Superbike SBK 09 Hands-On

Two wheels and tons of speed; the motorcycle racing series is coming to America and we've got the latest look.


The SBK Superbike series, which has seen a few iterations released in Europe, will finally make its European debut this year in the upcoming SBK Superbike World Championship 09. Representatives from the game's publisher Valcon Games were on hand at the 2010 Game Developers Conference showing SBK off to the press.

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Perhaps the biggest distinction between Superbikes and its racing series cousin MotoGP is the bikes themselves. Whereas MotoGP riders race on purpose-built bikes, in SBK, the rides are modified production models, closer to the motorcycles you can buy at your local dealership. That said, these are still incredibly fast and nimble machines capable of tearing up the world's most prestigious circuits. In fact, both MotoGP and SBK series bikes race on many of the same courses during their respective seasons, including Brno, Phillip Island, and more in the game.

During our brief demo of the game, we got some hands-on time at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, which is a flat, fast track and one of the few courses that is raced counterclockwise. We drove a couple of laps at Miller Park and noticed that bike handling felt a bit heavier than in other recent motorcycle games we've played, with the slightest bit of delay when leaning into and coming out of turns. That might be the game's handling, or it might just be an accurate reflection of how the bikes handle in real life. Nonetheless, it required us to think ahead a bit more than we might have otherwise. Because we were playing at the easiest difficulty level, we were able to pass the field with ease and cross the start/finish line in first place.

Of course, winning a race on baby level is one thing; doing the same thing with the difficulty ratcheted up is quite another. Difficulty customization seem to be one area in which SBK will excel: Not only can you choose between general difficulty levels, but you can also customize very specific on-track rules and behaviors that will affect your race. This includes toggling options, such as braking assists, rider assists, inertia, false starts, traction control, rolling starts, and many more. The granular detail continues in the bike setup tools--you'll be able to set individual gear ratios, make suspension and steering settings, and even adjust the tension of your drive chain.

Twenty seven other riders will be on track with you in single-player races (including licensed real-life SBK racers like Ben Spies and Tom Sykes), and the game will support eight players racing online. The good news is SBK 09 is done--all that's left are some localization changes and minor in-game title changes. That means the game doesn't have a firm release date yet, but it should be out soon, according to Valcon reps. We'll have a full review once the game hits retail shelves, so stay tuned.

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