MotoGP 10/11 review (Xbox 360) ?

MotoGP 10/11 (let's just call it MotoGP here) is honestly a fascinating title. The juggernaut of Gran Turismo 5 is still skidding into our homes and it’s sandwiched between a hardcore simulation racer and an arcade racer. Motorstorm Apocalypse drops in a few weeks time and it seems the perfect opportunity for a middle ground game to come along and parachute behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, a lack of character and control make MotoGP an iPhone game app in disguise.

MotoGP functions somewhat as a simulation racer. It’s somehow an RPG inside of a racing game. You can hire engineers who can research new parts and tech with the money you earn from races. Right from the get go, the main Championship Mode opens up and veteran players can jump right in. But being a newbie, I chose to have my hand held by the narration and learn the ropes.

The way MotoGP functions in its gameplay in this arcade racer hybrid is very hard to describe. The track you're racing on is fully realised, the parts are all made to function like their real life counterparts, and everything has that realistic punch and mechanical breath whenever you kick a bike into action. It’s, quite simply, thrilling at the start of a race to be surrounded by so many realistic sounds.

However, there are a few elements that zone you out of the realism and back home on your sofa playing a nice arcade racer. There’s a tuck in button, holding A/X, for when you’re going around corners and don’t want to kill yourself. Whenever you crash, you can rewind time at the expense of style points. There’s a general lack of control in the game, though: even when behind the bike I get wobbly handling and dodgy handbraking. Mastering corners is almost impossible.

To ease you into the arcade racing, there’s a cumbersome UI which looks like it’d fit straight into an iPhone app screen. It’s complete with, quite frankly, PlayStation 2-style visuals that really do juxtapose against the all ‘simulation racer’ thing. It gets even more zoned out when you dive into the bike tuning options. There are a lot of things to play with here but none of them appear to add any lasting effect to your bike aside from those massive part improvements.

For bike junkies, this game is somewhat of a lacking ride. It’s got all the depth of the likes of Gran Turismo, but none of the charm. The shiny graphics, the hum of the engines and the layers of gameplay are overshadowed by its arcade elements. Further still, I can’t recommend it for arcade racer players either on account of how cumbersome the UI is, how the handling often just stops caring, and how it tries to seek a middle ground between sim and arcade, yet to no avail.

There are some brave things here that I have to commend. The dying breed of ‘split-screen multiplayer/co-op’ is present here and it doesn’t fall into the same trap as a certain Motorstorm did at one point. You try treating MotoGP like a buddy racer and the technical garbage will overwhelm you, as will the whole ‘balance your weight’ handling that really takes the edge of what could be a racing experience on par with said arcade racers.

The schizophrenic gameplay, where one minute you’re speeding blissfully, curving wonderfully and the next you’re crashing into a wall because you didn’t control your weight, as well as the lack of a basic atmosphere with the fact that you can’t control the weather beyond rainy and dry, all nail in to the coffin of the middle-genre racer along with all its visual and UI problems. There’s promise here, but it’s not going to be solved by trying to find a bland balance. There are some good elements of both sides, but it becomes downright boring and generally achieves nothing exciting.

In short, MotoGP is neither an arcade or simulation racer. It tries to find a middle ground but doesn’t take into account the fact that you can’t be both, only mix elements of each, but if you can’t understand what detracts from what (‘weight balancing’ at the same time as ‘tuck in’), then you may as well not bother.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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