MotoGP

Platform reviewed: PSP
MotoGP for PS2 has often been considered one of the best motorcycle racing (not motocross) sims available. So it makes sense that at some point Namco/Bandai would feel the need to port the game over the PSP. While handhelds might not be the best platforms for sim racing games, Namco/Bandai’s put forth a noble effort, that while not without its faults, is worth looking into for anyone interested in the MotoGP racing genre.
MotoGP has all the makings of a great racing title – a good mix of real world tracks, a roster containing all of 2005′s top riders, a stable of real-world bikes and simply gorgeous graphics. Through the miracle of minor errors, however, the game fails to reach the level of greatness that it could have reached, and instead becomes a good game that makes you wish it were more finely tuned.

Case in point – bike handling in sim mode. Sim mode, as the name implies, tries to give you the most realistic experience possible, and for the most part, it does the job. However, the bikes feel just a bit too loose, and oftentimes feel like you’re racing on ice. As you can imagine, this causes just a few crashes too many for beginner and expert racers alike. Arcade mode is just the opposite – allowing too much freedom in the controls, letting players bounce off each other and walls with little or no penalty.
Another failing of the game is the lack of “real” multiplayer. It’s bad enough that there’s no Internet play available in a game that just screams for it, but the ad-hoc play requires everyone have a copy of the game to join a match. Sim racers are the type of game that beg for game-sharing. Why? Mostly because it’s a niche genre, and to sell someone on the game and the genre, you have to give them a taste of it. By indirectly dis-allowing one-UMD multiplayer, they are are missing tons of possible sales, and annoying those of us with friends who might be interested in the game, but aren’t going to run out and spend roughly $40 on a genre they aren’t even sure they are interested in. Remember MotoGP for Xbox (THQ made it, and it’s a different, though frankly better, game), and a demo version came free with Xbox Live? That sold a lot of people not only on Live, but also on the game genre itself, people who might have never been interested in the genre had they not been given a little taste of it. Oh well, we’re not in charge of marketing, so let’s just say “you blew it, and there’s no way I’ll ever have even one friend with a copy of MotoGP for PSP, so no multiplayer for me.”

Customization of the bike and rider is available, but it feels fairly shallow and almost something thrown in “because we had to.” When you’re used to the deep customization in other car and bike racing titles from the console world, being able to choose a helmet’s color, and not design even a decal, is far from exciting.
Finally, there’s the AI, which is, to be honest, cheap. No, it doesn’t play dirty and bump you off the track or anything like that, but it’s just too perfect. Every AI racer has a predetermined line that he’s not going to vary from. Go ahead and give him a nudge, he’ll find his way right back into his racing line and go merrily on his way. The racers may be built upon the stats of their real-world counterparts, but they lack any of the flair of real human beings.

MotoGP is, as a first effort, an admirable attempt to bring MotoGP motorcycle racing to the PSP. If you’re in dire need of some racing action on your PSP, then give it a look, but it’s certainly not a title that will appeal to newcomers to the sport, and even the hardcore fans will likely tire of the infallible AI, lack of online multiplayer and the sloppy bike controls.

Overall: 6.5
Slippery controls, lackluster multiplayer and just “ok” content make this a game that only the most dedicated will be interested in.

- Craig Falstaff