The first time I saw MotoGP racing was in San Francisco. I had been invited to the launch of the PlayStation 2, and one of the games available for the system was called MotoGP. “A motorcycle racing game,” I thought as I sat down to test it. I revved my engine and accelerated towards the first curve.
As I turned, the bike tilted at an impossible angle. The rider’s knee bowed down until it was inches above the racetrack, which sped along like a vicious belt of sandpaper. I straightened my trajectory, and the rider leaned to the other side as the bike veered across the track. I jammed my thumbstick the other way, and the bike spun out of control, sliding sideways and spinning off the track.
For the first time on a console, racing was being simulated instead of sensationalized. Until MotoGP, most racing games made due with a cursory amount of physics. They were primarily distinguished by shortcuts, speed-boosts, banana peels and assault weapons. It took the processing power of the PS2 to make an intense, uncompromising game like MotoGP possible.
Like its predecessor, MotoGP 09/10 offers a vast array of variables modeled on real-world situations — the weather, the velocity with which racers approach each corner, the path they choose in navigating the racetrack. But it is the off-track options made possible by the current generation of consoles that pushes MotoGP 09/10 ahead of other racing videogames.
Each race can be modified for overall difficulty (how fast the other racers move, how aggressively they handle their bikes, etc.); manual versus automatic gear shifting; and tire wear. These three factors allow beginners to jump into the races immediately and increase the general difficulty as they progress. But for gamers who want to take the MotoGP simulation seriously, 09/10 offers an unprecedented degree of control.
In the first MotoGP, bikes could be modified along sliding scales in terms of “Transmission,” “Handling,” “Acceleration” and “Brakes.” In MotoGP 09/10, the variable details have expanded to configurations that involve tire types, front- and rear-anti-lock braking strength, gear drive ratios, suspension, wheelbase length — all modifiable by my team of engineers who are paid for by the earnings that I generate through sponsorships snagged by my press agent....
The array of modifiable details is splendid, and it lends MotoGP 09/10 the intricate role-playing geekery of selecting the best sword and magic spells to carry into battle. The sheer variety of customization pushes MotoGP 09/10 far beyond simple racing and even beyond simulation. More than any other racing videogame available, MotoGP 09/10 is about embodying myself on the racetrack.
THE GOOD: The same detail that is lavished on the bikes is found in the racetracks, from the rolling British countryside of Donington Park to the severe technical curves of Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi.
THE BAD: As much as I was able to tweak my racing team and style, my game-controlled opponents seemed to roll through the season with their styles and machines unmodified, unaffected by the game’s array of options.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Speedy and sleek, MotoGP 09/10 wins the racing game race by a detailed stretch.