I can understand the excitement, the exhilaration and ecstasy of this extreme sport. The concrete disappearing beneath your two wheels at two hundred miles an hour, hard braking into winding corners, a mild drift into the the next straight before zipping past your opponents through a daring undercut. Games are meant to recreate the dreams of those who will never achieve them in real life, and the dream of racing in the insanity of the MotoGP is alive in many. The trouble is that Milestone’s MotoGP 13 fails to recreate that experience, leaving us with a shabby stuttering simulation.
Perhaps it is simply that the market for a motorcycle racing game is niche. With little expected income from the game, evidently the expenditure is diminished and thus the result looks cheap, rough and most unforgivably jerky. A game featuring breakneck speeds, hurtling through the pack and swinging around vicious corners needs a smooth ride on the screen, yet as MotoGP 13 (particularly while in the midst of other riders) drops to ten frames a second, the whole experience suddenly feels grating, false, and at the worst of times unplayable.
It is a shame because beneath this juddery engine lies a wealth of content that makes MotoGP 13 an intriguing prospect for any motorbike enthusiast. Obviously the casual player can quickly drop into any race of their choosing, with little to no unlocking to do, picking their rider, bike, course and a variety of race options. The race simulation genre has become a hive of customisation and tweaking in recent years and while MotoGP 13 does not even come close to the tinkering mayhem of the Forza series, there is enough here to keep the fans entertained. Players can also enter a single Grand Prix race and speed around the track in qualifying before zipping through the main race to become champion.
However the main event in MotoGP 13 is the career mode where it is clear Milestone have invested most of their time. Players create their avatar from a small bag of headshots and coloured leathers, choose their riding style, and are then marched into their motorhome where they attempt to rise through the Moto leagues to the top. There is something unsettlingly familiar with the motorhome setup which seems shamelessly ripped from Codemasters’ Dirt series, but the low-res textures and lack of unnecessary flamboyance do at least set it apart. Here you can check your depressingly repetitive e-mail from your manager and team, your eerily repetitive social media feeds and oddly repetitive journalism in the digitised glossy motorbike magazines. Most of the time though you will skip to the calendar and the next race.
The setup of the career mode is slightly more interesting. At first you will be offered a wild card from a few of the lowly manufacturers to see how you will fare in a single race. After a few successes and exceeding the expectation of your team and manager, eventually you will be offered a longer placement and the opportunity to ride in the higher leagues, from Moto3 through to the fastest GP league. It is a hard journey and one that feels particularly broken and fleeting at the beginning as you hop from team to team, with little to no allegiance for whom you are riding for. Still, eventually the experience comes good as you rise in fame and prosperity and ride shoulder to shoulder with the greats of MotoGP from the legendary Valentino Rossi to new favourites such as Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez. The well-used official licensing of this game will certainly garner praise from the more involved fans of the sport.
All of these modes are really just a way of breaking up the events on the track and despite the lacklustre engine and framerate the races are a mix of heady accomplishment and harrowing disappointments. With the lower cc engines of the Moto3 class, players can attempt crazy manoeuvres, cutting up corners and players in an attempt to take the lead. However as you rise through the ranks, increasing difficulty and removing some of the racing aids (from speed and line guides to bike balancing) things rapidly become more intense. Hapless pulls of the trigger to accelerate through corners, wheel collisions with fellow riders or catching the edge of the track can easily result in your rider plunging from the seat and smashing into the asphalt. The result is a reach for the shoulder button to use the (now ubiquitous in racing simulations) magical rewind button.
With this variety of customisable changes the game successfully caters for insane riders, such as myself, who attempt corners at ridiculous speeds hoping to use fellow racers as cushions but also those who live for the precise trimming of milliseconds of time to create the perfect run. It is simply a shame the overall experience feels so cheap, and as such there are much better racing simulations out there, just none specifically for two wheelers. Perhaps nothing illustrates this point better than the split screen mode, which could tempt many to purchase for some exciting settee action, however the resulting game is so abhorrently slow that it verges on unplayable. Similar issues can be found with the online multiplayer that can be played through a grand prix, or even a whole championship, yet the matchmaking consistently fails to find players and disconnects are far too common.
It could be said that MotoGP 13 feels like a cheap downloadable game wrapped in the glittery shell of licensing to sell as AAA, which is all too often the case in gaming, and in some ways this is accurate. However the extreme attention to detail and the strangely paced yet enjoyable career mode up this game above some of the more pedestrian licensed games in the world. It is a game clearly made for motorcycle enthusiasts and for these people it just about does the job.