The PC racing scene has been recently inundated with officially licensed motorsport games. Whether you’re a Formula One fanatic, Nascar nut, WRC fan or MotoGP petrolhead, there is something to suit your passion. So far I firmly believe that previous MotoGP iterations have failed to represent the sport and capture what makes it special. Italian developer, Milestone, showed signs of changing this with its promising Superbike World Championship series. MotoGP 13 is a passionate and unapologetic sim-like representation which caters to the hardcore player. Don’t go into this title expecting to powerslide around corners with ease. Currently, MotoGP 13 has AI issues which is a crying shame because this is by far the best motorcycle game I’ve played.
MotoGP 13’s handling model is akin to a complex simulator. To be successful, you must remain on the optimum racing line and hit your braking points perfectly. If you become too ambitious and brake late, your rider will end up on a wider line with little to no traction. Braking early carries you towards the inside line causing poor exit speed. The steering is extremely stiff and tight as you would expect which punishes those who are out of position and attempt a sudden change of direction. Throttle management is key especially on the harder difficulties. When you apply the accelerator after slowing down for a corner, it is necessary to gradually and smoothly increase your speed. If you fail to do this gently, your bike will slide wide and eventually spin out. To have any chance against your opposition, consistent and persistent driving is the best course of action. The entire model is based on momentum, hitting the apex of each corner and slowly building up speed over a particular sector.
I would strongly advise players to only use a 360 or other compatible controller. Its analogue triggers were set up perfectly to gauge my acceleration and set impressive delta times. Playing the game with a digital control scheme is exceedingly difficult. When I attempted to use the keyboard, my lap times fell dramatically and steering became difficult. You spend a lot of time auto correcting the bike, which becomes unresponsive and slow using the arrow keys. The controller also offers tactile feedback with vibration acting as an indicator when you are going to fall off. If all this sounds too daunting, Milestone have implemented 3 handling models with varying levels of complexity. You can choose from Standard, Semi-Pro and Pro presets. Each setting has adjustable variables so you can cater the game to your skill. These options include Auto Brakes, Joint Brakes, Steering Help, Racing Line and Tuck-In.
In addition to steering and throttle control, you have to balance your rider appropriately for the upcoming corners. This at first is fairly difficult, especially if you have no previous experience with motorcycle games. On the standard setting, this is automatically done for you, and allows the player to concentrate on tackling corners. The penalty for poor throttle control is lenient as you tend to slide a bit without crashing. When you tackle the Pro model be prepared to invest some time. The most significant change is balance under heavy load. Approaching a tight bend after large deceleration will result in an instant accident unless you perfectly control your entry, throttle, bike position and braking. The majority of my time was spent using this model, and it was incredibly rewarding.
MotoGP includes dynamic circuit development which means your lap times will improve over a race distance. The track wears in and increases grip levels from tire rubber which is attracted to a racing line. As each lap flies by, the track surface will change allowing for greater exit speeds and enhanced traction. The races become more satisfying knowing you must take advantage of your grip levels in track position. Each overtake you engage in is usually off line on the dirty side. During wet weather conditions the racing line will slowly dry out as each rider passes over it. This ensures that these competitions are enthralling because overtaking on a wet track off the racing line can be perilous.
My biggest complaint in MotoGP 13 is the inconsistent and overly aggressive AI. Your fellow riders lack spatial awareness and tend to bump into you. Having two riders colliding at racing speed can be fatal, so this cavalier attitude to racing incidents doesn’t reflect the sport at all. This situation is made worse, by bizarre AI closing speeds. On certain corners, you may brake perfectly only for another rider to collide into your bike. This is extremely frustrating as the AI tends to brake later whilst having a better corner exit angle and speed. Your opposition on the hardest setting appears exponentially faster in a straight line. I presume this is an artificial method designed to match proficient players’ pace. To counteract, I found myself aggressively cutting across these riders so they had to slow down and stay behind my bike. There is also a significant disparity between Qualifying and Race Day performance. When playing on the Realistic preset, my average qualifying performance was 12th. In contrast to this, I could get from 12th to 5th within 3 corners of the race.
