NEWS - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

MotoGP ’07 Update

In day dreams, my motorcycle laps the competition and the crowd - watching eagerly from the sidelines - offers thunderous ovations. In reality, I would likely only hear myself repeating the mantra, "Please God, don’t let me die" as the crowd chokes on my exhaust. With MotoGP ’07, I get both. As I barely manage to save myself from skidding out on a turn, the assembled crowd shows its appreciation for my skill with exuberant applause. I hear both my internal prayers and the adulation of my adoring public. That’s one of the small new tweaks added for this year’s edition of MotoGP. Developer Climax wanted to add a few pieces of flair to the MotoGP experience, by surrounding tracks with crowds (in strategic locations) and adding new touches to the environment. The sky, which has always been gorgeous in this series, is even prettier this year. If the skyline was Megan Fox last year, this year it’s Megan Fox with lipstick. Hot damn! After digging into the new MotoGP for a few hours, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be the year for major improvements. Longtime MotoGP developer Climax was bought by Disney a few months back, making this their final pass at the series. Rather than reinventing the two wheels, Climax is instead adding some polish and a touch more depth to an already solid game. If you played MotoGP ’06, you’ll be instantly familiar with the majority of the tracks in ’07. From my first few hours of play, I didn’t encounter any new tracks. At the same time, none of last year’s offerings have been removed (or ruined with unnecessary alterations). The Extreme Tracks are back as well. If you didn’t play ’06, the "Extreme" elements take you off traditional raceways and onto less conventional roadways. You’ll race in the wilderness of the Autubahn and through the desert of Qatar. For those new to MotoGP, this will be an exhilarating experience - probably more thrilling than speeding down the professional tracks. For those who are longtime MotoGP fans, well, at least they have those cool Extreme tracks back again. One of chief changes to ’07 is added depth to the tuning features. While you won’t be swapping parts a la Forza Motorsport, you will have far greater control of how your bike performs before ever hitting the track. You can adjust front and rear tire compound, gear ratios, front and rear suspension hardness, and the wheelbase (for more responsive steering). While the new tuning options should satisfy gearheads, us casual race fans get a necessary tweak to gameplay. Some of the changes are subtle, and might not be noticed without hopping back to last year’s model for comparison. The racing difficulty has been softened just a tad. Though MotoGP has always offered the most realistic motorcycle experience around, some wipeouts on turns felt a tad suspect. In ’07, the turning feels a bit more reasonable. And if you get squirrelly, you’ll know it as your bike will fishtail as a warning. This is sort of like Spider-Sense for your bike. But more importantly, it lets you know how effectively you are turning. Just because you avoid a wipeout on a bend, doesn’t mean you are maximizing your efficiency. The fishtail is a bit of a wakeup call to adjust your speed and positioning in turns. You can race against up to 15 other players through System Link or Xbox Live (or four players in split-screen offline). Along with your standard race modes (Quick Race, Championship, Grand Prix, Qualify), MotoGP ’07 also features Tag Mode and Stunt Mode. Tag Mode is going to be where it’s at for many, as it puts an urgency on catching up with the leader - yes, even more so than a regular race. And if none of this sounds appealing, you can create your own custom mode. This allows you to select the scoring type (Championship, Qualify, Tag, or Stunt), grid position, collision level, and sim setting. So if you want to build out your own version of Road Rash online, you can to a small extent. The Achievements in MotoGP ’07 are fairly standard. Of the 50, the majority are based on beating the various modes in multiple difficulties. A few others have snuck onto the list, including Pink Slip Racer (complete 10 Pink Slip races), Safe Rider (complete a race without crashing), and several bike collection Achievements. MotoGP’07, set for release in early August, is not likely to deliver a heavy set of changes over last year’s game. But the minor tweaks and new additions we’ve seen look to make it a better game. And hey, last year’s offering wasn’t half bad, so getting an even better iteration should please moto racing fans everywhere.

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