MotoGP deals with the Moto World Championship 2001 season. The game first appeared on the PS2, Xbox and finally on the PC. It has been published by the renowned THQ (Hot Wheels serial, Red Faction, etc.), and developed by Climax (MotoGP for Xbox, and several other minor titles).
You will have about ten highly realistic tracks at your disposal - Suzuka, Jerez, Le Man, Brno, Donington etc. with all the important drivers (20 of them). The three levels of difficulty - Rookie, Pro and Champion (and others, which are unlocked later) will make the game accessible, yet sufficiently challenging to a large number of players... and believe me, there is a difference between them. I managed winning the first Suzuka race I ever played in the rookie mode, and once I switched to the pro mode, things didn't go that easy. The impatient ones will be quite happy about the Quick Race mode, and the arcade players will find their fill in Arcade Championship mode, leaving the Grand Prix mode for serious gamers. The game also features the so-called Time Trial mode (beating the track record) and the obligatory Training mode (if this is the first time you are playing a motorbike simulation, it is useful for practicing several key elements and skills). One of the nicest features is that you can create and equip your driver any way you want, and his name will be written on the back of his overalls. In the arcade mode you have to gather the maximum number of points, which will in turn unlock many new options. One of my favorite options was Umbrella, where the track hostesses drive the race... and as for the serious things, you can't beat the Grand Prix championship. You will have to finish the race in order to unlock the next track. Your position does not count.
There are many different models of motorbikes (Yamaha, Honda etc.) and they all reek with power, but one of the things that have, unfortunately been left out in this game is the possibility to fine-tune your bike. You can do absolutely nothing to customize your bike for the desired track and current weather. This option would only be used by a small number of more experienced players, but I still think that it is a shame that they did not include it. Just like any sports simulation, this game is also, heavily focused on bringing a realistic physics model. However, it is not quite spotless in this aspect... contacts between two bikes will rarely ever end in them falling down, which is ridiculous considering their speed, and if you happen to fall off the track into sand or grass, you will have almost no trouble in returning to the track in no time. Still, most of the bike's behavior will look realistic and quite impressive.
One thing that stands out in this game is its visuals (for which you will in all likeliness need the latest drivers). This game looks unbelievably good without being too demanding. The resolution can go up to 1600x1200, and the 3D engine supports many modern features like the pixel and vertex shaders. All in all, if you set all visual setting to maximum (including anisotropic filtering), the picture is simply breath-taking. The models and textures are highly detailed, the surroundings are rich in color, and the details like grass, sand and road bumps, really depict the true Grand Prix atmosphere. Before each race, you will be surrounded by beautiful hostesses who will shield you from the sun and raise your morale. In sunny weather, everything looks perfectly beautiful, but the existence of weather effects only makes the game more realistic. Raindrops on some of the cameras which got wet look fantastic and make you feel like you are watching a real race. On the other hand, the particle effects could have been better, as the clouds of dust or rain bikes tend to leave behind don't look all that convincing. Skid-marks, shadows and reflections on the wet surface look way better and even very complex reflections (I caused a mass crash and then checked it out on a slow-motion recording) render properly. All this and a number of other smaller visual effects create the perfectly realistic atmosphere, making this game an outstanding visual experience.
The damage model doesn't exist in any classical sense of the word, as your bike simply gets replaced after a crash, and you can continue the race with several seconds of delay. Now this isn't exactly realistic, and it would still be nice to see a broken wheel or damaged plating now and then. The way the driver falls off the bike depends on the speed and type of crash... he will usually just jump straight back to his vehicle, but if you crash him real hard, he will remain on the ground occasionally shaking.
The camera covers the race from many angles, most of which are quite impractical for successful driving, but look spectacular nevertheless. I liked the chopper view, which is followed by the noise of the propeller. After you finish the race you can review it in slow-motion. Before each Grand Prix championship race, a short video sequence will introduce you to the country that hosts it.
To make things as real as possible, you need some good AI code. In MotoGP, it is just that - good. The drivers will drive flawlessly on the hardest level, but their number of mistakes will rapidly grow as you decrease the level of difficulty. They will try to gain advantage whenever they get a chance, still trying to keep a distance in order to prevent a crash... but... a couple of times in the Grand Prix mode, opponents simply started pushing me of the track in the last lap, which made me go from the first to the last place. I also drove recklessly at times, and when I did so, I noticed they reacted by waving their arms at me... not that I saw any middle fingers.
The controls and interface are simple, but not really ideal for this type of a game. It will take you some time to get used to the way the engine responds to your commands before you win a track. If you want to have full control of your bike, you will also need an extra hand... don't forget that this game has been primarily developed for console systems and their controllers. Once you realize that you have to make a compromise there, you will start to fully enjoy the ride, until other drivers start pushing you off the track just before the finish. Drivers' names can occasionally block your sight, but that won't bother you too much.
The sound effects are not overly rich, but they are good nevertheless, and they faithfully present the sounds of high-speed engines and the surrounding ambience. The game supports 3D sound positioning which will let you hear the position of your opponents, and enjoy the cheers of the crowd when you win. The music is OK, but the key thing here is that you can easily use your own music in the game with the help of a small program which can be downloaded from the net..
I don't have a clue as to why there aren't more simulations of this type for the PC. Moto Racer is fairly similar, but depicting a classical motorbike championship is something else. This game will keep all speed and bike lovers glued to the screen for days, and unlocking the additional tracks will be a demanding task. With its excellent sounds and visuals and versatile possibilities, this game is bound to make you go on and on, even if its difficulty cools you down a bit. Considering the lack of real motorbike racing simulations, this game is a must for all who appreciate this sport.
People who downloaded MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology have also downloaded:
MotoGP 2, MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 3, Moto Racer 2, Moto Racer, Moto Racer 3: Gold Edition, F1 2002, Links 2003, Cross Racing Championship 2005
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