As sure as the sun will rise for a new day, each year brings new racing games. Now, I don't play them regularly, but I have had my share of fun and experience playing a wide variety of games in the genre. From Hot Pursuit, Drive Club and Burnout to Gran Turismo, I like arcade racers but I can appreciate authentic driving games that execute realism. MotoGP18 falls into the latter category and is pitted against some heavy hitters this year. For purposes of the review, I was playing the game on a PS4 Pro.
For starters, the game is visually impressive. It has picturesque moments that brings you into the track and makes it look like you're watching a broadcast. MotoGP18 is the first game in the series that uses Unreal Engine 4, and it's a big step up. The bikers' character models and contestants before the start of the race look very authentic. A 3D scanning technology used for each racer’s face really brings them into the game and helps with the overall presentation. Likewise, going into close-ups of the track, such as the starting line with all the fans cheering and rising their signs, looks so surreal. The addition of live action footage of the cities before each race is also a great touch.
You can really tell how much effort was put into the tracks. The developers used drone scanning in order to make them as accurate as possible. As photographic as the tracks are, some fall short for their texturing and shading. After loading screens or changing a view from the track to the results, there's some noticeable texture pop-in. While these moments lats only for a few seconds, they are highlighted by the fact that everything else looks so great and runs so smoothly. On the plus side, the pop-in doesn't effect the gameplay but it's still noticeable. After waiting for 20 to 30 seconds to load the track, I feel like the graphics hiccups could have been worked over so you don’t get these issues that hinder the game from being visually perfect.
MotoGP18 shines in the gameplay and in a feel of racing. Again, I don't play racing sims that often, but the game has a great overall process for newbies to the series and also to the genre in general. There are four difficulty levels in the tutorial that help you go from the basics to advanced knowledge. There's so much to think about while racing; shifting gears, front and back breaks, controlling your motorcycle in an auto or full range mode, deciding on how you have to enter each turn, and so on. Usually, the large swath of information and controls is what hinders me from falling into more realistic racers, but MotoGP18 has all the goods to let a beginner start comfortably while having all the complexity to let pros go at it on the track and display their skills.
I for one applaud the developers Milestone S.r.l in adding a difficulty level meter, various auto controls and on-screen lines that help racing sim rookies. All these mechanics make a detour from the sensation and atmosphere that the game delivers in its gameplay. I started off crashing at every turn, running into other racers and feeling horrible about my skills. After playing a few hours and replaying the same track in order to get its layout, I started placing higher and beating the AI, eventually positioning in the top three. Getting a feel of the game and the tracks let me raise the difficulty and play at my own pace, and that made me enjoy the game even more.
I'm not the biggest online player and there are a lot of modes that really caters for my preference for offline play. I love good time attacks and in a addition to a ghost of my own best times, you can download other players’ ghosts to compete against. The career is arguably the coolest single player mode. It lets you begin from Red Bull Moto GP rookie cup and progress all the way up to the pro-level Moto GP. What really stands out in the championship mode are the customization options, which lets you pick out which tracks to compete on, number of races and laps, level of difficulty and more. Overall, it shows that the developers wanted you to get into the game at your own pace and skill level, and really tailor the game to what you want out of it.
There are only a handful of tracks but they offer a great variety of difficulty in turns, environments and locales. I liked how the same level of customization from offline modes is also brought into the online arena, and allows you to host a championship series or just start a single quick race. In the time of writing, there are no additional tracks, characters or motorcycles as DLC, but I see this positively. The game doesn't segment its community and instead allows us to learn the offered tracks for competitive play. The only thing you can purchase is an experience booster that helps you gain more skill points per race in both offline and online modes.
Given more time, I feel like I could be a genuine ace racer, but I had to dive into the online play at my novice level. The developers captured every bit of magic that's in the offline modes and brought it full force online. As much as texture issues and shading again irritated me, I understand that the development time was spent more on the gameplay and honing the online experience. While it wasn't available at the time of the review, there will be an Esports world championship mode. It really has me excited to keep learning the tracks and developing my skills for online play with others.
MotoGP18 really stands out to me as a game that was tailored for all levels of play. I could easily get into it while still feel the joy and anxiety that competitive racing brings. I honestly can say that I enjoyed the game more each time I played it as I learned corners and turns of the tracks. While there were a few issues that surfaced, none effected the gameplay experience or were prolonged enough to deter me from enjoying the game. MotoGP18 is visually stunning and the addition of a fairly robust picture mode had me showcasing my skills. The customization options regarding your own character and championship really stood out as a great fan service and something that can keep you going back as you progress in your own skill level. While the game could need more variety in tracks and bikes, and a few technical fixes as well, MotoGP18 delivers so much and has a level of polish that makes it a worthy competitor against any racing game on the track.