Ever since the burgeoning days of Xbox Live, there's been a MotoGP game to play. Long-time fans of THQ's two-wheeled racing series will remember that a fully playable demo of the game came packaged with the original Xbox Live kit. Since then, the series has built its reputation on its attractive graphics, challenging handling, and some of the best online racing around. With MotoGP 07, THQ and developer Climax have created another challenging and fun game. It isn't a massive leap forward from last year's MotoGP 06, but it will still please long-time fans of the series.
Winning in MotoGP 07 takes commitment. A stone set of you-know-whats won't hurt, either.
As in the last few installments in the series, MotoGP 07 is divided into grand-prix and extreme-mode events. Grand-prix races take place on real-world tracks, including the new-to-the-series Misano, and they pit your created rider against real-life MotoGP stars such as Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden, and Kenny Roberts Jr. In extreme mode, everything changes up: the differently styled bikes, the fictional riders, and the tracks inspired by real-world locales. Extreme-mode races also tend to be a bit quicker and looser than the more staid grand-prix races.
Bike handling tends to be a bit more permissive in extreme mode; it's easier to powerslide your way around corners by double-tapping the gas, and the bikes seem a bit more stable. That said, handling throughout the game will still feel familiar to MotoGP vets: braking is still split between the front and rear wheels, you can lean forward or backward in the saddle to reduce or increase drag, and customizable controls will let you put together the control scheme that suits your racing style. One puzzling aspect of handling is noticeable when exiting out of corners; you'll often see the tail end of your bike waggling left and right, which is either the developer's visual emulation of traction control, or a warning system to let you know when the rear of your bike is about to go out from under you. Either way, the animation sometimes looks overexaggerated. Combine that with underwhelming rumble support during these tail-end waggles, and you come away with a mostly unconvincing effect.
Airborne vehicles abound in MotoGP 07. Jetliners zoom in for landings on nearby airstrips, helicopters hover low overhead, and, perhaps the oddest of all, fighter jets seem to be commonplace on both grand prix and extreme-mode tracks, as if many of the game's races are taking place in political hot zones. In some cases, these kinds of aerial details are accurate--Donington Park, for example, is located next to an airport in England, and those copters are ostensibly there for race coverage--but in other cases, turning laps at Laguna Seca while F-14s patrol the area is just strange and it ends up feeling more like a cheap attempt at adding visual interest where none is needed. Nevertheless, with active crowds on the sidelines and convincing weather effects, the game is for the most part a treat visually. Likewise, the frame rate, which had its dodgy moments in MotoGP 06, is improved this time around, although it's not altogether perfect.
If you're not the guy in first, the view never changes.