Lewis Duncan  |    |   0  |  13 June 2018

MotoGP 18: review – a welcome change

Italian developer Milestone has been at the helm of MotoGP's official yearly video game offerings for six years now, after reclaiming the rights back in 2013. In the five games it has released so far, Milestone has given us a solid, if unspectacular, experience. MotoGP 18, the company's newest installment, marks a genuinely new chapter in Milestone's flagship series, as the switch to the Unreal game engine has allowed it to tap more into the potential of the current generation of consoles.

So is this the giant leap forward Milestone promised in the build-up to the game's release?

The Unreal engine has given the game's graphics a strikingly noticeable improvements over last year's game, which would have looked poor towards the end of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360s lifespan.

Rider and bike models are stunningly detailed, while textures on tyres are smooth and lifelike. Background scenery of race tracks still looks rough, and the actual rider face models are horrifying.

Milestone claim each rider had their faces scanned into the game, standard practice now for most sports titles. To be fair to Milestone, not one single developed has managed to make lifelike replicas of any sporting stars' face.

All 19 circuits on the 2018 calendar have also been laser scanned, and each circuit has been impressively recreated. In previous games, several circuits – chiefly Silverstone, in Britain – felt too narrow and wrongly cambered. This has been totally rectified, making for a much more enjoyable playing experience.

That enjoyment is enhanced with a new riding physics, which is equal parts satisfying as it is frustrating. The nuances of each class of bike – Red Bull Rookies Cup/Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP – is much more pronounced and much more critical to how you extract the best laptime from your chosen machine.

You will discover this straight away as you make your way through your first season in RBR Cup, and then Moto3. Nailing apexes and picking up the throttle precisely at the correct moment are crucial in you not wobbling around at the back of the pack. This isn't helped by the fact in Moto3, if with a mid-pack team – despite the KTMs and Hondas being relatively close in performance in real life – cracking the top 10 with the AI level set to realistic will be a victory in itself.

You can update your machine by collecting resource points, and in-session set-up changes can be made. However, unlike in previous games, prioritising where you are weakest will be key to extracting the best from your bike at each track. Trying to fix multiple issues will only lead to more problems being created. While this is true to life, it is no less infuriating.

Unfortunately, there is no chance to out-fox your AI rivals with a differing tyre strategy. Although advertised by Milestone, track temperatures and circuit types have absolutely no bearing on what the AI will do with tyre choice. Every time they will pick the soft front and rear options. This forces you to go the same way, as running the medium or hard compounds will kill your charge straight away.

The AI also seem to have wear-free tyres, so even managing your rubber better is a futile exercise. The fact the AI doesn't crash during a race means, if you haven't gotten into the lead group at the start, your results won't be anything special. Given how pivotal tyres have been in making MotoGP massively unpredictable, this is massively disappointing.

At the very least, the AI are a challenge. They aren't exactly smart. They will meander on the racing line when leaving pitlane, and will happily nerf you out of a corner on a qualifying lap – all to no consequence from the in-game penalty system. There also seems to be a standard breakaway group of two or three riders at the front, so Moto3 races are seldom the multi-bike scraps you see on TV. Again, this is hugely disappointing.

A lack of dynamic weather also means there are no flag-to-flag scenarios, nor is the revised damage system Milestone claimed present; as in previous games, you can crash willfully and your bike will be completely free of scrapes and knocks.

Aerodynamic fairings have been all the rage in MotoGP, and they are present in the game. But only as a cosmetic item. Given the update system in the game, the ability to develop a package and run it as and when you need it, or to back-to-back it in a practice session, would have added a whole new dimension to the gameplay.

On the presentation side, the addition of official Dorna graphics adds a nice element to the game, though the voiceover from commentator Steve Day is repetitive and frankly unnecessary. The sound design is solid, but still 'gamey'. 

As for content, last year's game was crammed with additions. On top of the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 classes, classic 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MotoGP machinery was also there for you to sink your teeth into. All of that classic content is absent from this year's game, and given there's an add-on tab on the main menu, this worryingly suggests Milestone could offer this as a paid content package later down the line. This would be a massive slap in the face to loyal fans if this proves the case.

MotoGP 18 is a very polarising game. The updated track models and excellent riding physics make the core gameplay aspect the strongest in the series. But the complete lack of elements promised prior to the game's launch, as well the absence of critical others that should be bog-standard for a game of this nature – like dynamic weather and intelligent AI – makes MotoGP 18 a hard purchase to justify.

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