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Moto GP 06 (THQ for Xbox 360)

By Michael Palisano

Bringing the excitement and adrenaline rush of motorcycle racing to Xbox 360, Climax and THQ's excellent Moto GP 06 is an outstanding racing title. The game's accessible controls, smooth responsive feel and excellent selection of tracks make this an addictive racer with high replay value. The game offers both real-world and street courses, each of which presents a multitude of challenges. From a visual standpoint, the game offers a tremendous sense of speed, with dizzying camera angles that make you feel like you're right in the seat of the bike. Moto GP 06's online modes are also robust, giving the player a complete package that should satisfy their need for speed.

While THQ's Moto GP series has been around for a couple of years now on various consoles, with a competing series from Namco, the newest version on Xbox 360 sees the series coming into its own as a robust, exciting title that offers an intense, arcade style experience that offers a surprising amount of depth and plenty of slick production polish. There are plenty of options for players looking for either a quick run or a deeper experience. As you begin the game, you'll see a number of options including quick race, career, championship, online and Moto GP modes. The Quick race mode allows you to jump right into the action, selecting a bike and track right away. In this mode, you are given a selection of 17 official Moto GP tracks, each of which unlocks additional Extreme Race class tracks when completed. Going through this mode allows you to unlock a significant portion of the game quickly and painlessly, opening up a ton of tracks to play. Players can also choose to practice each track, and can also choose to go deeper in the Career mode. Here, you can race a full season in either the Grand Prix or Street mode. As you complete each race, you'll earn points, unlock additional bikes and more. These points can be used to add to your racer's attributes, giving them enhanced abilities and skill. You can also choose to race through a Championship mode, where you are ranked based on your finishing position, and can claim the trophy when you have completed your racing. When you are in the championship mode, each race is divided into several sections during what is called a Grand Prix weekend mode. You can start by completing challenges, which are short mini-games which test your skill and accuracy. After this you can race on Qualification day, where your rank and starting position for the race is decided. You can also choose to Practice the track on another day. After you have completed these steps, you are then ready for the big race, where it's pedal to the metal and a pure speed rush from start to finish.

For the casual gamer, it might seem like a little bit much to sit through all the races in a single sitting, you can save your progress after any race. Moto GP 06 also lets you go deeper by selecting a number of tournament modes which allow you to race through a complete season against other Moto GP drivers, for an intense, long-lasting experience. As you'd expect, the game supports Xbox Live feverishly, and this is where Moto GP 06's polish and accessibility really comes into play. There are also a number of online modes, which allow you to race against up to 16 players online as well. Within these race modes, there are different classes of bikes and tracks to unlock, divided into racing type, courses and different bikes. Players can select from a number of different bikes before each round, each of which offers a different degree of handling and acceleration. Moto GP 06 includes many real world competitors, with each racer performing as their real-world counterparts would, along with a full compliment of officially licensed bikes, parts and tracks. Between races, you can also look through and customize your collection of bikes in Moto GP's Workshop mode. Here, you can also purchase additional bikes and parts using the points you have earned as well. This gives the game a great deal of authenticity and realism, but the developers at Climax haven't gone overboard with the realism and have instead opted to make a more accessible, almost arcade-style racing title.

One of the best aspects of Moto GP is its instant accessibility. You can jump right in and get on the track quickly and effectively without having to read the manual. This is especially true in quick mode, where the arcade style physics allow you to very quickly jump into the action. Of course, there are some techniques that you need to master beforehand, with the timing of turning and drifting the most essential skills. The track layouts in Moto GP 06 are superb, and let you perform a variety of maneuvers quickly and effortlessly. The game offers a number of turns, ranging from hairpins to subtle gradations in angle, which allow the player to battle effectively. Moving your bike around the track is effective, and while you have to watch out for the angle when you lean into a turn, the game is far more forgiving than you'd expect it to be, which lets you enjoy the ride. One of the best aspects of the game is its sense of realism and simple physics, which isn't exaggerated so it doesn't feel phony. This balance isn't overly realistic, either. This isn't one of those motorcycle games where find yourself constantly spinning of the course and crashing. This is a problem with some of the more simulation-oriented titles, with Tourist Trophy on the PS2 a prime example the frustration caused by this problematic approach. In addition to the speed and angle of your bike, one of the most important things you need to be aware of is the other riders, since colliding with them makes you crash almost instantly. The game's controls are very easy to learn, and are incredibly responsive, making Moto GP an absolute joy to play, with an addictive feel that makes the replay value surprisingly high.

Adding to Moto GP 06's appeal are its beautifully rendered visuals and production polish which is second to none in the genre to date. The modeling of each bike is robustly detailed, and they look fantastic on the track. The game offers a significant level of detail in its tracks as well, with each showcasing a remarkable polish. Light sourcing is used lavishly throughout the game, especially in the candy-colored, vibrant Extreme levels, where the game seems to jump right off the screen. A consistent frame rate is applied throughout and Moto GP achieves a convincing sense of speed and intensity that makes the gameplay even more addictive. One of the most exciting aspects of the game are its tilting camera angles, which makes the entire perspective change as you move the bike. This titling motion allows you to feel a sense of gravity as you lean into curves, and makes you feel like you're literally sitting on the bike. This is a really awesome feature, and makes for a dizzying ride, especially in first-person perspectives. If this is too much for you to handle, you can always switch to a more standard chasing viewpoint. The action is complimented by a driving, intense techno soundtrack which compliments the action perfectly. Moto GP 06's production values are superb, and this highly-polished racer doesn't disappoint, with excellent graphics that truly showcase the Xbox 360's processing power.

The recent trend of many recent games is to try and achieve a full on simulation of a sport, which has its drawbacks. Usually, by the time you're done learning the picky controls, going through the endless license tests and tweaks, you're so bored you forget to have fun. On the opposing end of the spectrum, Moto GP 06 sets out to create an adrenaline pumping, all-on racing experience that strips things down to their essence. Instantly accessible controls, responsive vehicles, beautifully rendered courses and a dizzying tilt camera angles make Moto GP 06 offer sheer fun, without worrying about the details. While there are some deeper career and tournament modes, the game succeeds in its primary objective of giving players an immediate speed rush without punishing them mercilessly for small mistakes. This approach makes the game immediately appealing, and extends its replay value making it perfect for those times when you want a quick racing title. It's highly polished production values only add to its appeal. These elements combine seamlessly to make Moto GP 06 one of the most enjoyable Xbox 360 racing title released to date and a solid step forward into the next generation for all racing fans.

Grade: A

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