MotoGP 4 E3 2005 Preshow Report

The fourth game in the PS2 two-wheel series is almost here. We run some laps in the game in our hands-on preview.

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The MotoGP series for the PlayStation 2 is currently in its fourth iteration and is both developed and published by Namco. Though there is a similarly named competitor series for other platforms, the Namco series dates back to 2000 when the first MotoGP made its way to the PS2 not long after the launch of the platform. We got to take the fourth game in the series, MotoGP 4, for a quick spin during a recent Namco pre-E3 event to see how the game was shaping up for its summer 2005 release.

The fourth MotoGP game from Namco brings a more realistic approach to two-wheeled action than ever before.
The fourth MotoGP game from Namco brings a more realistic approach to two-wheeled action than ever before.

The first thing you should know about MotoGP 4 is that the same challenging driving model that was found in the last game will be well intact here. The bikes will certainly be capable of great speed yet still feel twitchy and light under the seat, as if they might jump out from under you at any moment. At simulation-level handling settings, throttle control will be put at an absolute maximum priority, as giving it too much gas at the apex of a corner will be an easy way to take a slide into the green stuff. Honestly, in our time with the game, it was tough for us to keep it on the track at this setting, but once we dialed down the difficulty a bit, we found ourselves a bit more competitive. If it sounds frustrating, it's not; it's just part of the challenge of guiding these two-wheeled monsters around twisting tracks like Assen, Sepang, and Brno. Those who miss the inclusion of Japan's Suzuka circuit on the real MotoGP calendar will be pleased to note that the classic and complex course can be unlocked in MotoGP 4, along with two other bonus tracks.

MotoGP 4 will aim to re-create the 2004 MotoGP series in its entirety. In addition to the complete schedule of tracks found on last year's schedule, MotoGP 4 will include all three engine classes, including 125cc, 250cc, and MotoGP (naturally). Real riders will make their way into the game as well, including legends such as Wayne Rainey, five-time world champion Mick Doohan, and the late Daijiro Kato, whose crash in 2003 at Suzuka caused the circuit to be removed from the 2004 MotoGP calendar.

Graphically, the game looked fine; if the courses we tried out during our time with the game weren't terribly detailed, they seemed at least accurate, which is probably more important anyway. Even better, the tightly bunched racing, which seems to be a hallmark of this iteration of the series, didn't result in any noticeable slowdown when speeding through busy corners. Little details, such as bugs splattering on your visor in first-person mode, add a distinctly realistic, if slightly skewed, sensibility to the "perils" of high-speed motorcycle racing. While the sense of speed could probably have used a jolt in the arm, especially when compared with MotoGP 4's direct competitor, we chalk it up to the game's more realistic approach that has distinguished the series from its rivals.

The entire 2004 MotoGP season will be re-created in MotoGP 4.
The entire 2004 MotoGP season will be re-created in MotoGP 4.

MotoGP 4's standard individual race and a season mode will be bolstered by new gameplay modes such as training and melee, which should add to the fun. While new modes are well and good, it's online play that we're most excited about. MotoGP 4 will support races for up to eight players online with voice chat enabled via a USB headset. If you don't have a full slate of friends available for a race, you can fill out the rest of the field with AI-controlled bots to ensure you'll always have a full race when the green lights go dim. We didn't get a chance to see online play in action, but we are definitely looking forward to exploring this aspect of the game in further detail.

MotoGP 4 is currently scheduled for a summer release. We'll have more details on the game over the coming months as our coverage continues.

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