There’s a lot to like about this year’s MotoGP game, of course titled MotoGP 21. Developer Milestone has now been iterating upon the series for well over a decade by this point – a rare opportunity for any studio – so it’s pleasing to see that general fan feedback has been taken on board for what arguably feels like one of the most accessible entries in the racing simulator’s history.
Ride your way
Namely, after creating a custom rider (name, gender, age, nationality, etcetera.), you are thrown into a tutorial that offers the basics: bike control, ideal trajectory, curve indicators and penalty systems – including the new Long Lap Penalty, a lane designed to punish infractions that must be completed to return to the track. None are a requirement and can be exited immediately to jump into a major race but it’s well worth completing these short segments, regardless of prior experience. The advanced sessions, in particular, were well worth the extra time, allowing for a system that felt fine-tuned to my riding capabilities.
Getting out on the track is a great feeling. Acceleration feels exhilarating, nailing a sharp corner feels smooth and crossing the line in first feels truly earned. Additionally, the returning rewind feature that lets the action be rewound about 10 seconds back is a lifesaver. Not only because it can help save a daft mistake on the final few turns, but because of the aggressive nature of the AI. Even at quite a low difficulty, the AI will knock into you, whether or not you are actually riding well. It feels a little off, so thankfully the rewind function balances this out nicely. Of course, this and all other riding aids can be turned off for the purists out there.
Hear them roar
One thing that stood out immediately, as someone who rides motorbikes for a hobby and has attended various MotoGP events over the years, was the sound design. It’s very impressive. 250cc bikes scream accordingly, 600cc motors howl and 1000cc machines roar as each should. The same authenticity can be said for the tracks (outside of the whitewashed surroundings that do look copy and pasted from a generation ago), each recreated beautifully and to scale of their real-world counterparts.
All 21 official circuits are available from the get-go, with three historical tracks in Donington Park, Laguna Seca and Brno playable too. There are also more than 40 classic riders from the history of MotoGP, from Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi to Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi. Not to mention, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi as well as Valentino Rossi and Valentino Rossi… you get the point. It’s great to see “The Doctor” represented so well throughout his illustrious career, yet it’s hard not to laugh at the number of slots taken up by the man himself – especially when the female presence is still lacking.
The complete MotoGP experience
From here, MotoGP 21 gives you three options: Quick Modes, Multiplayer and Career. The latter is arguably where you’ll spend the majority of the time, taking up the mantle of either a rookie in Moto3 (250cc), an up-and-comer in Moto2 (600cc), or a wannabe winner vying for the championship in MotoGP (1000cc). It’s clear that resources were primarily shifted towards MotoGP due to overwhelming popularity, with only the top riders receiving full facial animations and those further down the starting grid having to settle for a helmet on at all times.
Team management continues to play a part, all beginning with the selection of a manager. This then affects salary negotiations and the ability to find new teams via contract searches. Naturally, you have to join a team first, so choosing between a factory bike or a new establishment is an exciting premise, culminating with a glitzy light show to premiere the rider and bike. It’s a nice touch, something that the game begs for more of. The remaining R&D tasks (known as development tests) are intertwined with racing and do little for the imagination, allowing the focus to be put on the championship.
Race the world
Quick Modes comprise of Grand Prix, Time Trials and Championship. A basic free play experience that suffices but never entices. We then have online, where you can race riders globally either through already created groups or the option to create new ones. The general sense of competitiveness is there, just something to put at stake would be better. A ranked league for one would do wonders. Still, jumping into a race was quick and painless, proving to be solid throughout. It’s hard to beat that first corner chaos too, where half the racers collide with another. Beautiful carnage.
MotoGP 21 hones in on what it does well while bringing in handy tutorials, useful for amateur and pros alike. There’s still a lot to be desired off the track, however, when those lights go green and you make it all the way to that sweet checkered flag, there’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment like no other.
Get your Steam copy of MotoGP 21 right here.