A lot of racing games are plagued by the tentative start syndrome where it is possible to obliterate your opponents within 1 lap. To emphasise my point, I started from 29th on one occasion and somehow got to 7th by lap 2. Qualifying almost becomes pointless if you can so easily move up the field. During qualification, I noticed that certain track layouts had questionable sector times. For example, early into a wet session at Sepang, my first sector was -0.988 faster than pole but after sector 2 I suddenly become +0.458 behind the leader. Losing almost 2 seconds in one sector baffled me and wasn’t representative of my true speed. The irony here is, I was actually faster in sector 2 than sector 1 during the race. Simply going on your out lap can be problematic.
The CPU controls this portion of the game, and auto-drives you until the last few bends. I was amazed to see that the AI relinquished control to me on a 200 mph straight at low speed which caused another rider to plow into my bike. A death-defying incident of this nature should be a rarity, but amazingly happened twice in a row. When you finally begin your lap, the AI randomly slows down on the racing line. These riders who are attempting to let you past, don’t move to the side and instigate horrendous accidents which ruin your run. If these AI problems were rectified, MotoGP 13 could be a scintillating racing game.
The career is based on a formula you would typically expect. You start by creating your own rider, and customizing his appearance. Then you take job offers as a wildcard in the lower Moto3 discipline. This provides a superb introduction to the game, as these 250cc bikes are much easier to handle than their more powerful counterparts. Each race you are set a target position and attempt to beat one rival and impress their team. After a few races, you begin to get substantial offers from the better manufacturers. Personally, I feel this happens too quickly. Motorsport is incredibly competitive, and a reputation can take years to build.
After your rider wins the Moto3 division, you progress to Moto2 and finally reach MotoGP. What I admire about this mode, is the option to change your opponent’s difficulty before each race. It is sensible to predict that over the course of a season some players will improve their skills. Every event you partake in gains XP which can be used to unlock helmets, riders and videos. The career does have a downfall which plagues other racing titles. Often you will beat your teammate and rival by finishing in a higher position such as 2nd. A team may rate your performance as disappointing because you failed to claim first place. These demands are usually unreasonable and grate on you pretty quickly.
In addition to the career option, there are a wealth of other modes to keep you entertained. You can compete in a full championship as your favourite rider which is always enjoyable. The Time Trial option features community leaderboards so you can compare your lap times with other players out there. I found this pretty handy when trying to perfect a lap and discovering where time was lost. The multiplayer at the moment is almost non-existent. At best I encountered 2 races which failed to materialize. To access this component, you are forced to create a Raknet account and verify your email address.. According to the Steam Forums, a number of users have failed to receive their confirmation email which prevents them from playing the Multiplayer. Hopefully when Milestone streamline this service, the population should increase. It’s important to reiterate that at this time, the multiplayer barely functions.
The presentation in MotoGP 13 is the best i’ve seen in any racing game. The menus are slick and easy to read, with a video backdrop in slow motion featuring real life footage. Before each event you are shown a cultural video outlining landmarks and infamous settings of that particular nation. After this, a virtual track layout is offered to you illustrating key overtaking opportunities which is beautifully accompanied by an awe-inspiring piece of music. Every race features accurate TV style introductions with grid line ups and a commentary overview of the circuit.
Graphically, MotoGP 13 is a mixed bag. The attention to detail on each rider and their bike is mind blowing. This includes sponsor logos, internal mechanisms and even the name of your custom rider. The tracks seem a bit lifeless and lack a certain level of fidelity. I would prefer to see more detail put into the grandstands and surrounding area. There are some issues with performance as I experienced frame drops and stuttering at regular intervals. This was peculiar because the game would run perfectly for a little while before suddenly getting bogged down and becoming jerky. I only ran into these shortcomings on corners and not along the back straight. Better optimization and a solid 60fps target would make the game feel more endearing. Milestone should be commended for the load times though, which are excellent.
The sound assets aren’t up to scratch either as they appear timid and uninspiring. You don’t get that feeling when riding a 1000cc bike of being on the absolute limit and seconds from disaster. MotoGP riders are almost superhuman attempting to control a machine built for speed. The lower formulas don’t suffer as much and have decent engine tones. I’m not saying the engine noises are awful, but they could be vastly improved.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
MotoGP 13 is an impeccable representation of the sport which has some glaring issues which ultimately spoils its potential. The physics are superb and accurate enough to cater towards a purist audience. This is marred by erratic AI which has inconsistent sector times, and an overly aggressive driving style. Even though the sound design and graphical detail is lacking, its presentation is beyond reproach. Other problems exist including a sparse multiplayer and micro stutter. I would wait until the AI has been improved or a significant discount has been applied.