Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: Start your engines with "Moto GP 07"

The thrill of going 180 miles per hour around a track is sooooo intoxicating.

The Climax release, published by THQ, is one of the sweetest visual works of art on the Xbox 360. It starts out offering riders a few options. Regardless of what you do in the game, your seeding starts at 100. As you race, you can climb the ranks, eventually to the Seed 1 ranking. You can also go down a few notches, depending on how badly you mess up during races.

You can start in single player or multiplayer mode. In single player, you have two choices initially - Grand Prix and Training. Word to the wise - skip training. It's really not training at all - you learn to follow the line, but the training aspect is not there - you just learn how to follow lines along a track. No, thanks.

Before I delve deeper into the review, I'll also point out the high learning curve. The average gamer may get a little frustrated with bike racing and patience is urged. Big time.

Back to the review ...

After you finish a GP championship, you can start an Extreme season. Now, you can switch between GP and Extreme careers at the career menu.

The Grand Prix season pits players against riders and their bikes of the 2007 Moto GP season and 18 professional race circuits. The season definitely adds realism to the game, and during gameplay, I found myself racing on a track that was featured in the "Forza 2" demo - sans the debris.

The Extreme mode allows gamers to race on streets across the globe. As you win races, you earn cash to upgrade and customize your bike or add more bikes to your stable.

Of course, you can create a rider and customize the helmet design, rider leathers, logo and even the scent of musk after a few laps around the track. Seriously, the amount of customization is insane.

As you race, you also earn points to enhance your rider attributes. You can increase their skill in cornering, braking, top speed and acceleration to be the ultimate rider on the GP circuit.

Just like most professional racing video games, racing weekend, called Grand Prix Weekend, allows gamers to do timed runs, speed runs and follow the leader, a cool minigame that let players follow a single rider around the track. To advance in the follow challenge, you have to finish within 5 seconds of the leader.

Championship mode, a new game mode in this installment, lets players race as their favorite real-life rider in a full 2007 MotoGP season.

Going online

Now, for me, racing real folks over Live is where it's at. Another new feature for "Moto GP 07" is Pink Slip racing. Yes, it's just what you think it is. You can bring your customized, tricked out rockets from Extreme mode online and gamble them in one-on-one races. If you have skills, it's a very easy way to expand your garage.

There are also online tournaments, and it has a ton of options for making online races, including limited the type of bikes allowed.

You can analyze your race results, in single or multiplayer modes with the telemetry feature. It will show gamers where they have crashed, where you went off track, where you completed a clean section slow or fast. Not really my cup of tea, I just want to race.

Where this game really shines

Aside from the comical CGI cutscenes, featuring this pretty digital women holding an umbrella over my rider, the graphics are absolutely no joke. The scene from above the tracks are photorealistic - you can't ask for something more visually stunning.

Another plus? The sick camera angles. There are more than you can shake a stick at. My favorite angle? The shaky chase camera. I wouldn't recommend it if you have just eaten. Yes, it's just that intense.

The graphics, as good as they are, still aren't as strong as "Forza 2's" graphics (the tracks looks the same, but "Forza 2's" track is just a tad sharper.) but still with virtually no slowdown, the graphics and gameplay work great together.

The sounds aren't shabby either. Though I don't know the difference between motorcycle engines, their high-pitched whines and sound of your avatar rolling at high speed across patches of pavement and gravel definitely rock.

It's really a sweet title, but one you will have to either love racing, especially on bikes, or racing online. It's very intense and in-depth, and requires some attention to get the value of it.

Fifth gear, full throttle, baby!

Why should I care: "Moto GP 07" is a motorcycle lover's dream - only on the Xbox 360 and offers some sweet online (and offline) racing with some pretty environs.

The good: Intense realism - stunning graphics, killer sounds, silky smooth gameplay - real-world riders and tracks - good multiplayer modes and ability to race for pinks online.

The bad: The amount of realism may turn some gamers off - very intense learning curve.

The ugly: Gamer drives digital race bike up to 200 miles per hour. Gamer loses control and hits wall at 185 miles per hour. Gamer has intense headache.

Overall: 8.75 (out of 10) -
The game is really an awesome title with depths of realism that only a bike race lover would appreciate. The average gamer would love this game, but replay value (and the very high learning curve) could scare some off. Regardless, it's a sweet racing title that could satisfy your need for speed.

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