Last year Milestone S.r.l, the developer behind the MotoGP series, moved over to a new engine, the Unreal Engine to be precise, and as can be expected the transition was a little bit rocky. MotoGP 18 was a pretty solid game and played well, but it was a little bit rough around the edges. The studio had a year to improve on the offering, but did they end up delivering?
Off to a flying start
As is the case with most “sport” titles out there, you have a whole lot of choices when it comes to play time. MotoGP 19 has quite a lot on offer, and there’s a lot of content to sink your teeth into. It can also be incredibly rewarding, depending on what you want out of the game.
For a start, you have a pretty robust career mode that gives you four options to start at, Rookie, Moto3, Moto2 and off course MotoGP. If you want absolute value for money, the place to start is in the Red Bull Rookie Cup and work your way into the faster, more lucrative categories. You also have a choice to start right at the top, which can be a bit of good thing or a bad thing, depending on perspective, since it does remove that sense of progression.
Career mode is pretty much copy and paste from last year, where you move from weekend to weekend, do Free Practice, Qualify and then race. Your performance determines your position in the team. Do well and perform above expectations, and you can get a promotion to Team Leader. Don’t meet the expectations of your team, and you can potentially be fired. It’s a pretty cool idea, and I for one am very glad the racing games are moving away from all the managing of social media crap that was being shoehorned into most of it. It’s straightforward, works, and has a lot of potential to improve on.
MotoGP 19 also has a few other modes and options on offer, and each feels unique. You have an option to start your very own Grand Prix or Championship, as well as Time Trials, pretty standard stuff. The difference here though is that you have access to MotoE, which is racing with Electronic Bikes. It’s definitely different and sounds a bit weird, but the bikes change in handling and feel.
The real fun extras that MotoGP 19 includes are challenge modes. This is essentially different scenarios where you either need to beat certain times or beat specific opponents from different eras of MotoGP dating back to the mid-1990s. It’s fun, and reading up on the history of some legendary riders and rivalries is quite interesting. It also allows you to try out some other bikes, like the 500cc machines of the 1990s to the real start of MotoGP in the early 2000s. The only downside is the fact that the different bikes from the different eras all pretty much feel the same with the only differences being how they look and sound.
MotoGP 19 also features what looks like quite a robust multiplayer system, but at the time of writing I could unfortunately not test it out, as I couldn’t get any available lobbies, or nobody joined mine. I suspect this will change when the game launches.
Where the wheels start coming off
Playing MotoGP 19 is a bit of a binary experience. One the one side, the bikes and the riders look and feel fantastic. Milestone S.l.r managed to sort out the loading times and getting going takes no time. The bikes look and feel fantastic, and they managed to get the sense of speeds right. The riders also look very realistic from the way they lean off their bikes around corners, to the ragdoll physics when you go flying.
Races also feel tense, engaging and entertaining, and in terms of simulation, the developers got it spot on, but there’s a lot that’s left to be desired. For a start, the environments and tracks still look very dated. It stands out too since the bikes and rides look so good and realistic. I don’t know where the compromises are being made, but the visuals don’t quite stand up to worse games racing games released in the last year or so.
I also had quite a unique experience with the HDR of the game. If you have a PS4 Pro (and I assume the same with the One X) you automatically have it enabled with no choice to switch it off in the game. But HDR is not very well utilised in MotoGP 19. Everything in this game looks way too bright, with the very first race I did looking completely washed out. I started fiddling with the settings and found the only way to fix it was to lower the brightness of my TV, which helped. I checked out other games that utilise the HDR and didn’t have similar issues with it, only with MotoGP 19.
Once I changed the settings, the brightness was fine for the duration of the session, but if I quit out of the game and went back in later, I would have the same issue, even on the lower brighter setting. Changing the TVs brightness by just one (either up or down) would then set the game’s brightness to where it should be. I found this extremely annoying and seeing that this is just with this one game, I doubt that it’s my TV that’s acting up.
Here, let me do it for you
The last issue I have with MotoGP 19 is the way the assists work. Many racing sims give you some scaling options when it comes to assists since everyone has varying level of skills. It also gradually eases you into it, with you being able to adjust the percentage of assistance you get as you improve. Here, it is not the case, with it once again being a very binary choice.
If you turn on brake assist, the game will do all the braking for you, not just “assist”. It will even not allow you to open the throttle before you’re allowed to in order to make cornering as easy as possible. There is no middle ground, you either have the game be played for you, with you only turning left and right, and managing 50% of the throttle, or nothing, where you need to do everything. The only thing that’s adjusted on a scale is the AI, but even that feels a bit on or off, where they’re either potato or racing gods. Well, not quite, but you get the point.
Now, I am all for throwing you in on the deep end, but if you’re going to give people options, at least make it so it can be scaled to their abilities and allowing people to improve. The learning curve between playing with or without the assists is incredibly steep, and people might end up playing the entirety of the game with the training wheels on, rendering the experience a bit pointless.
A little bit off pole position
MotoGP 19 is a pretty decent offering, and it’s good to see the improvements being made. That said, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Some of them can be sorted through updates and patches, but some will need new games. Hopefully, Milestone can get it right soon, as there’s a lot of potential.