Grand Prix motorcycle racing is a sport that all about intensity and precision; tight, hairpin turns made on a dime at ridiculous speeds. It’s a sport that demands a total understanding of the track and the vehicle, one that greatly rewards skill and punishes mistakes. In that way, MotoGP 20 is just like its real-world inspiration. For those with an interest in the sport, and the complexities of this kind of racing, there’s a rewarding experience to be had. For others, they may be better served looking elsewhere for their racing game fix.
To its credit, MotoGP 20 is a game with absolutely no illusions about what it is and who it is for. It is a simulation, through and through, and one with serious fans of the sport in mind. Right away, you’re given the option to create your own custom racer, using a decent enough character creator. You select your gender, choose between a few presets faces for each, and select your nationality. That’s it for the general customization, though entering the career mode allows you to further customize your colors, number, and equipment to be used for the duration.
And the game’s attention to detail in this regard is commendable; the equipment all looks excellent, from the suits and helmets worn by the participants to he bikes themselves, which are loving rendered in solid detail. It’s obvious that the people responsible for the equipment visuals took their time, and that they really cared about what they were representing. The bikes in particular look top notch. Granted, the rest of the visuals can look dated, but that’s not really the point of a game like this; the bikes are, and they look terrific.
"For those with an interest in the sport, and the complexities of this kind of racing, there’s a rewarding experience to be had. For others, they may be better served looking elsewhere for their racing game fix."
The game is divided up into a couple of different modes, with the core of the game being a career mode. Here you can choose to start in one of three divisions, determining if you start your career already in the big leagues or if you want to begin by working your way up from the very bottom. The mode allows you to determine your personal manager, each of which offers different benefits and drawbacks, and sign on to a certain team, each with their own benefits and requirements. Once signed, you have full control over your team, hiring people and allocating your funds throughout different areas of research and development, such as your electronics or your engineering. These research tracks open up various improvements and modifications that can later be applied to your bikes.
The game takes this part of the simulation quite seriously. The level at which you can manage your bikes is impressive. The game models tire wear, forcing you to replace tires, as well as taking into account weather conditions and heat, and offering different tire types to accommodate. You can make on the fly changes in the pit to things like suspension, center of gravity, etc. The game even allows you to run with high fuel or low fuel, with changes to your speed and handling as a result. All of this can be further fine-tuned through the modifications and improvements that can be earned through the different research and development tracks available.
Once you have your bike in top condition, its time to hit the asphalt and start racing. Here as well, the game takes its commitment to the simulation very seriously. The game models every aspect of the race, from the wear of your tires and the amount of fuel in your tank to the wetness and temperature of the asphalt beneath you. Turns have to be taken very carefully; too fast and you’ll overshoot, too slow and you’ll flip over. The game’s physics are modelled very realistically, and although the game does offer several assistances such as automated gear shifting and assisted physics, it remains a very realistic simulation of high-speed motorcycle racing.
"The game models every aspect of the race, from the wear of your tires and the amount of fuel in your tank to the wetness and temperature of the asphalt beneath you."
And that’s both the game’s biggest strength and most defining weakness; it is a detailed simulation through and through, for better and for worse. For those coming into the game already aware of the intricacies of the sport, that’s a great thing, as it provides a game that offers exactly what it needs to do and lives up to that simulation completely. But for those less familiar, the game feels distinctly unwelcoming. There’s no tutorial to speak of; the game never explains its own controls, let alone the intricacies and uniqueness of this particular kind of racing. The controls themselves are buried under a menu in the Options screen.
As such, if you’re a player who isn’t as familiar with the sport itself, and was maybe instead just looking for another racing game, you’ll likely find yourself quite frustrated, as few skills from other games in the genre transfer over, and the game provides no warning or explanation in that regard. Devotion to realism and simulation is not a bad thing at all. On the contrary, it’s great for a game like this. But the game makes no concessions, nor even attempts to explain itself to those less familiar with the sport it simulates. As a result, its broader appeal becomes considerably narrower, limiting those likely to really enjoy it solely to those already enthusiastic about the sport, with little chance of it winning over newcomers.
The career mode isn’t the only option available. There’s a quick race mode, with options to toggle between a single circuit race, a time trial, and a custom championship. There’s also a historic mode. This mode features three challenges of progressively increasing difficulty, that randomly cycle through daily. These challenges take players back in time, allowing them to play as famous past motorcyclists in challenges inspired by events of the past. Admittedly, it’s a cool idea, and the cyclical (pun intended) nature of the challenges adds a little extra longevity to the game. There’s also an online multiplayer mode, which offers up some decent fun, though I was a little disappointed to find there’s not split-screen option to speak of.
"The game makes no concessions, nor even attempts to explain itself to those less familiar with the sport it simulates. As a result, its broader appeal becomes considerably narrower, limiting those likely to really enjoy it solely to those already enthusiastic about the sport, with little chance of it winning over newcomers."
MotoGP 20 is, through and through, a simulation for the motorcycle racing enthusiast. It knows exactly who its target audience is, and exactly what it is trying to deliver, and provides exactly that; nothing more, and nothing less. If you’re part of that target demographic, and that kind of game is what you are searching for, then this game will likely be right up your alley. The simulation is strong, the career mode deep enough to maintain interest, and the other modes enjoyable enough to keep you playing.
But if you aren’t already a fan, even if you’re curious about getting into the sport, this likely isn’t the game for you. With no tutorial or even an introduction to the sport, the game is unashamedly for enthusiasts only, and makes little attempt to win over casual fans. While this does allow the game to focus all its efforts on providing a top quality simulation for those who want it, it also results in a game that is the embodiment of limited appeal. If you’re into this kind of racing already, pick it up. If not, you’re better served looking for a more welcoming racing experience.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Detailed simulation provides plenty for enthusiasts to enjoy; The bikes are well-rendered and look amazing.
No attempt to open the doors to newcomers results in a game with very limited appeal.