User Rating: 9.1 | MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 2 XBOX
To date, the Xbox has lacked a sophisticated racing simulation on par with the Gran Turismo series, provided racing cars is your thing. When it comes to superbike racing, however, MotoGP 2 is hands down the best motor-cycling sim for any console. In fact, MotoGP 2 edges near the level of realism offered in PC games such as EA Sport's Superbike 2001. Experienced motorcyclists will be pleased to know that some basic rider skills used in real-life can be applied to MotoGP 2, and will probably help in dealing with the game's learning curve. As a simulation of motorcycle racing, the difficulty is understandably harder than what one might expect in an arcade racer. Trying to compete with the AI-controlled players can be a frustrating experience if you forego the game's training courses, but at the same time, the difficulty settings can be tweaked to be more or less forgiving. MotoGP 2 has several game modes including Quick Race, Career Mode, Time Trial and Stunt Mode. Quick Race is what you'd expect; you choose from a selection of real-life superbike riders, pick a track, and you're ready to compete with a full field of racers. Time Trial is similar to Quick Race, except you're racing against the clock instead of AI-controlled players. Stunt Mode rewards the player for completing as many stunts as possible between a set of check points. The heart of the game though is the Career Mode. In this gametype you can create your own rider, along with your own team name. Players can choose from a selection of bikes manufactured by Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and others, and also detail their riding suit and motorcycle with various colors and logos. It's not as advanced as the paint shop in the Nascar Thunder series, but it does allow for a good degree of customization. Part of creating a unique rider involves assigning experience points to four categories: cornering, braking, top speed and acceleration. The game starts you out with a handful of points, the rest of which are earned by racing and completing individual challenges unique to each course. Completing training courses also earns you points, reinforcing the need to learn and practice various riding techniques before hitting the track. In terms of gameplay, riding a high-performance crotch-rocket is more complicated than you might expect. Cornering in particular is a challenging manuever, requiring a tricky-mixture of steering, brakes, and acceleration. Braking in itself cannot be understated--knowing when and how to slow your machine is essential when trying to keep up with a pack of highly-skilled AI riders. MotoGP 2 has a unique sensation of speed when the road affords enough length to test your particular bike's top-end. The screen begins to blur and fade just slightly, providing a visual indication of moving incredibly fast. Crashes occur often and can look pretty brutal at times, but while it is sim-like in many ways, MotoGP 2 departs from reality by simply placing the player's bike back on the track from about the point rubber left the road. The default control setup seems overly complicated at first. You control your player with the left-analog stick, where left and right steer the bike while up and down cause the rider to lean forward and back respectively. The right analog stick is for accelerating the motorcycle, and the rear and front breaks are assigned to the left and right triggers. For changing gears, pressing in on the left and right analog sticks shift down and up and can require some getting used to. However, after a few races you might find that the default setup is actually fairly good at providing full-control. In any case, MotoGP 2 lets you edit the control scheme to your liking. MotoGP 2's AI is better than average, at least compared to other console racing sims. Unlike Gran Turismo, the CPU racers don't follow a clear rail-like path throughout a race. Something that does seem odd though, is how the field will often split into two groups, one consisting of the lesser skilled riders and the other with the top six or seven. Regardless of where you end up in the line, staying there can be quite a feat in light of the ruthlessness of the other riders. Interrupt someone else's path of travel and you risk being clipped off the track. Unlike Nascar, rubbin' is definitely not racin' in MotoGP 2. Expect to fall a lot on the higher difficulty levels. If you find you're falling too much, you can arbitrarily tweak collisions so that they're not as realistic as the other aspects of the game. The visuals range from fairly good to fantastic. The graphics of the riders and the track are solid, and the animation of the bikes is what you'd expect from a game of this generation. The frame rate while racing is a consistent 60 fps, but for some reason stutters slightly during replays at times. MotoGP 2 really shines in the scenery department. Races take place at different times of day with varying cloud cover, and even during the rain. Wet tracks show off some nice reflections, and the rainy weather behaves naturally as drops of water fly off your windshield when racing from first-person perspectives. All in all, the game is convincing to the eyes and does little to distract you from the race. As far as audio is concerned, MotoGP 2 gets the job done. The sounds of revving engines, passing riders and hard braking succeed in coming across as high-fidelity in regards to the sport being portrayed. The soundtrack, on the other hand, can be annoying in that it makes it difficult to hear the whine of the bike, which can be handy when listening for the best time to shift gears. Fortunately the volume of the music can be set to 0, effectively turning it off. While the various single-player modes offer a strong if somewhat standard experience for a hardcore racing simulation, MotoGP 2 has a variety of multiplayer options as well. For starters, up to 4-players can play on a single television. Split-screen action can make things hard to see, however. I was able to play against my roommate through I-Link via LAN, which turned out to be a blast. I was not able to test the Xbox Live! portion of the multiplayer component, though. Something to note is the fact that through split-screen or I-Link, players can participate in a full Championship if they so choose, with the remaining field composed of AI riders. If robust multiplayer wasn't enough, MotoGP 2 has many unlockables which can be obtained by playing through the single-player game. The various prizes include new tracks, riders, and new visual effects that alter the look of the game during the race. These effects resemble Photoshop filters such as crystalize or emboss, and seeing them in motion is certainly interesting, if only novel. MotoGP 2 is a racing game that looks, sounds, and plays great. Indeed, it’s a challenge to levy much criticism against it, aside from it being a tad too hard at times. Still, while superbike racing may or may not be your thing, if you're looking for a good sim that provides an exhilarating sense of speed, consider adding this one to you collection.