Moto GP 3
Third time's the charm? Our review reveals if the latest in Namco's series is worth a look.
By Kikizo Staff
Though it straddles an admittedly fine line with considerable aplomb, MotoGP finds itself in the somewhat awkward position of being neither a full-on arcade racer, nor a deep, simulation-oriented title. What it is however, is an entertaining racer, and one that should appeal to casual fans of the sport, and considering the dearth of quality motorcycle titles, to the more rabid sect as well. In terms of presentation, MotoGP 3 will most certainly appeal to the latter group, due in no small measure to the full MotoGP license it sports. As a result, players can race on any one of 15 real-life circuits from Phillip Island to Suzuka; rub elbows with the likes of Valentino Rossi, Alex Barros, and Nobuatsu Aoki; and even join the team of their choosing.
Upon starting the title, players are requested to create a named profile, to which all future exploits will be recorded. Offering a modicum of customization options, players are given the opportunity to imbue their avatar (male or female) with a sense of individuality by entering your nationality and choosing from a selection of helmet designs and color. The Season mode, in which the bulk of the gameplay is to be found, presents would-be champions with exactly that, a season of MotoGP events against the best the sport has to offer. Here, you can engage in free practice or qualifying before each event, or tune your bike's settings via an easy-to-use set of sliders. Points are accrued based upon your finishing position in each race, and the racer with the most points at the end of the season is declared the champion. As is the case with much of the title, the Season mode presents players with a variety of options to choose from, allowing players to customize the weather (Dry/Wet/Random); the number of laps (2/5/Full); Transmission (AT/MT); Simulation (ON/OFF); and which team, each of which is assigned a letter grade denoting performance, to race for.
When selected, the simulation option offers a more realistic take on the sport, whereby players will fall when making significant contact with other riders, when leaning too far over, accelerating before properly balanced out of a corner, driving into a gravel trap and just generally doing things that fail to adhere to the physics demanded of us corporeal beings. When turned off however, players are free to bump their way through the pack, skip corners and use other riders to slow yourself down. Colliding with the barrier at great speed will still throw you off your cycle momentarily, however. As alluded to previously, the simulation aspects do make the title more realistic, but lack the depth that true simulation fans expect, while the arcade gameplay gives players more leeway, but not the sort dictated by the likes of Burnout or other arcade-centric racers.
That said, the title does offer solid, enjoyable racing action and a plethora of modes in which to engage in just that. Away from the standard Season, Arcade and Time Trial variants, MotoGP 3 offers Challenge, Legends and a multiplayer mode for up to four people. The first, Challenge, presents players with no fewer than 100 separate challenges that range in scope and difficulty from beating a specific rider, to beating lap and circuit records to placing first in a single event to winning an entire season. Each challenge consists of three increasingly harder tiers, and by beating each you'll earn bronze, silver and gold medals. These events are downright devious and will test the mettle of even the most hardened MotoGP veteran, and if nothing else, they certainly increase the title's longevity exponentially. The Legends mode is analogous to the Arcade mode in that it's a single race with the options of the player's choosing. However, here you compete not against a full grid, but against four other riders, all of whom are past greats of the sport.
The Multiplayer mode offers Grand Prix and Versus competition; the former allows players to compete in a full-race field, while the latter presents more intimate competition in that it's just you against up to three friends in a dash for the finish. While obvious concessions have been made, the performance in the multiplayer modes is commendable and intrudes little on the overall experience.
Having no doubt gleaned considerable knowledge of the system over the last few years, Namco's mastery of the PlayStation2 hardware is wholly evident in every aspect of the title's visual presentation. The courses themselves are faithfully recreated, if lacking somewhat in character; a greater sense of crowd participation or background interactivity may have helped in this regard, the bikes too, bear remarkable similarities to their real-world counterparts. Animation is mostly subdued, but it's these little details, such as the way in which riders lean and shift their weight into corners or shoot a furtive glance behind as you draw near, that truly engross the player.
A cacophony of roaring engines and techno music make up the bulk of the aural package. The engine sounds fit their role adequately, whining and roaring into life where applicable, though true bike enthusiasts will no doubt find something to nitpick as far as this is concerned. The soundtrack is instantly forgettable, and though the staid techno beats are unobtrusive, they seem a rather low-rent choice, done merely because convention demands it, rather than because the design team felt it was the best option.