it could have been.
That's not to say it is not without its charms, the foremost of which is its stunningly diverse selection of racing alternatives. In speed mode, you'll hurtle through long and accommodating paved racecourses at breakneck speed, the wind buffeting your helmeted head as you negotiate wide straightaways and huge sweeping corners. In supercross/motocross mode, you'll bounce and be bounced over a series of sadistically undulating dirt tracks, thrilling to the inevitable air time you'll experience yet struggling to keep your tires on the ground, where they can translate the power you so dearly want to apply. As a freestyle rider, you'll use ramps, knolls, moguls, and whatever other launching devices you'll find strewn about the vicinity to grab the biggest air and perform the most death-defying stunts before the constantly ticking timer counts down to zero. In the trials mode, you'll slowly and meticulously balance and maneuver your steed over an obstacle course designed to topple you to the ground at just the slightest miscue, and in traffic mode you'll blitz through the virtual streets of downtown Paris, trying to outride your single opponent to the finish line without first being beaten into escargot by a frenzied Parisian rush-hour motorist.
If all this sounds like fun, that's because it often is. Moto Racer 3's physics model and track designs are simplistic enough for absolute rookies yet not so primitive as to completely alienate experienced players. Its racing parameters are extremely varied and downright exhilarating. Certainly the raw sense of speed of its traffic mode and the raw sense of flight in supercross/motocross are almost worth the price of admission. Almost. The sad truth is that from start to finish, Moto Racer 3 gives the impression that it quite probably should have undergone extensive additional tweaking before being pushed out the door.
Just loading the game is a chore. You'll sit through at least a half-dozen introductory animations before the first in-game interface appears and then sift through two or three more interfaces to get to the good stuff. Loading an actual event isn't quite so painful, yet exiting a completed race is virtually impossible without first tolerating nearly a half-minute of postrace pageantry. And should you decide to access user options, be prepared to endure one of the most unusual menu systems in the business. For starters, most important universal preferences, such as display, audio, and control setup, are accessible only through an external utility. Some basic preferences may be adjusted via a series of hotkeys, yet the really important modifications must be enacted before you launch the program. Worse still, all event, mode, and bike options are spread across an inconvenient jumble of interfaces that force you to clumsily shuffle between them just to view rudimentary information.
Unlike its immediate predecessor, which featured a total of 32 circuits and a track construction kit for pumping out even more, the game features just 15--three per mode--and no track-creation facility. Nor does it provide environmental, time-of-day, or reverse-track variables. When you race outdoors in Moto Racer 3, the weather is always bright and dry and the days never end. The lack of long-term championship or career modes is particularly bizarre. Each time you contest an event, you do so individually and with just one motivation--accumulating "points," which are then used to unlock new tracks and faster machines. You can't even use those points to upgrade your bike with a selection of fancy new parts, as no such parts exist.