SBK 2011

It’s that time of the year again, well, technically three months after that time again but let’s not be too picky, as another year of Superbike World Champion action has kicked off and now it’s time for its video game counterpart to hit the shelves revving. Believe it or not, SBK 2011 is the successor of last year’s SBK X (despite the developer opting not to call this year’s version ‘SBK XI’) and aims to deliver all the greatness of last year’s SBK with some extra additions to justify releasing a year-on-year franchise.

Luckily for Milestone, they’ve definitely been able to add some superb additions, tweaks and improvements to boost that justification. First though, I’ll note the big thing which haven’t changed for the most part: The Career mode – it’s a very similar feel and system to SBK X, but that would make sense as the World Championship hasn’t really changed, so we’ll stick a “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” sticker on that one. Just something to keep in mind if you’re one of those people who need a brand new experience every time to slide a disc into the console. Aside from that, though, it’s all about the new additions which means it’s time give SBK 2011 two paragraphs of sweet, sweet praise.

The most obvious note, which I must get out of the way now, is that all the bikes, tracks and riders from the SBK World Championship season of 2011 are included in the game. However, it gets even better than that as they’ve added 17 classic riders into their rightfully deserved ‘Legends’ class as well. Probably my favourite add-on which Milestone threw in because year-on-year release games rarely throw in a tip-of-the-hat to the bygone days without releasing it as a game in its own right – great form as far as I’m concerned. They’ve also improved the graphics so they’re incredibly crisp. Not a sliver of sarcasm or embellishment comes from my lips when I say some screen-grabs I took from the in-game reply could easily fool me without close scrutiny. Oh! And there have been some slight tweaks to the handling mechanics. Now you don’t end up chewing a chunk of your own ass-cheek any time you dare to try and accelerate out of a corner without a reaction time which could only be achieved through heavy doses of ADD medication. Which, again, is quite a strength in my books – though I still crashed a lot.

Without a doubt, though, the best newcomer to SBK 2011 has to be SBK Tour mode. This is simply a challenge mode. I know it may not sound thrilling to begin with, but you compete in a series of challenges with two key sets of goals laid out. Completing the Basic objectives just completes the challenge and unlocks some cool new e-gear, while beating the Advanced objectives at the same time ‘Storms’ the challenge and gives you even more and rarer goodies for the game. The basic goals are usually, for obvious reasons, very simple; such as not bailing or beating a laptime. The Advanced goals, though, are where the true meat lies with tasks sometimes going as far as to ask you to beat a laptime… while sliding for a total of 40 seconds… in only two laps… in the rain. It can get quite brutal, but this is the key to unlocking some of the juiciest unlockables in the game, like new helmets, extra Legendary riders and even new tracks entirely.

On the off chance somebody claims I didn’t play the multiplayer component I will say this: I did. It was smooth, quick, easy to find a lobby and I can confirm that you can get up to 16 players into one extremely hectic race. There’s an experience meter which builds up your ‘rank’ from 1-100, but as far as I could tell it didn’t make an ounce of difference to the gameplay. It worked and delivered everything the single player experience did. Other than that, I honestly can’t think of anything worth noting.

The big question, though, despite being a MotoGP fanatic, is do I recommend SBK 2011? Actually, yes. It may have actually turned me from my previously favourite franchise. The sheer depth of all difficulties, from easy to damn difficult simulation level, as well as some really enjoyable and refreshing challenges and racing experiences means I have to raise a glass to SBK for finally creating a product that can dethrone MotoGP from atop my shelf. If I were forced to let fall the hammer of Damocles, though, I would suggest that you play the entire game with the music option turned off. It’s the default setting, thankfully, but you may get tempted as I did to turn it on to rock out while you ride. Do not get tempted. It sounds like something you’d hear on Kerrang! Radio at 11AM in 2003. Plug your iPod in, or just bask in the glory of your glorious Ducati.







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