Simulating professional motorcycle races with licensed tracks and riders, the latest in the MotoGP series fills a rather particular niche. Is MotoGP 09/10 worth the investment, or is a purchase about as smart as riding without a helmet?
MotoGP has a few different ways to tackle its selection of 16 real-world tracks, ranging from Indianapolis to Mugello. Championships are straightforward, challenging you to take on the full gauntlet of courses in three different engine classes. Arcade mode tasks you with completing a race before a timer expires, rewarding you with more time for completing laps and perfecting corners. Plus, there's the standard time trial mode for players focused on setting records.
The game's main focus is the career. Rather than using one of the 30-plus licensed riders in the game, you develop a persona of your own, customizing your bike and growing your team. As your reputation increases, you attract offers from new sponsors and manufacturers, and you'll need to hire press officers to increase your cash flow as well as engineers to research improvements for your vehicle. While the career mode is decently fleshed out with management features, there's not much in the way of variety. Aside from optional wildcard events, which let you try out new rides, it's just one standard race after another.
Multiplayer includes options for up 20 players online and two-player split-screen, but once again, diversity is limited and there are no long-term multiplayer goals. Connecting to online games can be problematic, with frequent player drops and bad connections. Meanwhile, split-screen suffers from a bug that can make one player's controls become completely unresponsive.
MotoGP has sim-based handling that pushes you to master your bike's angle and momentum through the turns. Separate buttons for front and rear brakes give you more precise control, and you need to lean forward and tuck in to increase speed in straight sections. Just keeping your machine on the road can be frustrating at times, but it becomes more manageable as you unlock better bikes and master all the game's nuances.
If you do find yourself eating dirt, you can try again by using the second chance feature. Like Dirt 2 and Forza 3, MotoGP lets you instantly rewind to make up for any mistakes, at the cost of a big dent to your reputation. The reputation system is a major part of the career mode, ultimately determining the quality of sponsors and staff you can gain. Points and deductions are constantly popping up as you hit specific points through turns or get overtaken by opponents. The system can be unforgiving, racking up collision deductions in situations when you don't feel at fault as AI opponents tend to run their courses with little sense of interaction.
Dragging out the experience are separate practice and qualifying sessions before each race. You don't have to take the full time allotted to learn the course and qualify, but reputation bonuses encourage you to stick around, making single events take as long as 10 to 15 minutes. Weather cycles let you race in rainy conditions from time to time, but changes to handling are slight and there's no tangible feedback to reflect the fact that you're driving through the puddles on the track.
While it gives players a decent technical challenge, MotoGP just feels tedious throughout and it never delivers a real sense of thrill or satisfaction.
MotoGP quite literally falls flat in its presentation with blurry textures, simple background elements, and dull lighting. The bland look of the game contributes greatly to the sense of boredom throughout, but to its credit, it does run smoothly and there are varied rain textures from track to track.
Sound design is much worse. In fact, we'd go so far to say that there is no sound design. The sounds of your engine are basic and monotone, while every other bike on the track is completely silent. There's no sense of movement, and the lack of sound during replays is particularly awkward. The song selection isn't bad, but with barely more than a dozen tracks, the music quickly gets repetitive as does your thickly-accented coach.
Aside from the focus on its namesake license, there's not much to stand out in MotoGP 09/10. It is fairly challenging, but the lack of variety and poor presentation ultimately make for a dull, monotonous experience.
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.