STAFF REVIEW of MotoGP '06 (Xbox 360)

Monday, June 26, 2006.
by Adam Rivard

MotoGP '06 Box art Moto GP debuted on Xbox 4 years ago with a stunning burst of speed in a successful attempt to do for simulation motorcycle racing what Gran Turismo did for car racing. A little less than a year later, THQ released Moto GP 2. Continuing their reputation for a game based off of real world racers and tracks, is it possible for Moto GP 06 to expand and improve upon the first two installmentl? Well I've got some good news for all of you gear heads, in a nutshell yes. We are talking about the Xbox 360 after all.

The secret to the Moto GP franchise is that you are allowed to customize essentially every part of your racing experience to fit your desires. If you want simulation racing, play the career Grand Prix mode. Are you more comfortable with arcade action? You can compete in stunt mode where you move through the ranks by knocking other riders off their bikes, performing wheelies, burnouts, and powerslides.

For single player racing, you have the option of many different modes. The standard Quick Race (everyone knows what that is), Stunt Mode lets you rack up points through both stunts and clearing track sections under predetermined times. High scores will unlock other tracks and highlight videos. Time Trial lets you try to break your previous fastest laps without having to deal with bots. The final single player, simulation portion of Moto GP 06, is the Career Mode that is a complete simulation of a Grand Prix.

When you first start Career mode, you are responsible for creating a racer. Choose from many different bikes and different leathers (those cute one-piece jump suits), customizable color combinations, logos, and numbers to create the rider that defines the ultimate champion. Along with the physical appearance of the bike and rider, you are given attribute points to be distributed among categories.

Once your racer is created, you have the option of entering the training mode, which teaches you the basics of motorcycle racing. This is an opportunity to practice your hairpin turns, wheelies, endos, powerslides, slalom skills, cornering, and other abilities. If you feel you have a good handle on how to control your bike, or don't want to pick up extra points, you can head straight to the first circuit. At the beginning of each circuit, you will hear a brief description of the area and the history of the race course accompanied by visuals. Once you "arrive to any locations, you have the choice of fulfilling challenges (each are track specific and will give you attribute points), practicing the course, qualifying for the race (determining your starting position), or racing the circuit. Finishing a circuit in third or less gives you one attribute point, second gives you two, and first gives you three. After you finish an entire season, you have the opportunity to race a second season with the same racer, and if you've finished an entire series you can increase the difficulty level.

Since Moto GP 06 is a simulation, it is no surprise that the bikes have an ultra real physics system. There is no way to succeed by manhandling your bike around a course (unless you time your turns correctly so that you can force a racer on the outside of you to bring you through a turn). Instead, you must rely on finesse and timing to stay on the track. Aiding you in complete mastery of the bike is a control scheme (the same as in Moto GP) that gives you complete control. The left analog stick steers your bike. You can accelerate with A or use the right analog stick (up is forward, down is reverse). Braking, which is the neat part of the Moto GP series, is mapped to the two triggers. The right trigger controls the front wheel and the left trigger the back wheel. This braking scheme not only aids in performing wheelies and endos, but lets you decide if you want to skid around corners or have tighter turns. If you can't handle operating the front and rear wheel brakes individually than you can use the auto-brake system with the B button. The white and black buttons handle manual shifting, and the Y button switches between first and third person views.

But what good would a realistic physics engine be if it didn't create some spectacular crashes? If you fail to anticipate a turn, which causes you to hit a dirt patch, your front wheel will stop and send you and your bike onto the ground. Also, slamming into other racers or cutting them off can cause them to crash, occasionally taking you with them. So, unless you want to end up with severe road rash, it is best to maintain control of your bike at all times (going off road also significantly slows you down).

Bike handling is also affected by weather conditions. When the track is slick with rain, steering and cornering becomes much easier as you slide across the road surface, but this also leaves you vulnerable to spinouts and it takes a lot less force to send you onto the ground.

What good would any racing game be if you could easily smoke the AI and all your friends and neighbors? If you crave an extra outlet for competition, Moto GP 06, like the originals, is fully compatible with Xbox Live. That means you can take on the best racers (fifteen besides you at a time) in the world in any of the multiplayer modes.

Live features all the standard options such as Quick Match, Optimatch, and Create a Match. In Optimatch and Create a Match, you can choose the difficulty level you compete in to make sure you're racing in your own league.

Moto GP 06 is one of the prettiest games on Xbox 360. The motorcycles and racers are all beautifully animated and modeled, which makes the whole experience seem like a real life simulation. Your rider shifts in his seat as he takes turns and leans forward at your command. If you bump into another rider, your opponent will shake his fist at you in anger.

The most stunning visuals are the crashes. Watch in horror as your racer contorts in all sorts of ways by somersaulting, flying through the air, or rolling across the ground. It truly looks like a form of painful acrobatics. When you once again mount your bike, you'll notice parts where your paint has scratched.

Detail wasn't just given to your focal point, the racer, but also to the environments. Granted that there isn't usually much besides road, grass, and the occasional tree, backgrounds never seem flat. Everything from the clouds in the sky to the tire marks burned into the pavement creates the illusion that you're on a real course. To further the illusion, your tires will leave black streaks when you skid around a turn that will stay there throughout the race. When you head off-road, your tires will cut a line through the grass or kick up gravel or sand.

Even the rain is incredibly real. Droplets form on the screen when you follow too closely behind other racers. The wet surface causes water vapor to trail behind your bike, and the sky is reflected on the road. Overall, Moto GP 06's visuals are unbelievably stunning.

With all the effort put into the gameplay and graphics of Moto GP 06, the sound stands out as being its weakest attribute. Yes, there are the sounds of revving engines, squealing tires, and crashing bikes, but it doesn't do enough to make it sound like you're on the track.

Your aural experience is also hindered by a generic rock soundtrack that does little to aid the game's atmosphere. Fortunately, that?s why custom soundtracks were invented, so you at least can find something appealing to listen to compensate for the comparatively weak sound effects.

Moto GP 06 is a game that will satisfy anyone's crotch rocket or simulation fantasies. The detail paid to both the physics engine and the graphics is remarkable and worth seeing if you crave realism. If you failed to pick up Moto GP or Moto GP 2 for the original Xbox Moto GP 06 is a worthy addition to any racing fan's library. Even if you own the original games you must own this one too, after all it is the 360 we?re talking about.

Overall: 8.4 / 10
Gameplay: 8.6 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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