We check out the handheld port of Namco's motorcycle racing game.
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MotoGP for the PlayStation Portable is a semiport of MotoGP 4, which was released in the States back in June. We say "semi" port because, while the game doesn't have a good chunk of the content that's found in the PlayStation 2 version, it still looks and plays a lot like its console cousin. We got a chance to check out a work-in-progress build of the game ahead of its early-October release today.
While the game does include the full roster of MotoGP drivers from the 2005 season, the tracklist for the PSP version of MotoGP isn't nearly as extensive. About half of the tracks found in the PS2 version are playable in the PSP game, and most of those hail from Europe. So while you will be able to zip around on tracks such as Germany's Sachsenring and Italy's Mugello, you won't be able to tackle Laguna Seca or China's Shanghai course, which is a shame. The good news is the tracks that are in the game look faithful to the real thing. Track highlights, such as the downhill sprint after turn 10 or the massive front straight at Mugello, feel just right, which makes the absence of the other tracks all the more disappointing. Not only are they authentic, the tracks--and the riders, too--look sharp and clear on the PSP's screen.
Controls in MotoGP are simple and straightforward. You steer with the analog stick; gas is controlled with the X button; and braking is controlled with the square button. The game doesn't differentiate between front and rear brakes, and you can't lean back or forward in the saddle to affect the weight distribution on the bike. As a result, controlling the bike is fairly easy to pick up, even if there is room for subtlety. For example, to pull off powerslides, you push the analog stick almost, but not completely, to one side or the other. The back tire will then leave a trail of rubber and you can get a slightly tighter angle on your turn.
From a physics standpoint, the bikes in MotoGP 4 feel extremely slippery when playing on the simulation setting, and you have to be careful not to give it too much gas around tight corners, or else you'll be eating asphalt. The limited range of motion on the analog controller takes some getting used to, and you might find yourself overcorrecting (and correcting your overcorrections) in order to keep your two wheels pointing in the right direction. If you put a wheel or two off the road, you'll slow down accordingly, but the penalty isn't enough to knock you completely out of a race.
Game modes in MotoGP include arcade, season, and multiplayer, as well as a one-on-one mode that lets you take on riders in one-on-one competitions throughout all the tracks in the game. The game's multiplayer component is by far its most compelling--up to eight players will be able to race via the PSP's ad hoc wireless support. Producers told us that you'll be able to fill out the field with bots if you can't find a full group of racers.
With three levels of difficulty, full replays for each race, and plenty of unlockables to discover, MotoGP is aimed squarely at the two-wheel racing fan. That the game doesn't feature the same amount of content as its PS2 counterpart is a shame, but, nonetheless, we'll be keeping our eyes on this handheld racer when it's released in October.