Over the past year, I’ve become oddly familiar with simulation racers and have discovered that I have a certain respect for the genre even though it’s not one of my favorites. Despite not being huge on racing as a sport, I can respect how racing sims show a dedication to the experience and its fans – something that is nearly unrivalled in other sports games. However, the work put towards reliving a season’s best moments doesn’t do enough to draw attention away from how similar many of the genre’s efforts can feel. This is the trap that MotoGP 14 falls into most of the time.
Although developer Milestone has plenty of experience working with the series, MotoGP 14 doesn’t do much different from other racing sims, and while it offers a notable amount of gameplay modes, few of them are interesting enough to provide any longevity.
The core gameplay will be strikingly familiar for fans of the genre, featuring tight controls that require much more finesse than arcade racers, tougher courses built around tight, crowded turns and a heavy focus on precision and control over outright speed. Assistance comes in the form of trajectory lines guiding you through the course with indicators for when to brake, a rewind feature that allows you to get a free do-over when you inevitably rocket off of your bike and the ability to toggle other features as you please, including steering, transmission and braking. Is this starting to sound familiar yet?
If you’ve gone anywhere near a racing sim in the past few years, then MotoGP 14 will be easy to pick up and play, although the bike physics can take a bit of time to get used to due to their inconsistency. While bikes realistically tilt to insane degrees with each corner, some turns will have your helmet scraping the asphalt with nary a waver while others will fling you off your bike if you dare to barely press the gas. These problematic issues are exacerbated in online play, but we’ll get to that mess in a bit.
Despite the appearance of variety on the surface, MotoGP 14 merely presents the same gameplay in multiple modes that don’t do much to stand out on their own. Standard Instant Race and Grand Prix modes allow for instant play, with Grand Prix allowing you to pick which of the 18 tracks you’ll tear up with either an established or custom rider. Instant Race provides a great way to literally pick up and play, but it won’t do much for experienced fans of the series. Championships don’t offer much more than Grand Prix mode, although the option does allow you to choose anywhere from 3-20 tracks to race on in any order you’d like.
The Career mode is where most players will begin, and if you’re new to the series, this is definitely the best introduction. Starting out as the wild card in the Moto 3 tier, you’ll guide your custom driver through each tier until you eventually become the Mot0GP World Champion. Customization for your biker isn’t incredibly deep, but it did let me create 16-year-old Kenyan biker Gulliver Targus (nickname Fergie), whose pink boots struck fear into the competition at every race, so unless you came into the game expecting BioWare levels of creativity, you’ll be satisfied.
Career mode works simply because it manages to introduce its mechanics through natural progression, allowing players to get the hang of things in the slower, more methodical Moto 3 races before unleashing more powerful bikes and more intense races. Even though MotoGP 14 takes a lesson from other racing sims and doesn’t do much to ease genre newcomers into the experience, Career mode is the closest it gets to being accessible for gamers of any skill level.
Admittedly, the Real Events 2013 and Challenge the Champions modes come alive more than the others by tasking you with reliving spectacular moments from either the 2013 season or the sport’s general history, or even completely rewriting past triumphs. Even if the rest of the game is a bit of letdown to fans of the sport, it’s hard not to recommend these two modes to anyone who is interested in MotoGP, especially when few other sports games craft iconic moments with such dedication.
Time Attack rears its head and adds nothing new, while Safety Car Mode rounds out the extensive list of modes with an interesting but overall boring experience. Driving the safety car around the empty track serves more as a novelty than anything else, eschewing the chance to rescue crashed racers for yet another mode full of driving in mindless circles.
Even though Milestone offers a ton of modes to check out, the core gameplay never changes between any of them, so with the exception of a few, many of them are too similar to be any fun on their own. While the Career mode will offer a few hours of enjoyment and Real Events offers a vicarious rush, multiplayer is where MotoGP 14 gets truly interesting.
Remember how I called online play a mess earlier? I’m not retracting that statement, because the fact that it’s such a glitchy mess makes it an absolute blast to play. In every race I played online, connectivity issues would cause racers to fly through the air erratically while their bikes steadily raced on, causing some drivers to be flung into me at full speed while their bikes lay sadly on the track and others to drift into space, leaving an empty bike to finish for them. Sometimes that would even happen to me, with my body getting flung down the track before my bike even moved. As infuriating as some of these bugs are, it’s a hilarious experience to share.
MotoGP 14 also marks the series’ debut on the PS4, and what a disappointing debut it is. The graphics and overall visual presentation pale in comparison to some PS3 titles, with audiences being represented as pixelated masses and bikes being rendered in detail that hardly shows off what the more powerful PS4 can do. The audio is incredibly lacklustre, offering a handful of boring songs for menus before disappearing completely in races. Remember when licensed sports games used to have awesome soundtracks that would get you pumped up and ready to dive into the action? That’s been replaced with background music that doesn’t make any impact whatsoever.
It’s impossible to recommend MotoGP 14 to anybody but the most diehard fans of the sport, especially when the game carries a full $60 price tag. The barrier for entry matches other racing sims, making it hard to get into if you don’t already enjoy the genre, and only those who love the sport will find much enjoyment in the repetitive gameplay and admittedly creative Real Events and Challenge the Champions modes. It’s a lacklustre addition to the PS4 library, but diehards will find some enjoyment in the pure, unadulterated racing.
This review was based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game given to us for review purposes.