Now in its fourth instalment Namcos MotoGP4 brings the 2004 MotoGP series to PS2 for some more two-wheeled racing action taking place across the three classes of 125cc, 250cc and finally MotoGP machines. The courses and riders from the 2004 series have been recreated here but have the thrills and speed of the sport made it across too?
Read on, and we shall see.
First time players of the series or those who traditionally stick to the four-wheeled racers out there may initially want to venture into MotoGP4s training mode. Accessible via the games tidy front end menus the training mode will allow players to get to grips with the handling of the bikes and basic controls before moving onto the more advanced lessons.
As the way that motorbikes handle, which is portrayed realistically here differs from the handling of other road vehicles the training mode is very welcome. The lessons take place in the form of simple tests of increasing difficulty which must be completed to within well thought out time limits.
When you are ready to enter the games main 'season' mode you have the option to customise your riders name, gender and the graphics on their helmet before the racing season begins, you will then race it out against a full field of twenty A.I opponents across sixteen stages to see who is the motorbike king for that season and class of bike.
You can take your bike for a free run around the course and then race a qualifying lap in order to improve your standing on the starting grid should you so wish or just jump straight into the race but start in last place, this doesn't really matter as its perfectly possible to win from last place over the duration of enough laps so grinding through a qualifier before each race is not necessary if you don't want to do it and don't mind the challenge of trying to win from the back of the grid. The starting line up will be shown while the race loads making good use of the loading screen.
As you race you will need to take care not to collide with anything at too great a speed as this can send you flying off your bike and cost you valuable time, comically the A.I opposition aren't the steadiest of riders and will sometimes come flying out of their seat for no easily discernable reason as if their bikes seat was spring loaded, sometimes this will happen down a perfectly straight section of the track adding to the comic value.
The handling of the motorbikes is portrayed realistically and good use is made of the analogue buttons on the PS2 controller for acceleration and braking, exactly how hard you are pressing the accelerator or brakes is shown on a bar graph at the bottom of the screen should you choose to display it as like all the elements of the in-game HUD, which is presented in the style of the overlay graphics used in televised racing this can be toggled on and off as you wish.
These days of course it seems almost mandatory for any racing game to allow the vehicles to be upgraded by the player, rather than follow the herd and have you purchase upgrades for your bike MotoGP4 has you test out the upgrade parts and will let you keep them should the test be successful, for example you may receive a message from your racing team that some new brakes are available for your bike, you will then put the new brakes through their paces by attempting to bring the bike to a halt in a designated area within a set time, should you do it you will keep the upgraded parts and should you fail your racing team will reason that the parts are not a good idea and put the bike back the way it was before.
This is a good way of dishing out new parts to the player and ensures that some skill is required in their acquisition rather than just having the player buy the parts.
Even though it isn't required for upgrades the game does have an in game currency, this you will earn as you qualify for and win races and then spend on unlocking extra courses and many more motorbikes and riders from the MotoGP series.
Graphically it seems that the majority of the attention has gone in the bikes themselves, all are well modelled and shine realistically. The bikes suspension can be seen to be working should you leave the track and in a nice touch the tyres will get covered in mud when you go off track which will wear off when you return to the road. The riders are also perfectly well done and will turn their heads around if in danger of being overtaken or should the player use the look-behind button.
The racing circuits do not seem to have been designed with the same attention to detail, you can sometimes see how the grass and track textures repeat themselves which detracts from the realism. A bit of bump mapping in the surroundings would have been welcome as the environment looks very flat.
Aside from the main season mode you can play on the obligatory Time Trial ans single race modes or take your racing skills to human opposition via the supported LAN games and USB headsets.
MotoGP4 is a solid and realistic simulation, featuring all the courses and riders from the 2004 MotoGP series. While the detail on the courses may look a bit dated now this doesn't detract from the action at all. Racing against twenty opponents when the majority of racing games feature about half that figure or less makes it seem more exciting, especially if you are racing up from the rear of the grid.
Although the races can get a bit samey after a while they are still good fun to play, you will find yourself wanting to push on to see then next class of bike or to try the next upgrade test.
Fans of the MotoGP series will be right at home here, casual fans of bike racing may want to rent this one as theres not much to keep you coming back once you have beaten the game.