Racing games have come a long way. I’m not talking about your Forza or Gran Turismo titles, but rather Formula 1 and MotoGP. The realism in particular is at an all-new level, and leading the charge in terms of superbike-foucsed titles is MotoGP 19, the latest offering from developers Milestone.
I recently got to try out the game on PS4, and before I begin talking about my experiences, I should state that it’s been awhile since a superbike racing title has crossed my path.
As it turns out though, it was a good thing, as MotoGP 19 gave me an entirely new appreciation about what goes into making a title like this.
Unassuming at first
When you boot up MotoGP 19 and are greeted by the relatively simple screen and menu layout, you can be tricked into thinking this is a simple plug and play racing game without very much skill involved.
Once you’re on the track, however, it’s an entirely different scenario.
Very quickly you become aware of the nuances involved with racing. They say you should use every part of the track, and the saying certainly rings true here.
Starting off with a few time trials to get accustomed to the game (there isn’t a tutorial mode), I found myself on the track by myself, ignoring the on-track guide for braking, acceleration and racing lines, and doing as I saw fit. After about 30 minutes I thought “what is so difficult here?”.
Foolishly I entered a basic race and, as soon as I entered the first corner with other computer-controlled racers, I realised what a huge tactical error I made. This was when I began to appreciate the intense concentration required for an entire race.
You cannot simply go as fast as you can on the bike, slam on brakes when a corner approaches and hit the accelerator again. Oh no, real superbike racing does not work like that, unless your goal is to come dead last.
In MotoGP 19 I began to learn that braking is not a binary thing, and a refined touch is needed depending on the type of corner you’re trying to negotiate. Here things are highly detailed, and everything you do on your controller immediately translates to the on-screen track. The smallest mistake or error in judgement can mean you getting quickly overtaken on straights.
So back to the time trial I went.
Putting in the hours
Having spent the past few days with MotoGP, I now know that this game requires dedication. Think of it like some artisanal skill, that requires you to constantly practice in order to remain sharp at.
As such MotoGP 19 is not some pick and play title.
Yes, you can turn on as many rider aids as you wish, to assist with braking, rider position, gear shifting, but then you’re not getting the purely distilled version of superbike racing that Milestone intended.
If you’re up for the challenge though, and put in the necessary effort to remain focused through an entire race with most of the aids turned off, there is indeed something genuinely satisfying about winning a race.
MotoGP 19 can be as punishing and grinding as you want it to be, and if you stick with it, the rewards are worthwhile. We’re not talking about in-game loot here, but rather the knowledge of the skill required to win a race on this title.
While I’m no superbike expert, it definitely appears as if MotoGP 19 is designed with the purest or diehard fan in mind. If you don’t quite count yourself in either category, the game probably isn’t for you.
An immersive experience
When you start the game you get to choose your rider the faces on offer are detailed and unique, but the number of options are far too limited. Also there are two female riders to pick from, as opposed to six male ones.
Here Milestone may have missed a trick, and a different rider design system could have been used akin to something we get in FIFA or Madden.
One thing Milestone has gotten spot on are the aesthetic elements. Riders’ helmets, leathers, bikes and liveries all look superb, and are spot on. For those fans who have a particular attention to detail, MotoGP 19 will be truly appealing.
The same painstaking attention has been paid to the race tracks, which too are highly detailed. Although at the speeds you’re going at, you won’t looking to the side to check if the advertising hoarding is correct.
One of the other interesting modes available are the challenges involving legendary riders from the past. Here we got to see quite a few Valentino Rossi moments, with The Doctor’s most iconic moments available for players to relive and match. It’s a nice touch and shows that the developer also wants to tap into the history of MotoGP for those who may not of lived through it.
MotoGP 19 is a painstakingly detailed superbike racing game, and the action on the track is as nuanced and unforgiving for those not paying attention. It quite easily separates the wheat from the chaff, and will only resonate with players who are willing to put in the time to win a race unaided.
As such it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but is without a doubt a realistic gaming representation of MotoGP is about.
If you’re up to the challenge, you will be rewarded.