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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Moto GP (Namco-Bandai for PSP)

By Michael Palisano

Namco-Bandai's excellent Moto GP brings the professional motorcycle racing circuit to the palm of your hand in an accessible, challenging title with multiple modes of play, solid controls plus a good selection of courses and bikes. The game offers both arcade style and deeper season modes, along with time trial and online racing. From a visual standpoint, the game looks good with an excellent frame rate and good modeling. While it doesn't offer as many extras as you would like, the unlockables are still decent, making this a solid package for motorcycle fans.

Moto GP is one of the better-produced and more intense racing titles on the PSP to date, making the player feel like they are literally in the driver's seat. The game's adrenaline charged gameplay is quite intense and challenging. There are more than a dozen real-world tracks taken from the actual 2005 season included here, with each modeled and laid out exactly as their real world counterparts are. Each course offers a surprising amount of challenge with long straight-aways, tight curves and corners that will test your racing skills. Learning when to brake, using the proper turn angle and using the racing lines are critical if you want to succeed in the game. You need to be on the lookout for devastating turns, and brake accordingly or else you'll crash and lose precious time. While you can get away with taking the shortcuts over grass in some of the arcade modes, you are severely penalized, and even disqualified if you do this in the time trial or season mode. You definitely need to master and memorize each course, which takes some practice, but this pays off once you learn to anticipate turns and corners. You'll also have to look out for rival drivers, who can be surprisingly aggressive at the later stages and leave you with very little room for error.

Moto GP's controls and interface are easy to understand and allow players to have a great deal of precision when turning, which is one of the key areas to success in the game. The main function of steering uses either the analog or digital controller and which one is more effective depends on your preference. While the analog offers greater accuracy in terms of its precision, novice players should find the simpler digital cross pad a bit easier to use. No matter which one you choose, you still have to contend with the bike's physics, which are realistic enough to add to the challenge, but not excessively so that it ends up detracting from the entertainment. Braking and acceleration are also easy to understand, and you need to know when to speed up and when to slow down. Mastering the art of turning into corners, and learning to balance your bike in spins isn't always the easiest things, and its always tempting to press down hard on the accelerator during the straight-aways. However, this approach can lead to disaster if you don't properly look ahead and find yourself turning too late at the end of one. A few major crashes should teach you a bit of self-control, and once you get into the game's flow, it becomes easier to time your braking and turning.

Other on-track strategies play a key role in your success or failure. Some of these skills, such as successfully drifting through the turns are more subtle and definitely takes some practice to master. It's worth it since you get the hang of it, races become much easier. As you progress and gain experience, Moto GP becomes a much more enjoyable, less frustrating experience. You can choose multiple camera views which range from behind the bike to a first person perspective. The behind angles are much preferred in this instance, since the first person angle makes it hard to judge where you are and anticipate turns, at least until you get the feel of the game down. Moto GP's overall feel is pretty solid and the bikes feel like they should on the track. They all share similar characteristics, though the handling of each depends largely on which one you choose before the race. Picking a bike with strong handling makes turning easier but costs you in speed while the faster bikes offer more speed but are harder to controls. Finding a balanced bike that suits your racing style is one of the more challenging aspects of the game.

The game includes multiple modes of play offering players the opportunity to race against real-world competitors and legends on actual motorbikes. Players can choose to compete in simple arcade style rounds, where the objective is simple, though you can only play a single round. You can also practice your technique and racing skills using the time trial mode, which allows you to race multiple laps as you try and shave those precious seconds off your time. There's also an extensive season mode which allows you to compete in a series of races throughout the world in an attempt to win the championship crown. Moto GP also includes a wireless mode that allows you to compete against other players via the PSP's ad-hoc connection. Finally, once you have completed certain challenges, you can race One-on-One against some of the legendary riders. If you win, you can unlock that rider and use them later in the game. All of these various game modes add plenty of depth and give this portable title a surprising amount of depth and replay value.

From a visual standpoint, Moto GP's graphics engine delivers a solidly engaging experience. The courses offered in the game offer a remarkable degree of realism and show a great deal of polish. Moto GP runs at a smooth frame-rate throughout, offering a great sensation of speed, especially in its first-person mode. It has a somewhat dry presentation in terms of menu and HUD design, but it more than compensates with an impressive level of detail in the bikes and track side objects that makes for a realistic, engaging experience. Moto GP's bike models are impressive, and the many real-world manufacturers and drivers lend the game an impressive authenticity. Its sound effects are decent, with the engines roaring throughout, and a driving rock soundtrack that compliments the action perfectly. While it won't win any awards for originality, Moto GP's presentation is excellent and uses the PSP's processing power effectively to create an intense racing experience.

Moto GP's visuals are decent, but the gameplay will keep players coming back. The game's mixture of arcade style and deeper simulation elements makes for an excellent racer with plenty of depth. The arcade-oriented racing sections of Moto GP are fairly exciting and offer players a way to jump right into the action. Those who want to go deeper can try the more elaborate multi-race modes which aren't as forgiving but offers more in the way of depth and additional challenge. The AI is sophisticated enough to make a decent challenge, but the gameplay is never overly frustrating or annoying. Overall, the game offers a decent balance between the two styles of play. Moto GP is a solid racer that offers some solid gameplay with excellent play mechanics, realistic controls and realistic physics to create an enjoyable bike racing title with more than enough modes, extras and features to satisfy gamers.

Grade: B

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