With the coming of the 2003 motorcycle racing season, Namco is releasing MotoGP3, the third installment in its motorcycle racing series. Namco's series is heralded as the official game of MotoGP, and it's licensed by Dorna, the organization responsible for the annual tournament. On a superficial level, the third MotoGP game seems like a formulaic expansion on its immediate predecessor--it features 15 tracks instead of 10, 41 motorcycles instead of 38, and a bit more polish in the graphics, but otherwise it's very similar to the last game in the series. Look deeper, however, and you'll find that considerable work has been done in refining the controls, addressing the requests of fans of the series, and adding some gameplay elements to help the game better compete with THQ's MotoGP-licensed Xbox title.
MotoGP 3 plays every bit as good as it looks.
That being said, the game more or less features the same selection of game modes as its predecessors. The season mode allows you to take on a racing contract with teams such as Repsol Honda, Telefonica Movistar Suzuki, and Yamaha Tech 3, among others, and then compete in a series of races against other teams. The arcade mode allows you to compete in a one-off race on any track with any bike without commitment or consequence. Time trial is exactly what it sounds like--a chance for you to take on any track alone with any bike to hone your skills and improve your lines. The game provides ample help with this, in the form of ghostly representations of your best runs and a turn-by-turn analysis of each run. The time trial mode will also provide you with a password that you can enter on the game's Web site to see how your time stacks up. However, only the top 100 times are ranked, so the competition is very fierce. The legends mode allows you to compete in a challenging race against the tournament's best, from any time period, and the challenge mode provides you with a smattering of unique time trials and races. Multiplayer is offered as well, allowing up to four players to compete in a head-to-head race or a grand prix race against a number of computer-controlled opponents.
As mentioned above, the game's greatest achievement is its grasp of the control of a motorcycle. On the default settings, fans of the series should feel immediately comfortable. However, a plethora of options are available to give you greater control of your motorcycle of choice. Analog control of your throttle and brakes, control of the rider's weight placement, and separate control of your front and rear brakes are all available. You can also set up the transmission to shift for you automatically or opt to change gears on your own. While it might initially seem that these options are included for the hard-core sim fan, in practice they must be mastered if you hope to remain competitive in the game's more difficult modes.
The simulation physics can provide a very challenging motorcycling experience.
In particular, the analog control for the throttle and brakes becomes key to finessing the roll-on of the throttle in a corner to achieve a perfect line and braking without locking up the wheels of the bike. While the PlayStation 2's Dual Shock 2 controller can prove to be a frustrating tool to accurately provide analog input with, the game features onscreen meters that denote the amount of pressure you're providing, which is very useful in analyzing your technique. Shifting the weight of your rider also has a drastic influence on cornering. You'll want your weight shifted forward upon entering a turn to ensure that the front wheel has the most traction so you can maximize your steering capabilities. When you accelerate out of a turn, your weight should be shifted back to give more traction to the rear wheel. Additionally, weight shifting can assist in rapid braking and acceleration, providing more traction to the wheels that need it most. The roles of the front brake and the rear brake differ significantly. The front brake will provide most of your stopping ability, while the rear can be used lightly to stabilize the bike under heavy cornering.
While all these new features can be turned off to give the game more of an arcadelike feel, the automatic handling of these controls does not match the level of control you get with doing it manually, and you'll find it difficult to remain competitive in the harder difficulty levels if you leave the bulk of the control to the AI. The game also features a simulation mode that can be toggled in any mode in the game. This mode creates an even deeper motorcycle simulation, forcing you to finish all your braking before entering a corner and be smooth with the application of throttle when exiting. Too much of either will provide a severe loss of traction, and ultimately, a crash.