Most gamers don’t consider themselves fans of bike racing games, but Capcom and Monumental’s MotoGP 09/10 isn’t just a typical licensed sports titles, where only the most ardent fans find them understandable or fun. With the best career mode in any racing game in a long time and forgiving handling, this is the kind of game that most people wish they could start their racing careers with – whether on two or four wheels. However, being accessible is only one part of any game’s equation, because once you get comfortable in MotoGP you may find yourself wanting more.
Winning races and moving your way up the season leaderboard is enough to spur any racer on, but MotoGP does everyone a favor with its career mode, which centers on earning reputation point for doing well in races. You get them for doing things like overtaking another rider, qualifying well, and even performing mid-race objectives such as intimidating a designated rider by sticking close to him to make him nervous. The reputation system is the linchpin of the career system, and it keeps you motivated and engaged no matter how deep you are in the pack.
Reputation allows you to hire better engineers and press agents. Engineers conduct research while press agents rope in sponsorships. Advancing your career and the performance of your bike is a matter of constantly earning enough cash through sponsors by meeting their requirements, and then turning around and spending that cash on increasingly more skilled staff so you can keep the whole ball rolling week upon week. The better the engineer, the quicker your bike upgrades can be applied. I liked to stagger my three engineers’ workload so that I could have one person nail low-level stuff while my two higher-paid, upper-level ones concentrated on the more work-intensive upgrades that might take a few weeks.
The game is constantly giving you new employees and sponsors you can hire, and while this is what’s cool about the whole system, I didn’t feel like the does enough to expand the experience as your career progresses. The press/sponsorship side of the career structure is disappointing not only because the sponsorships you get too similar to each other (even when I hyad a good press agent working for me), but because they aren’t that demanding. They are also fairly generic, usually just requiring me to finish the race in a certain place or higher.
Similarly, I didn’t feel like the racing in MotoGP followed through to the end. The game is great at letting those who aren’t bike riding experts race competently while they get used to how a bike feels and handles differently than a car – how having two wheels changes the way you enter and exit corners, and how your braking factors in as well. The bikes feel stable, although you can lay them down if you’re not careful in the corners.
Unfortunately, they are a little bit too stable. I took the most powerful bikes in the game and ran them screaming into the corners. Even when I squeezed the front brake with a death grip and had no assists on, there was no consequence. Not only that, but the different classes of bikes all felt basically the same. I like how the game doesn’t throw you into a hardcore motorcycle racing deep end, but because the racing doesn’t evolve by letting you get more sim-like (even though the game pretends it does), players get cut short just when they should be applying their knowledge.
The great ideas present in MotoGP are a good foundation. However, the failure to develop them further is what keeps this game from greatness. If I were a developer I’d take note of what MotoGP has accomplished in its career mode and steal it, because Monumental is definitely onto something here.