2020 is a strange year for a host of reasons, with disruption and change felt across all walks of like. MotoGP fans, for example, haven't seen a lick of action bar pre-season testing and a solitary round for Moto2 and Moto3. Ordinarily, the year's official game comes when the season is in full swing, but this year isn't like any other year.
And so, MotoGP 20 is here, to give us at least a digital fix of our favorite two-wheeled motorsport, with this season's riders, liveries, and circuits, including the new Finland GP. Now more than ever, it's the game we need.
Pop a wheelie
Bottom line: There are some rough edges but MotoGP's latest incarnation feels fantastic to play and packed with the content we need right now.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Frame rate priority mode
- Official bikes, riders, circuits, and historic racers
- Frequent challenges
- Dedicated servers
- Noticeable rough edges in races with frame rate mode on
- Random frame rate drops
- Could use a tutorial mode
Almost like being at the real thing
Carrying the license for a series like MotoGP comes with a fair weight on its shoulders, because fans will expect the very best. It's fair to say that hasn't always been the case, but MotoGP 20 feels as close to the experience of the real thing as the F1 games by Codemasters have become to its on real life counterpart.
At its core the structure remains familiar and true to life. You have a single-player career mode that allows you to play through the respective series on the package with the end goal being to become the MotoGP World Champion. And lets face it, if you can beat even a virtual Marc Marquez you're deserving of that title.
What the license does bring is amazing looking bikes and circuits, all of which are stunning digital recreations, including the latest addition to the calendar in Finland. I can only speak from experience having visited three of the circuits in real life, but Assen in particular is a remarkably good representation of the actual circuit. And when the weather changes, that's pretty accurate too.
MotoGP 20 also has a pretty solid photo mode to capture your efforts in the middle of looking heroic at 200mph or hanging off the side of a motorcycle, and before each race the official UK commentator, Keith Huewen, lends some authenticity. Every inch of the presentation makes you feel like you're immersing yourself in the real deal. And all the bikes sound different and have different little quirks, just as they do in real life.
The visuals are glorious and there's a top notch photo mode, too.
The visuals are glorious then, but they can also be sacrificed in pursuit of a higher frame rate. The difference is noticeable in both cases, and since the game doesn't hit 4K resolution anyway on Xbox One X, frame rate wins for me every time. When you're circling doing practice or qualifying laps you probably won't notice much difference in the quality of the graphics, but when you're in a 32 bike Moto3 race you will.
When you're prioritising frame rate in a race like this the visuals definitely take a hit and the game starts to look rough around the edges. There are plenty of jagged edges and things just seem less clear. In the heat of battle it's fine, but if you start to look for it you'll notice it pretty easily. More importantly though the frame rate seems to hold true. In fact so far the frame rate issues I've experienced have all been within the cut scenes, and while they're jarring, it doesn't mean you'll miss an apex.
Like learning to ride a bike
Bike racing is very different to car racing, and it's also a lot easier to make a bad bike game. If the physics is off, then the experience will be ruined. And that's where MotoGP feels like a success. If you're not a long time player or experienced in how bikes behaved, it's hard.
This game is hard and there's no real tuition for beginners.
It's a challenge to get even competent, let alone good, and I like that. I cannot ride a motorcycle and have no experience with how they move and having skipped last year's MotoGP game entirely it really is learning to ride a bike. The apex of a corner is different to in a car, likewise the breaking point, where you squeeze the power, the racing line and just how fast you can actually go in a turn.
If you play every year and you're familiar with bikes you'll be able to jump right in and have a great old time. If you're new or just less experienced, I feel like a tutorial mode would have been a solid inclusion, just purely based on how differently bikes behave compared to cars. Equally if you enjoy spending hours finding your feet, when you nail a hot lap or make a great pass, the satisfaction is there. It feels awesome.
Each class of bike is completely different, too. And I recommend turning off as many of the rider assists as you dare, because the braking assist, in particular, feels like more of a hinderance than a help. If you don't get braking right you've got no chance of making the turn properly and it'll be much more beneficial in the long run to just hunker down and learn.
Starting at Moto3 is also a big help. The bikes are slower and generally more forgiving and with 32 bikes all bunched up in one race it's also a perfect starting point to actually learn the ins and outs of motorcycle racing.
There's also a bunch of historic riders and bikes with frequent dedicated challenges to undertake and as with the rest of the lineup, they look great, they're a hoot to play and add a little
Customization and multiplayer
Multiplayer isn't something I've been able to test out really during the review since there's nobody playing it, but it's worth pointing out some key features.
The best online experience. Dedicated Servers for the Multiplayer mode have continued to enable a more reliable and fun online experience. Now we added quality of life improvements that will further enhance online gameplay in all modes: Public Matches, Private Matches and Race Director Mode.
Now that the game is live and the servers will start filling up it's time to put them to the test.
MotoGP 20 also has some deep customization tools, whether you're playing against the AI or online. You could play as one of the official riders in one of the official teams, or you could play as your own rider on your own customized bike. You get templates for major bikes including Honda, Yamaha and Ducati as well as Aprilia and KTM, and while there's only a few sponsors to choose from you have a whole palette of colors to paint your bike.
This extends to helmets, suits, gloves, boots, and you can create your own custom designs for stickers, helmet designs and more. It's pretty in depth and if you're the creative type (alas, I am not) then there's plenty here for you to go mad with.
The finish line
So, the verdict then. MotoGP 20 is fantastic. Is it perfect? No, though some of the rough edges are no doubts down to the limitations the current generation consoles are providing. But it plays well, during gameplay the frame rate is solid and on the whole it looks superb.
It's a challenge, too, and the career mode is deep and will provide many, many hours of enjoyment as you find your feet, fettle your bikes and really learn how to race. And win.
I do wish it was more beginner friendly, though, and the lack of any kind of tutorial or substantial guidance does make the early hours quite tough. Bike racing is difficult, and while Milestone has translated it to the virtual world admirably, if you're a new or casual player, it's quite daunting.
But if you put in the work and persevere what you find is a deep and rewarding racer. In this most unusual of years, MotoGP fans across the world will find excitement and enjoyment from this latest installment.
MotoGP 20 is available now on Xbox One, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch (U.S. in May) and Google Stadia.
Get your knee down in this deep and rewarding racer
In this most unusual of years MotoGP 20 has arrived at just the right time for motorcycle racing fans with a long, deep career mode, a ton of challenge and customizations galore.
Review conducted on Xbox One X with a copy provided by the publisher.
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