Our infallible scientific studies suggest that many MotoGP stars endured multiple bumps on their bonces from a very early age. Asphalt icons such as Valentino Rossi and reigning champion Marc Márquez make average adrenaline junkies look like cucumber sandwich scranning stick-in-the-muds – and that’s before they even climb onto their petrol-propelled suicide machines and attempt to smash the speed of sound on the sunny straights of Silverstone. Milestone’s latest shake at the popular motorsport property aims to give you a taste of what it feels like to be as fearless as one of the abovementioned two-wheeled tyrants – without ever running the risk of putting your tender tush in contact with the tarmac.
There’s no doubt that the Italian developer in the saddle knows its way around a motorbike, having worked on the SBK series for large portions of its lifespan. That underlying understanding of engines and oil put it on a crash course with the MotoGP brand in 2007 and 2008, but then publisher Capcom opted to recruit defunct British outfit Monumental Games for the series’ subsequent entries. Back behind the handlebars of the brand once again, last year’s MotoGP 13 offered up a minimalistic motorsport experience with very little in the way of bells and whistles. However, this latest PlayStation 4 instalment hopes to steer the series towards the replayability podium.
The fruits of the industrious outfit’s labours are clear to see. In addition to a spruced up Career mode – which predictably plots your progress from plucky Moto3 wildcard to world championship winner – you’ll now be able to relive the most memorable moments from the previous season in an International Superstar Soccer-esque Real Events option, as well as experience a fusion of factual and fictional sprints from years gone by in the Challenge the Champions mode. These somewhat simplistic challenges may lack variety, but they’re effective at capturing the excitement of the sport – after all, there’s nothing tenser than attempting to hold your position on a slippy Mugello surface with shot tyres.
The physics are pitch perfect, too. Automotive aficionados may criticise the exact manner in which you’re able to tackle the odd apex, but the game strikes a cunning balance between authenticity and entertainment. That’s not to say that the throbbing hunks of mechanical machinery sitting between your thighs are easy to tame, however, as you’ll still feel your wheels slip if you fail to feather the throttle with finesse around a fierce hairpin bend or protracted right-hand corner. Various settings allow you to tune the often raucous release to your personal tastes, with different tiers of artificial intelligence, physics, and damage on offer.
Moreover, you’ll never feel punished for toning things down a notch, as the same sense of speed persists across all settings. Granted, you’ll get away with a few wide corners if you dial down your opponents to the easiest option, but you’ll still need to work to get around the track and finish at the front of the pack. Those that want to challenge themselves won’t go unrewarded either, as you’ll earn bonus XP for testing your skills, which unlocks more riders, bikes, and paraphernalia for you to peruse as you progress. In truth, the goodies that you attain aren’t much to shout about, but the solitary grade applied across all modes makes you feel like you’re always contributing to something greater.
Indeed, you can flaunt your single player level online should you opt to, and even take your training wheels with you. It’s up to the individual host how multiplayer match-ups play out, with each participant able to select their own personal physics properties by default. Of course, you can enforce professional settings only if you’re that way inclined, but the sheer number of options available means that you can tailor the experience to your exact preferences. The lack of any real matchmaking outside of the Sprint Season mode – which sees you compete for points on a race-by-race basis in order to work your way up the ranks – does mean that you may find yourself hanging at lobby screens more than you perhaps may like, but with 12-player championships a possibility, it’s a lot of fun if you can find yourself a few friends.
It’s just a shame that the game resembles road kill a lot of the time. The user interface has been overhauled, but is still clunky and riddled with repetitive sound samples that put the roar of the core carriages to shame. However, it’s the on-track presentation that most lacks the polish of its under-the-hood excellence, serving up largely static environments that fail to match the spectacle of a real race day. The floodlit corners of Qatar are a highlight in the official 18 track roster, but seeing as you’ll tackle the twilight tropical climes at the very start of the race calendar, you’ll be forced to endure a throng of cardboard cut out arenas for the remainder of the season.
Still, seeing as the tracks are all based upon real world layouts, they’re extremely entertaining to master – and you’ll probably find yourself attempting to top the leaderboards in the Time Attack mode if you fall in love with the game’s physics engine. Bizarrely, the studio’s even included the option to test yourself in the sport’s safety car, but while the BMW M4 Coupé feels like an afterthought in a game that’s clearly been designed for two wheels rather than four, its addition accentuates the effort that the developer’s evidently invested into the title’s agonisingly tight annual production cycle.
Presentation problems prevent MotoGP 14 from riding into the sunset with a championship trophy under its arm, but the latest entry in Milestone’s motorbike simulation is more than worth its podium place. An entertaining handling model coupled with copious amounts of content make this a must-own option for motorsport aficionados, while the ability to tune the experience to your own personal skill level means that those in need of training wheels will enjoy their time in the saddle, too.