I’ve never been a fan of motorcycle simulators for the PC. There were few of them, far apart, with releases at approximately 2 years from the one before, they didn’t enjoy a lot of promotional activities, had a relatively low success and their control scheme was anything but friendly. Of course, for consoles the story was relatively different, but since their popularity in my particular corner of the world is lower than one would expect, it didn’t make much of a difference. Nevertheless, I caught “the bug” in real life, as I managed to pass the driving exam for the A category and been trying ver since to tame the power of a Kawasaki for a few thousand kilometers, so the moment couldn’t have been better to fight the cold with a PC simulation of the 2007 MotoGP championship.
On a small humorous note, the producers used Valentino Rossi on the cover, with his famous number 46 showing, not taking into consideration the 2006 results when Nicky Hayden won (Hayden actually is featured on the cover, but on the Xbox 360 version, which is not surprising considering he is an American). Along with the fierce competition in the season, 2007 became famous for the switch to the new 800 cc engine capacity, where the Ducati motorcycles have proven their superiority, at least on the straights. All these details need to be taken into consideration presents itself as a simulator, not an arcade.
Licensing is very important for racing simulators and MotoGP is doing well in this area, with all the names of the real pilots, their motorcycles and with a perfect rendition of the circuits. Also, the attention to detail has to be mentioned, because the producers included all the visual elements featured on the motorcycles and protective equipment of the pilots. Also, the names of the companies that produce the gear and helmets are correctly shown and these details are very important in order to create the feeling of being there with these wonderfully insane people.
The second characteristic, which is even more important than licensing, is the actual simulation which is the base of the gameplay. Here, even more than in the case of an auto simulator, it’s absolutely necessary to find the right balance between simulation and fun and to offer an intuitive control system. In the case of a motorcycle, the ideal race line is the only one that can lead to victory, because the angles at which the pilots turn and the difficult art of maintaining speed through corners turns this sport into one where any mistake can permanently take you out of the race.
A lot of options that are required for a an adequate reproduction of the motobike’s control system have been implemented, so there are separate keys for the front and back brakes, there is the option to stand higher on the pedals before turns or to make a wheelie, the ability to get down under the windshield to reduce the wind resistance and get a higher top speed in the straights. I especially liked the fact that pressing the latter key leads to an animation that presents the whole body hugging the bike and actually offering the sensation of teeth crunching in the search of those 20 km/h in excess of the 300 you already got.
The most important fact is that the “bikes” feel different. Considering that few of us have actually ridden such a machine, it’s hard to say whether the simulation is real, but it’s nice to notice subtle differences between manufacturers. As such, the Ducatis are harder to control, Hondas are the balanced choice, while the Kawasaki models seem to have a slower acceleration at lower rpms.
Unfortunately, just where there was a need for some innovation the game does not satisfy, namely the control of the acceleration through the corners. Pushing keys does not allow for a constant speed and this makes powersliding a problem, which is an unwanted and potential disastrous effect. An Xbox 360 controller is recommended even for the PC version, but unfortunately this is not a common accessory one has around the house, even as a die-hard racing sim fan.