Without wanting to toot my own horn too much, I consider myself to be fairly accomplished when it comes to racing games. I try to play as many of them as I can and they’re right up there as one of my favourite genres. And so, upon booting up MotoGP 10/11 for the first time, I was confident in my abilities and decided to head straight out to the track without any of the assists on.
It turned out to be a mistake.
It’s been a few years since I’ve spent any time at all with the MotoGP series and apparently I’d forgotten the most fundamental rule of the franchise; motorbikes do not behave in the same way as cars. Needless to say, that first race went very badly indeed. There wasn’t a single example of a well-executed corner, not a single example of hitting the correct braking point and not a single of example of a clean overtake. There were, however, plenty of examples of driving into the sand traps, being overtaken and ending up (pride dented) on my rear end.
I get lapped (possibly twice by the race leader), I crash one more time and I quit. Time to lower my expectations of myself and turn a couple of assists on.
On the easier settings the game becomes a lot more playable for a MotoGP novice like myself but, for all the control you’ve gained over the machine between your legs, something quickly feels amiss. MotoGP 10/11 is a better game with the assists off; allowing you to feel your bike slipping out from under you, making high speeds seem dangerous and punishing you for the slightest deviation from the racing line. Turn the assists on and all of this is lost, everything feeling very arcade-like; almost as though you’re running on rails.
It’s this focus on realism and minute details that has the potential to make MotoGP 10/11 so popular among the followers of the sport but so shunned by everyone else. But, in an age where generic, drab games aim to attract the largest market share possible by be as middle of the road as possible, it’s nice to see a game aimed squarely (exclusively) at fans of the very thing it’s trying to replicate.
The bulk of the game is contained within the ‘career’ mode, a lengthy season-after-season setup that sees your created racer progress through the ranks of 125cc to Moto2 and finally to a full-fledged superstar of MotoGP. Career allows you to modify your team/bike’s appearance, hire marketing and engineering staff and influence the way your bike performs by altering gear ratios, tyre setups, suspension settings etc.
It also incorporates a fairly unique XP system of sorts that it brands as ‘Reputation’. Reputation is earned and lost whenever you take to the track (be it practise, race or qualifying) and affects the calibre of staff you can hire in a bid to progress your team through the ranks as quickly as possible. For example, ‘Rep’ is earned for overtaking, sticking to the racing line and racing cleanly through sectors but, it’s just as easily lost via collisions and being overtaken.
At the end of the race you’re awarded with a grade which is calculated by subtracting any negative Rep from your positive Rep. This final grade then feeds into your rider level which, in turn, affects who you can and can’t hire. The system is a little unwieldy and hardly represents a huge leap forward in the way racing games pull you through the experience but, it’s good enough at providing instant feedback as to how smoothly and professionally you’re racing (make it to the front of the pack by smashing everyone else into the dirt and you’re destined for a low grade).
Elsewhere the usual modes are present and correct. World Championship is your typical single season mode, Challenge mode is essentially a simple exhibition race and the expected multiplayer elements are there for those so inclined.
Online supports up to 20 players and, putting it mildly, races can get out of hand very quickly. The thing is (unlike a car), it’s possible to fall off of a motorbike and, when combined with the usual suspects that appear across Xbox Live, this turns out to be a recipe for disaster. Perhaps due to the game having only just hit store shelves, online multiplayer is typically a chaotic mess of racers smashing into each other, using other bikes as brakes and generally showing no regard whatsoever for the green cross code.
In time, these ‘casual’ players will almost certainly move on to pastures new and leave the serious MotoGP fans to race (somewhat) sensibly amongst themselves. But, if you’re looking for a tough but fair challenge online, your best bet is to find likeminded souls and set up private races because the public rooms more often than not resemble a destruction derby at present.
At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of the sport and a fan of games you’re probably going to pick up a copy of MotoGP 10/11 anyway; you’re only reading this review to pass the time or using it to hide what you’re really looking at in that other browser window. If you’re not both of those things, there’s still a satisfying experience to be found here for those prepared to put the time in and get to grips with the intricacies of the gameplay and the physics engine.
Version tested: Xbox 360