STAFF REVIEW of Valentino Rossi: The Game (Xbox One)

Friday, August 26, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Valentino Rossi: The Game Box art For those that may or may not know, I'm an avid racing fanatic and I honestly can't get enough. From F1, to WRC, to MotoGP, and GT, if it has an engine and tires, I'm interested. Over the years there has been a tremendous leap forward when it comes to the development of car racing on the Xbox platform, but sadly I haven't seen the same quality leap for motorcycle racing. Recently developer Milestone S.r.l has come out with Valentino Rossi: The Game, which not only hopes to revitalize the MotoGP racing genre, but also show gamers that you don't need a AAA budget to put together a quality racing title. Ambitious goals, but do they actually achieve them? Grab your helmet and keys because the ride is on.

Starting on your adventure you'll want to customize your rider. Some may overlook this feature and just skip right into the meat of racing, but customizing unlocks achievements down the road, so just spend a few minutes to go over the limited selection in front of you. Sure, you can switch up your nickname and number, but remember, the customization options are purely cosmetic so there's no real reason to spend any sort of in-game currency unless you really want to unlock a certain helmet, pair of boots, gloves, etc. Once you have completed your customization you're whisked away into the beginning of a lengthy career path, and that's when you start to notice how this game is rapidly growing into a quality racing simulator.

During the career mode you'll experience the race calendar along with various options such as email and the "feed" on the right hand side where the game tries it's best to compliment you on your racing. Other options are also available, but I found myself focused on getting through the career of races so the rest of the "fluff" that comes packaged in the career became irrelevant very rapidly. Starting off though, Valentino Rossi: The Game sticks you on a flat dirt track where you start to get a feel for the physics and handling of the game as you progress you work your way up to the powerful MotoGP bikes. I was actually very thankful for this because the more powerful virtual motorbikes stretch the new physics engine to the breaking point. I say new because it's new to the game; however, the physics engine itself feels dated and it isn't the the most responsive one I have experienced.

Outside of the career mode though, Valentino Rossi: The Game offers other game types such as split screen and online multiplayer, time trials, historic events within Valentino's career, and more. I tip my cap to the developers because it's clear that they want to give gamers a plethora of content to choose from instead of just giving a bare bones single player career, a bit of online content, then slap a full retail priced sticker on the box and say "here you go". While this is great on the surface, there are some issues that should be noted. For example, multiplayer matches are almost impossible to find in all my time trying. That being said, I think that once the bugs get ironed out, and the quality improves with a hopefully new title next year, we will see the market share grow for this genre of racing.

Now I have to admit I am not the best when it comes to controlling bikes at high speed; virtually speaking of course. Gone are the times of kicking on the E brake and power sliding through a corner, as now I'm faced with knees to the pavement and getting the angle of my lean just right so I don't go flying across the track flat on my back. Thankfully there are a multitude of options to adjust on the fly, which also includes your riding position to help you stay on your bike. Being that this is a simulator and not arcade racer, you can't expect to take a hairpin turn at 110 mph and expect to just bounce off the sides and be ok. Not only will you have to balance your throttle response, but you'll also have to focus on your body weight position and figuring how much to use front and rear brakes if you want to avoid becoming a stain on the tarmac. And yes, in other racing games there are far more options to adjust, but the fact that you even get some options to adjust is a positive. I do recommend that you take a few minutes to check out the control options and become familiar with not just the bike controls, but the car ones as well. Yes, you heard me correctly. Cars are now in Valentino Rossi: The Game.

This is where things get really interesting because normally it would just be a slag of GP bikes and a boring career and multiplayer matches that no one ever plays anyway, but not this title. You're given a chance to experience the thrill of drift and rally racing as well which is a nice change from straight motorbike races. These additions really help give this game more value by adding more content. The steering however could use some improvement in the handling aspect, so you may find yourself hitting the LB to instigate a rewind, because I guarantee you that the learning curve of this physics engine is up there, and not because of its realism, but because of its age. Sadly, the physics engine isn't the only aged beauty of this game, as that honor falls into the graphics department as well.

The key to a good racing experience is a fluid frame rate, unfortunately this isn't the case here. Valentino Rossi: The Game tries to be as smooth as glass, but the last generation graphics lag and drop the framerate to almost a still picture now and then. Hopefully there will be a patch that can smooth things out, but as of right now these instances can be quite frustrating as you find yourself in the middle of balancing for a turn and then the screen jutters and lags, only to lurch forward after skipping a few frames as it catches up to the animation where hopefully you're still in control of your bike. Normally at this point I would also address the quality of the soundtrack of the game, but it is incredibly flat and uninteresting, so let's move on. I understand the theory that the developers were going with; however, they had far better technology at their disposal. Even though it may have delayed the game while adjusting to the new technology, the game would have been far superior than what we are witnessing today.

I have to say that Valentino Rossi: The Game was quite a surprise for me. I went into this game with low expectations given the sad history of the downward spiral of quality MotoGP games as a whole, but I walked away having enjoyed it more than I expected. Sure, it has some noticeable issues now and then, but they don't always kill the game's fun factor. In the end, if you're a fan of motorbike bike racing, or the MotoGP series as a whole, then you're in for a fairly decent game, just don't expect a perfect racing experience.

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.7 / 10


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