Just for the record, I can’t ride a bike. I also have little to no interest in professional motorbike related sports. It thus seemed odd when a copy of SBK:X popped through my door but, in my professional capacity, I am required to feign an interest and understanding about the topic for this review. That said, SBK is a surprisingly versatile game that will be able to appeal to a wide demographic regardless of previous knowledge and experience in the field of professional racing. If I could find something to love about SBK, then certainly anyone can.
The game modes in SBK are largely split into two main modes. The simulation mode is more what we are used to in this genre of game, and sees you competing in races that are complete with realistic bike and track physics that truly immerse the player. The modes are what you would expect ranging from standard quick race and tournament modes, to a career mode that sees you working your way up through the racing leagues. There is also the option to alter the realism of the simulation in order to tailor the experience to your play style and skill. It must be said that in this mode there is a very respectable level to detail in the physics, right down to the track altering as the bikes race over it.
If you aren’t quite up for the completely realistic racing experience though, you will be well catered for in the arcade suite of modes. These modes are generally comprised of the standard race modes, but with the advantage of easier to handle bikes that make the game closer to something like Mario Kart, Burnout, or other arcade style racers. It’s interesting to see just how much the game dynamics are altered by the more forgiving physics and a speed boost button. The arcade collection also features a single player story mode, where you work your way up through the bike racing ranks (again) but in a more structured manner. You begin by choosing a team to sign with, who then set you tasks you must complete every race in order to win reputation points that unlock new levels. Sadly, the tasks you are asked to do are monotonous and usually just revolve around finishing in a certain position. Regardless of some of the individual modes being fairly standard, the split between the arcade and simulation modes is huge and offers two entirely different gameplay experiences.
When you enter into the various story modes you get the chance to create a racer to use, but the creation options are horribly limited. You pretty much just choose a face type and helmet pattern and that’s it. It’s not a game breaker, but it just seems a shame that so little effort seems to have been put into this side of the game. There is also a mild irritant in the form of the courses you race on. There is generally a decent variety in how the tracks actually play out, but there is a distinct lack in texture variety. Generally speaking this is more an issue with the visuals for, whilst the graphics on the bikes and the riders are solid, the backgrounds are pretty poor on the whole and lacking in detail. Likewise the sound is equally crippled in one area, as the solid and meaty sound effects are let down by a rather limited selection of musical genres on the soundtrack.
Despite some questionable features of presentation, it is the potential playtime of SBK that concerns me more than anything. There are certainly a lot of modes, but the repetitive nature of them means the enjoyment you get out of the game might be somewhat limited. There are enough multiplayer modes to lengthen the experience somewhat, but nothing inventive or satisfying to the point where it will really keep you coming back for more. Thankfully the general game mechanics have a certain “easy to pick up, hard to master” appeal that will keep you returning to SBK to perfect your racing line bit by bit. SBK is a solid all around game that will be well worth it if you can find it at a reasonable price. The full retail price point is, arguably, a little steep considering the samey nature of some of the game modes but this shouldn’t be considered a deal breaker. SBK:X is a fun racing game that is a must if you are a follower of professional bike racing.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Large quantity of game modes, Nice amount of tracks, Arcade mode allows for fast furious fun, You can alter the realism of simulation mode to cater for all tastes, Pretty good visuals
Game modes can get repetitive within themselves, Very limited character creation mode, A monotonous soundtrack
A solid all around motorcycle racing game that caters for both the arcade and hardcore racing crowds, SBK:X is a stellar example of a deep racing game that is let down by occasionally repetitive single player story modes and a moderately weak presentation