MotoGP 08

Before I begin, I want to make one thing very, very clear. Despite what it say’s on the back of the box (or whatever words might appear on any other bike racing game), this is NOT “what it feels like”!

I ride motorbikes, I’ve even raced motorbikes and I know what it takes to guide a two-wheeled missile capable of 180+ mph around a race track and my friends, you will get none of that here.

It’s not the fault of the boys at Capcom, they’ve had a pretty decent crack at producing a game which captures the sounds and sights of the MotoGP season, including the 125 and 250cc supporting championships too. It’s simply that the physics involved with riding a bike at speed are far and beyond the ability of todays controllers and user interfaces to deliver.

Now, having said all of that let me tell you about MotoGP 08. I like it. Seriously, I do. It delivered what I expected of a bike racing game and it delivered it very well indeed so please indulge me while I walk you through my MotoGP journey.

There are number of things one can do in the game itself but before you even get there you are presented with the opportunity to show what you’re capable of. This is actually a neat little way for the game to decide what control mode you should start at. You do a lap of a track (I believe it was Monza) and at the end of it the game advises you which reality mode to use, from Arcade, Intermediate, Advanced and Simulation my result was Advanced – I am mildly smug at this.

In the game you can follow your own career, you can simply grab a Quick Race which allows you to choose from any class, rider, team, track, duration and weather conditions, you can race through an ‘official’ championship playing the role of one of the real-life riders or you can undertake the challenges, of which there are 50, which unlock imagery from the 2008 MotoGP season. I chose to go down the career route.

In career mode you start off racing in the 125 class which is, I have to say, surprisingly fun. There is still the risk of crashing but the little-bikes do give you a very good start up the learning curve of bike control within the game. After a season on 125 you can choose to move up to the 250s, to one of the teams which your points total will allow.. ahh yes, there is nothing simple about this move, you have to be ‘worth’ taking on and after only one season in 125s you simply don’t have the experience to get a ride on one of the factory team bikes. I made the move up anyway and staked my claim in the middle class.

There are other milestones of progression through the game, these being the ‘upgrades’ you can do you your bike. At the end of each race (as long as you did well enough) you will get one or two points to spend on your machine to upgrade either the top speed, acceleration, braking or traction elements. These elements, along with the tyre compounds, can also be tuned for each race giving you better control at twisty technical tracks or more speed for the longs straights at Sepang for example.

The progression from the 250 to the MotoGP class follows the same points-based criteria for team availability, luckily I had amassed enough at the end of my second season in the game to jump onboard one of the Tech3 Yamaha’s, as piloted by Colin Edwards or our very own James Toseland, maybe at the end of this season I’ll get one of those nice ‘factory’ rides they talk about!

There are a fair selection of Achievements to be had in MotoGP 08 (this is the Xbox 360 version), a few quirky ones too I have to say but winning a race after stopping to do a doughnut is something I think should be introduced into the real life championship!

But, and there has to be a ‘but’, there are some niggles, some wrinkles and snags in the otherwise satin sheen of MotoGP 08 and for me the major one has to be the tracks. Seriously CapCom, if you are going to produce a game with “… no margin for error, no room for compromise…” on the back of the box you should have taken the time to make sure the tracks we’re racing around reflect reality.
I have probably done a couple of hundred laps around Donington Park, both the National and the GP circuits, and the track in this game is NOT Donington Park! Oh sure, it’s close and from the top down I’m sure the layout LOOKS correct, but the number and direction of the corners is only part of the feel of a track, the rest comes from the camber, from the rise and fall over the surface of the landscape and from the subtle changes in track width which can be found at the older circuits. Other circuits in the game I’m less familiar with but I’d put someone’s good money on there being similar discrepancies in place and it’s a bit like a face full of cold water when something this nice get’s it so badly wrong.

The bottom line for me though is this. MotoGP 08 is designed to bring, in as much as is possible, the noise and nonsense of premier class bike racing to your console and for me it does this and does it pretty well. I can forgive the dynamics or lack thereof of bike handling, I can pretty much forgive the track foibles because ultimately it’s a bit of fun and nothing more. A bike racing game can NEVER be a true sim for all of the reasons I stated at the top of this missive so I never expect it to be one, therefore the things I expect from a sim are not required here and the elements which are delivered are appreciated more as a result. I LIKE the fact the the Ducati handles like a cow around tight sections but pulls like a train along the straights, I LIKE it that the Yamaha is as nimble as a greased ferret through the various stadium sections but makes you work for the speed down the long bits. These things actually mean something because they elevate this game beyond the ‘point it, brake and turn it’ affairs I’ve played in the past where the difference between the bikes was the colour of the fairing.







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