MotoGP 2

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In response to the runaway success of the original MotoGP for the Xbox, THQ decided to bring the next game in the series to both the PC and the Xbox. The original game featured accurate and accessible controls, stunning visuals, and a dynamic racing experience, and the Xbox version of the sequel managed to improve on the outstanding original in every way. The PC version of MotoGP 2, on the other hand, shows signs of being perhaps a little too closely related to its cousin, and in the end, the developer should have spent more time making the PC version as cohesive as its console counterpart.

 The first thing you'll notice when comparing the versions side by side is that their menu systems are nearly identical. Unfortunately, this means that the in-game menus don't have PC-specific options, such as the ability to adjust your control setup and graphical configuration. These functions are all handled by the game's launcher, so you have to exit the game and then relaunch to make any changes. The game does all this with short load times and very little fanfare, but it's still a pretty clumsy setup.

Otherwise, MotoGP 2 is a detailed 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 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. Other modes include time trials to polish your cornering lines on the tracks and a slew of multiplayer modes.

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. At the end of each series, you can choose to go back and race on any of the previous tracks again or complete any challenges you may have missed to improve your attributes, or you can move on to the next season.

The Xbox version of the game has a control scheme that creates a very compelling and accurate simulation of the control of Grand Prix race bikes--but this is another area in which the PC version falls short. 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, since nearly every function on that controller is analog. But few such controllers exist for the PC, and digital control of your throttle and brakes in particular can create some serious problems. If you've got a gamepad with analog sticks, you can at least assign one of them to the throttle, but you'll have less control over your bike overall, especially when it comes to pulling off advanced techniques, such as powerslides and burnouts.When riding a motorcycle, going from nothing to wide-open throttle and locking your brakes are good ways to compromise the traction of one or both of your tires, which in turn is a good way to ensure that your rider spends a lot of time on the ground. While this problem can be alleviated somewhat if you set the game's scaleable "simulation" setting at 0 percent, the game is nearly unplayable at any other setting, especially in wet weather--this can be particularly frustrating, especially for beginners.

While the computer-controlled AI provides a lasting challenge for players, the most enjoyable competition is another human. The PC version of MotoGP 2 features a multiplayer component, but it wasn't handled very well. The game supports both LAN and online play, but you can use the in-game server browser only for local network games. Online games require you to provide the IP address of the server you're trying to connect to--there's no internal server browser, so you'll most likely have to turn to a third-party application. Beyond that, the multiplayer experience is functional, and servers can take on up to 16 players. The game features a multitude of multiplayer modes, and a number of them are quite fun. Championship and quick race are simply races for the checkered flag, while the stunt mode forces you to compete for a high score by performing wheelies and burnouts and knocking competitors off their bikes. The tag mode has players competing for ownership of sections of the track by trying to complete those sections in the shortest time. 

 At least MotoGP 2 features some very good production values. All 16 tracks were impeccably re-created for the game, and the weather effects, such sunlight glaring off the smooth track surface or rain spattering on your visor as you dive into a corner behind a pack of other riders, are enjoyable no matter how many times you see them. The bikes and riders are made of a large number of polygons, and they closely resemble their real-world counterparts. The animations of riders leaning hard into corners, tucking behind the windscreen, or glancing back as they pass are all well done, as are the subtler animations such as throttle manipulation and shifting gears. The sound is pleasing as well, from the nasal scream of the two-stroke bikes to the roar of the four-stroke bikes. The sounds of plastic bodywork hitting and sliding against the tarmac and the wave of cheers as you pass through the grandstands are very convincing. The soundtrack consists of rock tracks from artists such as V8 Pack, Third Girl, and Darrin Roggenkamp, but if this isn't to your liking, MotoGP 2 supports custom soundtracks. For the most part, it seems that MotoGP 2's graphics and sound were ported over directly from the Xbox version, but the game still looks and sounds quite good.

In the end, MotoGP 2 for the PC falls short of its potential. If the developer had spent more time refining the control scheme and graphics to make better use of PC hardware and had added more functionality to the game's menus and multiplayer options, the PC version of MotoGP 2 could have been as good as the Xbox version. To its credit, the game is selling at a budget price, but as it stands, MotoGP 2 for the PC is a simple port that lacks good multiplayer and in-game options, and doesn't re-create the highly functional and rewarding control scheme of the original console game.  


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