Players can pick their favorite bikes from the 125 and 250cc class up to MotoGP mounts as well as racers including all the usual suspects like Nicky Hayden, Casey Stoner and, of course, Valentino Rossi. While it may be fun for some to run hot laps in the shoes of the great one, I preferred the challenge of trying to chase him down or enjoy the feat of letting him eat my dust.
Technically speaking, menu design seems to be influenced by Codemasters brilliant Grid and Dirt racing games, which kept you interested in the game even though you were just going through the setup process. The menu is very simple looking with no cheesy pictures of moto racers in the background of each screen, thankfully. Thumping music plays constantly to try and keep the action up even when you aren’t racing. Despite this attempt, it lacked the style and excitement of the games that it is trying to duplicate. There are no real cues as to what event you are about to compete in. I found myself doing qualifying laps when I was just trying to race.
While some true blue enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy the game for its realism, fair-weather MotoGP fans will likely bore quickly from the overly challenging riding characteristics of the game. Tutorials are offered but in the end they still wouldn’t teach laymen how to handle their bikes in the end. Even after pausing the game to view the ‘tips,’ I still felt like a kid who was thrown into the deep end without his water wings. Not being a hardcore ‘gamer’ myself, I think I would have actually faired much better on a real MotoGP bike. I would have certainly been less competitive but I imagine I would have also fallen off a hell of a lot less too. The game attempts to balance between an arcade game and a true motorcycle racing simulator, somewhat like a version of Forza or Gran Turismo. Much care is needed in braking and driving strategy, so don’t expect to play it like Super Mario Kart.
Tracks load relatively quickly, likely due to the fact that they are somewhat lack luster. While the sky looked incredibly realistic, backgrounds were bland and lacked any kind of life. Textures were boring and noticeably repeated - especially the grass. Each rider looks the same and had the same animations which make the game feel contrived and stiff. The bikes on the other hand, look and sound great. Riding with the throttle wide open offers a fun and realistic experience but visual effects like motion blur would enhance this experience and make it more interesting.
Bike customization was on the weak side. You weren’t able to get into specifics and it would be cool to see added parts and accessories to deck out your bike with. This would be a good opportunity for aftermarket sponsors. Categories included tires, suspension, turning speed and gear.
The game offers career mode, which isn’t really a career mode at all. You earn points towards powering up your bike but there’s no money or trophies to be won - just the possibility of unlocking new tracks. The game would be more interesting if players could earn money to spend on more expensive parts for their bike with a wide range in price and quality. It would provide motivation to win races and money so you could become more competitive.
Available for Xbox, PlayStation2 and 3, Nintendo DS, Wii and PC, MotoGP 08 also allows for online play. A custom match setup lets you look for matches that have specific tracks or weather conditions or bike classes. The new Indy circuit makes an appearance and players have the opportunity to race in rain or night time conditions
The entire game, while fun, lacked enthusiasm and didn’t really suck me in or encourage me to keep playing. Perhaps this is because the game isn’t as deep as it should be. Racing simulators should be able to get your hands dirty with every detail of upgrading your bike. There is also little middle ground between the arcade function and the ‘this is too difficult to be fun’ category. There is, however, not a lot of choice in motorcycle racing games out there, so if you are heavy into MotoGP or motorcycle racing as whole, then this game could be for you.