Climax knows a thing or two about speed, but the team has outdone itself this time by delivering a new game on a new console less than a year after the release of MotoGP 3. The short development cycle is definitely apparent in that MotoGP 06 is less a significant step forward for the series than an incremental upgrade to the previous game. However, given that the previous game is one of the best racing titles on the Xbox, that's certainly not a bad deal for racing fans. When it comes down to it, MotoGP 06 is not without its flaws, and the increased price is tough to swallow. But where the rubber meets the road, this is still a great game that will keep racing fans coming back for a very long time.
Whether you prefer a sim racer or a more arcade-style experience, MotoGP 06 has you covered.
MotoGP 06 has two distinct race circuits, the Grand Prix circuit and the Extreme circuit. If you're looking for a sim racing experience, you can race on one of 17 real-world GP tracks against riders from the 2005 or the 2006 MotoGP season. You can race these tracks in quick race, time trial, or career mode. If you're playing single-player, there are four different difficulty modes to choose from, although if you're a series veteran, you'll need to skip the easiest two settings and go straight to "champion" if you want any sort of a challenge. Even then, the challenge in racing the Grand Prix tracks comes from the tight layouts that demand a lot of technical skill when choosing your lines to maintain as much speed as possible throughout the many difficult hairpins and chicanes you'll encounter.
If the Grand Prix circuit is a bit too technical for your taste, you can try out any of the three divisions of the Extreme circuit. There are 17 fictional extreme courses in the game, and you can race them on 600cc, 1000cc, or 1200cc bikes. As the bike size increases, the tracks become more difficult because the larger bikes are much faster, heavier, and more difficult to control. In comparison to the GP tracks, the extreme tracks require much less technical skill and instead reward a heavy hand on the accelerator. These tracks are so fast that you rarely have to use the brakes at all, and it can be a blast to open up the throttle in the long straights and wide, sweeping turns.
Between the two circuits and 34 tracks (plus reverse versions of each track), there's plenty of variety to be found in MotoGP 06. It's refreshing to be able to go from a tense, white-knuckled GP race that will have you on the edge of your seat trying to whittle down your lap times one-tenth of a second at a time, to a blazing fast, arcade-style race around an extreme track that will have you grinning from ear to ear with the sheer speed of it all.
The bikes in the game all handle just as well as they have in previous Moto GP games, which is to say that they all feel properly weighted and powerful, and they're all a lot of fun to ride. The default control scheme works very well, with rear and front brakes assigned to the left and right triggers, respectively. The independent braking system is an important component of the control because proper use of the rear brake will let you powerslide around corners to keep your speed up, while controlled use of the front brake is critical in the tighter turns that require a bit more precision.
The artificial intelligence in MotoGP 06 is certainly functional. While the computer-controlled riders mosey along at a leisurely pace on the easier difficulty settings, they provide plenty of stiff challenge at the higher difficulty settings. Of course, the AI riders very rarely crash, and they tend to keep the same line throughout each race, but you don't get the rubber-band effect that causes opponents to unrealistically bunch up in some other racing games. You'll still want to play it clean, though, as the other riders will almost always win when push comes to shove. Even though the AI is a very rigid substitute for real, live players, it's certainly a functional alternative if you don't want to play online.
Each of the pro racers in the game has his own bike, with all of the appropriate logos and stats. There are 19 riders and bikes for the Grand Prix circuit, although many of the bikes are actually the same model but with different skins. The Grand Prix bikes are all based on their real-world counterparts from manufacturers like Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Ducati. The extreme motorcycles, on the other hand, are highly customized street bikes that are equally fun to ride. The extreme bikes are lighter and more nimble than the Grand Prix bikes, and they also feature much more radical styling. All bikes can be customized by adjusting parameters like gear ratios, tire compound, and suspension hardness. The extreme bikes can be upgraded with new parts, so you can tune your engine, reduce the weight, purchase better brakes, and even install nitrous oxide.
Your seed will drop as you win races, but it takes a long, long time to reach the coveted first seed.
The crux of the single-player game in MotoGP 06 is the career mode. You can choose a circuit and difficulty and then progress through a series of 17 races, accumulating points depending on where you finish in each race. At the end of the season, the rider with the most points accumulated is the champion. Before each round, you're given a variety of options. You can practice racing the track as much as you want, memorizing the best line to take for each and every turn to ensure your victory on race day. Once you're prepared, you can move on to qualification, where you have 10 minutes to post your best lap time. Depending on how your time compares to the other riders, you'll be assigned a position on the starting grid for the actual race. After qualifying, you're ready to race against 15 riders if you're on the extreme circuit, or 19 on the Grand Prix circuit.