When MotoGP was released for the Xbox roughly a year ago, it instantly became the definitive motorcycle racing game for the system. It accurately captured the excitement of grand prix motorcycle racing, and its blend of precise control, stunning visuals, and a challenge that could keep both casual and hard-core racing fans coming back for more made for an outstanding racing experience. The follow-up applies the standard sequel formula to the original game, making tweaks and improvements that make MotoGP 2 a game that delivers on just about every front a motorcycle-racing game should.
All 16 tracks of the 2002 MotoGP series are accurately represented.
MotoGP 2 for the Xbox is a re-creation of the 2002 MotoGP series, and with the changes it makes to last year's title, the experience is a spot-on match. The roster has been updated to match last year's series, with riders such as Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, and Daijiro Kato. The track count has gone up to 16, representing all of the series' courses, from Suzuka and Sepang to Brno and Valencia. The 500cc two-stroke machines now share the starting grid with 1,000cc four-stroke bikes such as the Yamaha M1, the Suzuki GSV-R, and the Honda RC211V. The superb controls have been left unchanged for the most part, but the sequel features a refined visual presentation that manages to make its predecessor look a bit shabby by comparison. The single-player mode provides a wide variety of modes to play in, such as the quick race mode, for those who want to jump right into the action, and the stunt mode, which is an arcadelike game in which you pull off high-speed stunts to score points and unlock new riders.
The heart of the single-player game is the career mode, in which you create a rider to compete in the full MotoGP series. In addition to choosing a bike and leathers, you'll distribute attribute points into skills such as cornering, braking, acceleration, and top speed. Additional points are won by completing challenges and winning races, so if you're successful you'll have a pretty skilled racer by the end of the season. Each circuit is run in a sequence and presented as a two-day race event. The first day is for practice and qualification for grid placement, and the second is for the race itself. True to life, races are held rain or shine, and the lines you chose on a sunny practice day might be thrown out completely in the pouring rain of the actual race day. Coming in first rewards you with a highlight video from the real-life event you just competed in--which may seem like a bit of a cop-out at first, but the experience of seeing the same racers struggle through the same hairpins and chicanes that you just experienced firsthand really gives you a sense of the real-life sport's difficulty.
The greatest strengths of MotoGP's gameplay are its simulation of the operation of a motorcycle and its depiction of the experience of racing these incredibly fast machines. The operation of the game's motorcycles relies heavily on analog control, from gradually increasing lean angle as the bike dives into a turn to the smooth application of throttle to speed out of it. This translates very well to the Xbox controller, especially when the triggers are used to control the throttle and brakes. Shifting the rider's weight forward or backward helps ensure that the most important wheel at the time has the greatest traction--forward at the beginning of a turn, rearward when powering out of it. This simple yet convincing control scheme makes it easy to solve problems such as loss of traction, even a split-second before it would cause a crash. Like on the real-world tracks, gravel traps line the outside of nearly every corner, so you can't count on bouncing off walls to get through a difficult turn. Die-hard simulation and motorcycle fans should take special interest in the gameplay's scalable simulation settings, which allow you to select your own levels of control and assistance.