A revamped Career mode and some fine racing are offset by some strange AI quirks in Capcom's latest two-wheeled racing game.
- Improved Career mode
- Lots of online options and good frame rate online
- Great tire modeling.
- Overreliance on tuck feels unrealistic
- MotoGP bikes take too long to unlock in most modes
- AI disparity between qualifying and race performance is frustrating.
Some call it bravery, and some call it insanity--that particular willingness of MotoGP racers to strap themselves in the saddle of a two-wheeled, 800cc monstrosity and rip around some of the world's toughest tracks with nothing more than a helmet and thick leather coming between them and oblivion. For the rest of us who might lack that particular fortitude, there are video games like Capcom's MotoGP 09/10 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This is the third MotoGP game from the company, and unlike the straightforward previous efforts, MotoGP 09/10 introduces some new features that add depth to the racing experience. However, those additions are offset to a certain degree by some strange AI quirks and an overall organization that makes it tough to get to the game's best content.
The biggest additions in MotoGP 09/10 are found in the game's Career mode. You are responsible for more than just your performance on the track here; as your career progresses, you need to hire a staff of press officers and engineers who are responsible for securing sponsorship opportunities and researching new technology for your bike, respectively. Money from sponsors is important, because as your team grows, you need more than your race winnings to keep the team afloat. Different sponsors have different requirements you need to meet on-track in order to get paid (such as finishing 8th or above in qualifying or in a race). Failure to do so can mean missing out on quite a big payday; miss too many of these goals and you might even be reduced to laying off staff to make it to the next week.
You can hire engineers to work on various aspects of your bike, such as tires, engine, suspension, and so on. Different engineers have different mechanical specialties, and for quicker results, you need to make sure you have the right person on each job from week to week. Both press officers and engineers have levels attached to them: higher-level press officers will be able to get you better sponsorship opportunities, and you need higher-level engineers as you move up through the different bike classes in Career mode. All of this hiring and firing and sponsorship signing means a lot of heavy menu navigation, but it's all attractively organized and easy to understand.
Progress in Career mode is determined by a number of metrics, including championship points and cash earned from completing races. New for this year is a rider reputation system that measures your performance on the track in more granular terms. You earn reputation for doing things like making clean passes, running incident-free sections of the track, or completing in-race challenges (such as passing a singled-out rider or reaching a certain top speed on a straightaway). Conversely, you lose rep by being passed by other riders, hitting opponents, falling off the bike, or using the game's new second-chance feature (which lets you rewind a race and drop back in at any point). At the end of each race session, you are given an overall reputation grade, and all of the rep points then feed into your overall reputation level. Reputation doesn't mean much in terms of how other riders react to you; instead, improving your rep can earn you more slots to hire additional staff.
On the track, MotoGP 09/10 straddles a line between arcade and simulation racing in a way that can be disconcerting at first. On the default settings, the game's HUD is absolutely jam-packed. In addition to standard lap timers, race position, current gear, track map, and so on, the game throws in a bunch of information, some of which is superfluous. For example, every action you perform on-track that causes you to earn or lose reputation is called out in bright blue (or red) letters, which can be annoying, especially as the messages pile up. In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, you'll find a color-coded sector indicator that will tell you how cleanly you've driven a certain section of the track, as well as a bike mock-up that illustrates the wear of your tires, the latter of which proves to be one of the most important bits of information you'll need in a race.