There's a certain cachet to a racing game whose developer takes great pains to faithfully recreate real-world settings and ensure a comparatively authentic ride. Such is the case with Valcon Games' Suzuki TT Superbikes, an exercise based solely on the infamous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) motorcycle races. Yet despite Valcon's attention to authenticity, both in the racecourse itself and the myriad real-life bikes that navigate its high-speed nooks and crannies, the game will probably appeal only to those who truly appreciate this particular event and circuit, or those who take their racing seriously enough to be extremely patient during the rather steep learning curve. To all others, the course will seem too tight and confining, the bikes too twitchy, the controls too unforgiving, and the setting too monotonous. Despite its many positive attributes, Suzuki TT Superbikes may ultimately frustrate and bore as many riders as it will excite.
Infamous because of the many lives it has prematurely ended throughout its long history, the Isle of Man TT course is tremendously long (38 miles!) and tremendously skinny, and is sidelined with all manner of potentially deadly obstacles such as lampposts, fences, rock walls, pillars, and more. These hazards are not surprising, given the track is built into the island's quaint system of narrow roads, byways, and avenues, but the big question is whether such a venue translates well to the gaming world.
The answer is that it has a difficult time doing so, considering that in the game's PS2 format, players are compelled to use the standard PS2 controller. Simply, the bikes herein are bestowed with admirable, semiauthentic physics, but they're seemingly too fidgety--and the ribbon of track too narrow--for this controller. Had Suzuki TT Superbikes supported USB controllers such as tabletop joysticks or wheel and pedal units (it doesn't), or had it been a PC game in which players can utilize a supersophisticated tabletop analog control (it isn't), the story may have been different. But as it currently sits, you'll need to either opt for the relatively safe but sluglike "Novice" handling settings, or painstakingly and meticulously memorize every single nuance and detail of every section of the course to avoid continually crashing out. Things will improve as you become more practiced in the art of Superbiking, and in time you'll stop crashing so much and actually complete an event or two without finishing in last place. But when your main enemy remains the track and your bike's interaction with it, something's not right.
Of concern to those who enjoy challenging themselves over a variety of environments is the game's fixation with the Isle of Man. Granted, it's no average circuit. However, a long course doesn't necessarily lead to an interesting game. The designers at Valcon have broken the 38-mile course into various segments and then used those segments for all the game's stages and events. Thus, you aren't forced to tackle the entire thing over and over again each time you race.
Yet a segmented Isle of Man is still the Isle of Man. If you like huge elevation changes or wide and accommodating roadways, you've come to the wrong place. If you'd prefer wide shoulders or a desert or dirt environment, you've also come to the wrong place. And if you simply want a chance to drive more than one course, you've definitely come to the wrong place. But if you're an Isle of Man addict, welcome home. According to Valcon, the game features "every vital bump, wall, tree, and house" en route.
And it shows. The Suzuki TT Superbike environment is incredibly detailed, sporting such nifty visual perks as accurate lane markings, bus stops, an impressively wide range of foliage, flashbulb-popping photographers, roadside picnic tables and outdoor restaurants, licensed signage, adjoining avenues, sidewalks and curbing (most of which will play havoc on your bike's balance), and an assortment of buildings that may be unique in the genre because the majority of them are unique and purportedly true to life. Licensed up the yin-yang, the game also offers bikes from all the big manufacturers--40 in all, divided into four classes.
However, most everything besides the motorcycles looks static. The game's visual effects are extremely limited, eschewing such common racing periphery as smoke, sun glare, climate variables such as rain, and the like. Crashes are initially quite violent in that the rider separates from his bike and both tumble in rag-doll-fashion through the air or along the ground, but you won't see plumes of smoke or fire, broken parts, oil puddles, or anything of the like. Indeed, you'll merely wait a few moments after each crash before being reseated on your magically upright and unharmed steed.
The upside to this lack of sophisticated visual effects is a fast frame rate. Suzuki TT Superbikes flows very smoothly from moment to moment and turn to turn and never bogs down. The sensation of speed is quite convincing, if only because each segment is so detailed that you're constantly zipping by something. Activating the optional motion-blur technology makes the world appear to travel by at an even faster clip.