Hit motorcycle simulation returns
It’s no secret that when it comes to racing simulation games, the 4-wheeled variety tends to hog the spotlight. Franchises like Forza Motorsport, Project Cars, and Gran Turismo come to mind. For me though, ever since the early days of Excitebike and Road Rash I’ve been hooked on motorcycle racing. There’s a certain thrill that comes with seeing your rider drive at 250km/h, and making those incredible, gravity-defying horizontal turns.
So, when given the opportunity to review MotoGP 17, I, of course, jumped at the chance.
If you’ve played a motorcycle game in the last decade, odds are it came from Italian-based developer Milestone S.r.l. Not only have they been producing annual MotoGP games for years, but they’re also the team behind MXGP and Ride. Last year’s excellent MotoGP entry was actually called Valentino Rossi: The Game, and focused on the 9-time world champion’s career. For MotoGP 17, Milestone is once again giving us a traditional motorcycle racing experience, complete with an all-new Managerial mode.
Let’s take a look at what the game has to offer!
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Rider Career mode
Returning in this year’s edition is the familiar Rider Career mode, which has been mostly unchanged. In it you create a custom rider (male or female), including their name, nickname, appearance, and equipment. You can also select from a few different riding postures that subtly alters your handling.
Next, you’ll customize your bike and livery from a few presets, with more becoming available as your career progresses. Once you’re ready to race, your initial destination is the Red Bull Rookies Championship—included out-of-the-box for the first time.
For the 2017 season, the Championship consists of seven rounds, although Career mode only requires you to play the final two. Newcomers will be happy to know the Championship bikes are low-powered, giving you a chance to practice turning and control. Compared to cars, motorcycles handle very different, so it does take time to adjust if that’s what you’re used to.
Following the Red Bull Rookies, you’ll gradually progress through Moto3, Moto2, and finally MotoGP. Each class gives you faster bikes and better opponents to face, eventually placing you against racing legends like Valentino Rossi. As you rise through the ranks you can sign with new teams, which I thought was a nice touch. Overall, Rider Career mode is solid, giving you everything you’d expect without too many surprises.
Managerial Career mode
The biggest addition to MotoGP 17 comes in the form of the all-new Managerial Career mode. It’s essentially the racing game equivalent of Madden NFL and NHL‘s Franchise mode, enabling you to manage your own team. You’ll start by creating your own rider (similar to Rider Career) and choosing your preferred sponsor. From there, you’ll sign new riders—up to two for each class (Moto3, Moto2, MotoGP)—for a maximum of six.
As expected, Managerial Career is significantly deeper and involves much more than strictly riding. And yes, you are required to ride races yourself as per the weekly schedule. On top of participating in races you’ll also need to manage your team’s finances and reputation. This includes deciding which R&D to fund, upgrading your bikes, and investing in your head office support team. You’ll also need to choose between PR initiatives, like doing a photo shoot or participating in live TV interviews. It’s unfortunate, though, that you don’t get to see these activities play out—you simply read text and receive rewards.
Shortcoming aside, managing your team up the ranks is a lot of fun. Reviewing race results and seeing your riders progress is satisfying, as is meeting bonus objectives sponsors give you. Plus there’s a real sense of weight to making significant decisions, such as switching sponsors or letting go under-performing riders. Moments like these really put your managerial skills to the test.
However, as much as I enjoyed this mode, there are a few faults that hold it back. These including bizarre, successive loading screens that take longer than expected. Also, there’s no way to back away entirely from racing and have the A.I. take over. I would have liked the option to fully step into the manager role vs. having to alternate between racing/managing.
In order to get the most out of your MotoGP 17 experience, it’s important to pay attention to the options. Most critically, you can alter the game’s physics to suit your motorbike racing skills. On the one end there’s Standard, offering the greatest stability while limiting the more risky maneuvers. The next step up is Semi-Pro, and then finally the Pro setting. On Pro your bike physics will approximate real-driving, making it a wilder ride but also the most flexible.
As well, you can turn on multiple driving aids depending on how comfortable you are with various aspects of racing. My personal favourite is toggling on the optimal line, showing you how to approach turns and at what speed. Another option is utilizing the rewind feature, which allows you backtrack up to 30 seconds and try again. Personally, I loved this feature as you slowly build-up speed after releasing the rewind button. This lets you carefully adjust your positioning and speed to turn difficult corners just right. Most racing games put you in top speed immediately after rewinding, which is extremely jarring by comparison.
Authentic graphics and sound
From a graphics standpoint, MotoGP 17 does a superb job presenting over 60 licensed bikes in painstaking detail. As well, the 186 riders, including 70 unlockable legends like Max Biaggi and Casey Stoner, have stunningly photorealistic appearances. All 18 official MotoGP tracks are featured as well, and each one is recreated in meticulous detail. All considered, the presentation is pretty good, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.
For one thing, while track layouts are faithful to their real-world counterparts, they lack a distinct visual pop. Most laps are pretty bland, missing the trees, crowds, and waving flags you normally see at MotoGP races. It seems, perhaps, some of these details were toned down in order for the game to reach its 60fps goal. Past MotoGP games ran at half that frame rate, meaning this is the fastest, smoothest version yet. It’s just too bad the graphics had to take a slight hit in the process.
Some of these graphical niggles are minimized on PS4 Pro, which bumps the resolution to a crisp 1440p. As well, the PS4 Pro patch adds more detail to bikes, and introduces beautiful HDR colours. I tested the game out on a standard PS4 console, and the PS4 Pro advantages are significant. MotoGP 17 is, apparently, the last entry to run on Milestone’s aging game engine, with future versions switching to Unreal Engine 4. That means this series should (fingers crossed) look and run better in future editions.
No discussion on presentation would be complete without discussing the games superb bike sounds. Milestone took real-world samples of all the bikes included in MotoGP 17, and overall they sound very authentic. Certainly it’s a large improvement over previous years.
MotoGP 17 is solid motorcycle racing game enthusiasts should not miss out on. After taking a deep dive into Valentino Rossi’s career last year, MotoGP is once again focused on pure racing. Rider Career mode is back and mostly unchanged, aside from the inclusion of the Red Bull Rookies Championship.
The big new addition this year is Managerial Career mode, which a nice first-attempt at creating a deep Franchise mode. While the graphics engine is starting to show its age, MotoGP 17 still shines in some spots, especially its beautiful bikes and true-to-life riders. I have no doubts that, overall, this is best entry in the series to date.
+ Superb bike details
+ Accurate rider depictions
+ Managerial Mode is robust
+ Lots of game modes
+ Exhilarating racing
+ Great implementation of rewind
+ Tons of riders (186), bikes (60), and tracks (18)
– Graphics starting to show their age
– Tracks lack detail
– Managerial mode has long load times and too much text reading
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5