MotoGP 21 Review: The price of authenticity

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When we were offered the chance to review the latest MotoGP 21 title from Milestone, we jumped at the chance, namely as it served as another opportunity to experience a new game on the PlayStation 5. We were also intrigued as to how immersive the gameplay was, and whether it would be as fun to play as previous titles.

After a week of play under our belts, we can safely say that MotoGP 21 is only for diehard fans of the racing genre and that more casual gamers will quickly become frustrated with how grinding the career mode and race days can be.

We detail out thoughts and reasoning on this latest iteration in the MotoGP franchise below, and why its greatest strengths will appeal to fans, but grate almost everyone else.

If you’re wondering who Xavier Robinson is, it is nom de plume we use for character creations.

Training wheels

Once you boot up MotoGP 21, which flies on the PS5 by the way, you’re greeted with a Rider creation screen (seen above). This serves as a pre-cursor for the tutorial mode, and while we understood the basic controls from previous games in the franchise, it is always good to get a feel of what new elements Milestone may have added to the mix.

From our experience in the tutorial, it is clear that we’re ill prepared for the rigours of racing superbikes around a track for hours on end.

Small mistakes are not forgiven when it comes to the racing gameplay that Milestone have developed here. Elements like racing lines, when you hit the apex, how much track shoulder you touch and minor adjustments while in full flight have a significant influence on what happens to your performance.

As such, even the most patient of gamers will likely find themselves in the sand and making use of the Rewind function quite a bit, early on the game.

This is not a slight on the gameplay, however, it is supremely accurate and we really appreciate that. It simply comes at the cost of enjoyment, with you often left frustrated for small mistakes made during the course of the race. This too is part and parcel of professional racing, and it’s great for those wanting an authentic MotoGP experience.

The result means you’ll likely be using many of the riding aids early on, especially if you plan to make any headway with the Career Mode.

We used Rewind more times than we care to mention during the first few hours of MotoGP 21.

Micro mangement

Speaking of the Career Mode, you should think less of yourself simply filling the bots of your custom created rider, and more like being a team manager as well. It means you’re having to take care of things both on and off the racetrack.

This includes picking which racing team you’re partnering with, ensuring the season’s budget is balanced and that staff are paid salaries, among other things.

This is not our first time encountering such a system, with FIFA and PES both integrating wider managerial elements into their respective career modes, but the one on offer here does take some time to get familiar with. It can therefore prove a little daunting, and for those who simply want to get down to the business of racing, can get a little frustrating.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys Football Manager more than FIFA, however, the deeper management elements found in Career Mode for MotoGP 21 will be right up your alley.

Whether it is something you still find enjoyable as you move from Moto 3 all the way to MotoGP, remains to be seen though.

The authenticity and accurate racing season experience extends to the actual races too. You can therefore choose to do multiple testing sessions before qualifying, then do the qualifying, complete a pre-race day test and then finally ride in the actual race itself. Over the course of an entire season, you will definitely be skipping some of the unnecessary events.

Richly detailed

Once you’re done with all the admin that is involved with running a team, you can finally head onto the track. As we’ve explained the nuance of controls and accuracy of the riding experience take time to master, but once you do, there is genuine satisfaction when you exit a corner expertly or overtake a competing rider you’ve been going back and forth with all race.

There is therefore definite rewards to be had from the experience in MotoGP 21, but they come at the cost of intense concentration for every race. Sure, you could rely on Rewind a lot of the time, but where’s the fun in that.

It is likely why Milestone have added new elements likely being able to pick up your bike after crash, depending on the severity. You could simply Rewind to before the crash happens, but is that authentic to the experience that Milestone has designed here?

The answer is no, and you soon find yourself compelled to quickly get back up, get on your bike and try to make up the ground you’ve lost instead of making use of the more handy aid that has been provided.

Final verdict

There is no pick up and play aspect to MotoGP 21. It will test you and frustrate you a lot of the time. Push through that, however, and keep working on your skills and you will be rewarded with a satisfying gaming experience akin to beating a difficult boss in a soulslike.

That said, soulslikes aren’t for everyone and neither is MotoGP 21, which is why it is designed purely for fans of superbike racing in mind. The fact that it costs R1 250 (PlayStation Store) also means that it is not something you pick up on a whim.

If that is you, then a richly detailed and authentic experience awaits. If not, you’ll have to get your need for speed fix elsewhere.


MotoGP 21

7 Score

MotoGP 21 is not for everyone. It will test your mettle and whether or not you can stay the course to perfect some unforgiving mechanics. If you do, however, you're rewarded with a satisfying racing title that is as accurate and authentic as they come.

Review Breakdown

  • Test of will 0
Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.