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MotoGP 2
Review By:  Jared Black
Developer:   Namco
Publisher:   Namco
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:   3-5-02

The original MotoGP was released in relative obscurity, being overshadowed by the avalanche of PS2 launch titles. Included in this avalanche were Namco’s own Ridge Racer V and Tekken Tag Tournament, but much bigger franchises. As a result, MotoGP was released to very little fanfare. Despite that, it ended up being one of my favorite early PS2 titles thanks to some excellent visuals and challenging gameplay. The sequel to that game has arrived, and it has all the features you’d expect from a good sequel.

The gameplay modes are essentially the same as the first game’s: Arcade, Season, Time Trial, Challenge, Vs., and Legends. The only new mode with this game is the Legends mode. Legends mode allows the gamer to race against one of four different legends of the sport in a single-race battle. All of the other modes are identical to the first MotoGP, and are pretty much self-explanatory by their names alone.

There are essentially two different ways to play MotoGP 2…with either the Simulation option set to "On" or "Off". This will determine how your bike handles in any mode, and thus greatly impacts every gameplay mode. With the Simulation option turned off, MotoGP 2 is very much like any other arcade racer. It’s nearly impossible to crash without hitting something head-on, and the player can do things with his/her bike that normally wouldn’t be possible in real life. With the Simulation option set to "On", MotoGP 2 becomes a grueling simulation racer that demands cat-like reflexes and extreme care when cornering and braking.

And that’s really MotoGP 2’s only significant flaw. When racing in Simulation, the game is often too difficult for all but the most hardcore racers. Any minor mistake will usually result in the player crashing (even moreso than on a real bike), and this can be pretty frustrating considering the fact that with this version it only takes a few crashes before the player is forced to retire from a race. If you combine the Simulation mode with wet driving conditions, all but the most skilled of players can forget about even finishing a race, much less winning it. This will no doubt appeal to hardcore bike fans and gamers looking for an extreme challenge, but in truth it’ll just turn off most gamers.

On the flip side, when racing with the Simulation turned off the game is too easy. Things are very arcade-like, meaning that the gamer probably won’t crash at all unless they have incredibly bad driving skills (or just refuse to tap the brake button occasionally). Combine this with some pretty pedestrian A.I., and the result are races that are pretty easy to win…even with the difficulty set on Hard. While the A.I. is pretty much the same in Simulation as well, it’s not as noticeable because other riders are generally the least of your concerns. As an arcade racer there are much better ones out there, and chances are even the most casual gamers will want a bit more challenge than this.

The feature set has been improved considerably from the last MotoGP. In addition to all new stats, this year’s version sports 5 new tracks (for a total of 10), varying weather conditions, hidden shortcuts (which you’re penalized for taking in certain settings), and the new Legends mode. Bikes can be customized a bit better than before (although not to the level of something like Gran Turismo 3), and there’s even some added fluff in the form of special tricks such as wheelies, stoppys, burn outs, and victory poses. These don’t add anything to the game, aside from just being fun to pull off.

Much like the feature set, the graphics have seen an incremental, but pronounced improvement. The returning tracks look much better than they did the first time around, with better texturing, more detail and quantity in track-side objects and the new ones are quite stunning as well. While the bike and rider models only sport minor increases in quality, the new weather effect is quite stunning. Water lays very realistically on the track, and the splash of water on the camera is as realistic as can be found this side of Wave Race: Blue Storm.

Whereas the features and graphics only feature minor improvements, the aural aspect has received a major upgrade. The terrible J-pop/Techno combination soundtrack from the first MotoGP has been replaced with the standard Euro Techno stuff you typically find in this kind of racer, and here it’s much better than it is in most games. You can even change the tune (or turn the music off) on the fly by simply pressing the circle button, which is a welcome feature when racing a full race. The sound effects are pretty much the same as they were last year, which is to say sparse but accurate.

HIGHS:

  • The first MotoGP featured some of the best graphics of any PS2 launch title, and this one looks even better.
  • The simulation mode is simply the most realistic representation of motorcycle racing to be found on any system.
  • The soundtrack is actually good this time around.
  • The features have been beefed up considerably, including double the number of tracks and a lot of minor touches.

LOWS:

  • Simulation mode is too much for most casual racers, and the arcade mode is pretty average compared to other racers.
  • A.I. is of the "follow the path" variety, and offers little challenge in arcade mode where it needs it.

FINAL VERDICT:

MotoGP was a great, and underrated, racing game and MotoGP 2 improves on it in every imaginable way. The graphics have been beefed up considerably, the soundtrack is infinitely better, and the added features give it a lot more replay value than the first one had.

Unfortunately, in the process of improving the series Namco fell into the trap of making it too hardcore for most sim fans and too easy for most arcade fans. I still recommend MotoGP 2 to anyone looking for an excellent motorcycle or niche racing game, but just be prepared for a good bit of frustration if you plan on diving deep into the simulation mode.

Overall Score: 8.3

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