• The problem facing Climax with it’s first ‘next-gen’ outing is that it’s previous game, MotoGP 3 was about as complete a racing game as was possible. Despite being on now outdated hardware, the third in the series sported 16 players over Live, two completely different modes (Grand Prix and Extreme) and some wonderful graphics. So what could possibly be added for the 360 version?

    Well, here’s the crux: very little. Climax have publicly stated on a number of forums that they were rushed on this one, and that it’s essentially a port of the Xbox version, and such comments would seem to ring true: online is still 16 players, Grand Prix and Extreme are still here (and featuring most of the same tracks) and the graphics, at first glance, look very similar. Thankfully, though, there’s just enough new to make 2-wheeled racing fans go weak at the knees and hopefully open their wallets.

    MotoGP 2006

    Firstly, beyond the odd frame rate hiccup and screen tearing (presumably a casualty of trying to get the game running at 60fps) in high definition there’s a clear difference in the detail that’s gone into the bikes and their riders – the liveries still look a little blocky and low resolution but the sheer amount of polygons being thrown around is incredible, and this is bolstered by some wonderful animation of your on-screen biker as he reacts to every bump, corner and crash you force him in to. In short, MotoGP 06’s racers look real, and that’s about as good a compliment as you can give.

    Sadly, it’s not all roses aesthetically – the behind-the-visor cam suffers from sub Xbox level textures, the dials don’t move and the shadows cast across the metal look artificial to the point of being off-putting (PGR3 this is not), and most of the camera angles are far too low to the ground meaning those not familiar with the courses will have to result in the single chase cam that actually shows enough of the road ahead to be able to take corners. Despite the directional arrow returning that highlights the upcoming bends there’s still not enough warning for beginners and gamers not used to the way MotoGP leans towards simulation-style handling will be losing every race for a couple of hours.

    There’s something of a training mode however, and time here getting used to the handling is well spent because once you’re in the zone, however, and you’ve gotten used to taking corners correctly – preparing for the apex and leaning in at the precise time, MotoGP soars. It’s an incredible achievement to win a race on anything but the Rookie level, succeeding on the highest level means you truly are one with the machine and the feeling from making a perfect lap can’t be beaten (and really should come with its own achievement). Sure, the learning curve is steep, but unlike a lot of games, in MotoGP it always feels worth it in the end.

    The Career mode takes you through the standard ‘classic’ Grand Prix of 17 tracks at your chosen difficulty setting with an RPG-lite style of upgrading your character with points won from races, but the better Extreme mode is locked until you’ve completed Grand Prix (but oddly is available from the outset in multiplayer) which is where the real fun lies – faster bikes, performance upgrades and street tracks offers a completely new challenge and again, something of a learning curve. The 1200 CC Extreme bikes are fantastically fast and make us want for bike/car races in Test Drive Unlimited even more.

    Multiplayer is quite generous – non-Live enabled friends can join in your Live games via split screen (hang your head in shame, Top Spin 2) and system link is also catered for, something of a rarity these days. Live play is smooth and fast, but as with all games of this ilk, your enjoyment depends greatly on who else is playing – stick with friends or otherwise maturely minded folks, and you’ll be fine. One frustration throughout the game is the load times – loading between menus, nasty pauses before the races – Climax certainly aren’t using the hard drive particularly well, if at all. Restarting a race is instant, however, which is a nice touch if you make a mistake on the last corner.

    So, 06 is basically a next-gen port of MotoGP 3. The graphics are better, the sound’s been overhauled (with different noises for each bike, finally) but there’s little here that wasn’t in the previous game. We’re sure there’s going to be another MotoGP in the near future, perhaps with a longer gestation period, but the short term those wanting their fix of 2-wheeled motor sport need look no further. Those alienated by earlier games in the series would do better to keep clear, and 06 is perhaps even less user-friendly than ever before.

    Score: 7/10

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