When it comes to sim racers, I’ve never really liked the two-wheeled format. It’s been a while since I’ve played a MotoGP game – MotoGP 13 was the last entry, to be precise – and I do remember struggling with the mechanics behind it. Having to lean with your bike into the corners is something that I’ve always found confusing. I think as if I’m driving a car, not a bike, and being a sim racer, the game doesn’t hold your hand at all.
As the official game of the MotoGP competitions, MotoGP 20 is the clear choice for those looking to get their fix of two-wheeled action. And while it’s definitely more a case of me being shockingly bad at the game rather than the game being terrible, it’s still lost in the ether of sim racers that offer a lot more in their respective titles than this game does.
Suffice it to say, MotoGP 20 doesn’t hold much appeal if you’re not already a massive fan of motorcycle racing.
Plenty of customisation, but not a lot of personality
There are plenty of options when it comes to customising the look of your rider, but a fair majority of that is linked to changing the design of your bike and leathers. Changing your rider’s appearance, however, is far more limited. When you start the game, you can choose to create either a male or female rider, but you can only customise your rider’s face from preset options.
There are only five faces for female riders, and the only ethnicities available are Caucasian and African, whereas there are options representing Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern avatars for males. I suppose you could justify it by saying they’re under a helmet and you’re not going to see it in-game, but still, it would be a nice option to have.
There are more than 30 helmet designs to choose from, which you can either select the default livery or customise it from scratch to your liking. You can upload your designs to the cloud for others to use, or browse for designs online.
Another interesting feature in terms of customisation is the option to change your rider’s style, from the position of your rider during a corner, through to how many fingers are used when braking. These attributes only have a minor impact on gameplay, but it’s nice to have that little touch of personality to your rider.
The nitty gritty
MotoGP 20 comes with two core offline modes: the Managerial Career mode and Historic Mode. The Managerial Career mode follows the trend of a number of racing sims, in which you pick a team to sign for – you can sign for any team in the MotoGP, Moto2 or Moto3 class. Beginning in Moto3 is the best choice for beginners, as it will allow you to acclimatise to racing on two wheels on less powerful, more stable bikes, but veterans can choose to jump straight into the big leagues for greater rewards.
In the career mode, you earn credits for participating in testing and race weekends, which can be used to upgrade your bike. Performing well in performance test sessions, as well as meeting your personal objectives, will help you earn more credits.
Depending on what agents and staff you have working for you, you will earn bonuses that can further assist you. This includes more funds earned for passing test sessions, earlier access to better team offers (especially useful for those working their way up from the Moto3 class) and faster production of parts to tune up your bike.
The career mode is good and about what you’d expect from this sort of game, but it doesn’t really offer anything new to bring to the table. What is something that’s different is the Historic mode, which allows you to race as famous champions of the past, including Michael Doohan, Àlex Crivillé and Max Biaggi.
Placing in the top three earns you diamonds, which you can use to redeem for hidden riders and bikes. While it isn’t great that a lot of these riders are hidden behind a barrier, the challenge of being able to obtain them does make for a fun experience.
Like a lot of games based on actual motorsport championships, MotoGP 20 does a rather spectacular job of presenting its namesake competition on display. When you are leaving the pit lane, a small cutscene will show your rider walking through the garage and mounting the bike, which is a great touch. Commentary is also mostly there for presentation, and it is rather authentic, but not quite as good as it is in the F1 games.
Grand Prix weekends are also fully customisable. Every session, aside from the mandatory race, is able to be skipped. If you just want to race, you can do that, or you can experience the full weekend, featuring four free practice sessions, two qualifying sessions (in this case, you must complete two sessions or skip qualifying altogether), a pre-race warm-up session and the Grand Prix race.
You are free to choose any combination of sessions as you like. However, like in most sim racers, practice sessions are not to be undervalued – in MotoGP rules, the ten best combined times from practice sessions automatically proceed to Qualifying 2, whereas all others fight for the final two spots in Qualifying 1.
Back of the grid
When it comes to racing, I’ve always preferred four wheels to two. I feel like I have a far smaller degree of control over a bike than I do with a car. Whether it’s Formula One, stock cars, GT3s, WRC or Le Mans – no matter the discipline – I find that I can pick up the basic mechanics behind the game more often than not.
However, the idea of controlling a bike, leaning the bike into corners, is something that I’ve never been able to grasp. And as far as I’m concerned, MotoGP 20 fails in the sense that it does not address its sharp learning curve.
Case in point: my best result was on a short, three-lap race around Catalunya, I finished 19th out of 31 riders in the Moto3 class, helped by a collision on the second lap in which four riders took each other out in a matter of seconds.
Speaking of, you may want to watch out for this in your own games, as the frame rate dropped noticeably at this point, with so many riders slipping and sliding. On the same subject, loading times are a very, very noticeable warning: sometimes it can take as much as 90 seconds to proceed from the menus to the race with a full grid.
I couldn’t quite get to grips with it even with driving assists turned on. The common case for me was that I was constantly battling to keep my bike upright throughout the corners while trying to follow the racing line, and I was either experiencing ridiculous levels of understeer or I was sending the bike for a ride along the tarmac. It is incredibly frustrating to have rider after rider overtake me on corners, catch up with them on the straight, only to possibly put myself out of the running after crashing on a corner and never able to recover.
And it’s disappointing, because even though the career mode lacks the depth of the F1 games or titles like Project Cars, there is enough there to contain the basis of a good game. It’s just heavily weighed down by sub-par gameplay, and because it’s a sim racer, the appeal will only sit in the eyes of motorcycle fans.
Other sim racers will challenge the player, but they also make the driving effort feel rewarding, instead of punishing. If you know how to race bikes, if you know how to control them, you’ll actually get a lot out of this game. Sadly, that’s not the case for me and so I wouldn’t recommend this game unless you were both desperate to fill the hole in the MotoGP calendar and a hardcore racing sim enthusiast.
MotoGP 20 was reviewed on PS4 using a digital copy provided by the publisher.
Game Title: MotoGP 20