I love riding a motorbike, it’s fast, dangerous, and loud, very, very loud! But, I don’t love motorsports games. I’ve found that they pretend to be realistic, they don’t get the balance right, and the sounds of the engines are awful. I’ve recently tried and reviewed Ride 4 and Monster Energy Supercross 3. They made me realise that modern sports titles are approaching the genre from a more technical viewpoint, so when I was offered MotoGP21 I put aside my negative misconceptions and hit the install button.
Developed and published by Milestone, this is the latest in a long string of games that have followed the official racing scene. If you have played the previous iterations, you’ll find some very familiar settings, but you will also be treated to some new ideas that alter the gameplay for the better. Word of warning right at the start, however, this isn’t a game for the faint of heart.
MotoGP21 is ultra-realistic and hard as hell.
Motorbike games are a tough nut to crack, they require finesse, patience, and an understanding of bike engineering. MotoGP21 has this nailed with its multiple engine setups, braking system, and its ridiculously challenging gameplay. You’ll experience the usual career mode, quick play, and multiplayer options. Alongside this, you get all the riding aids you’ll need, as well as curve assistance, tyre wear, brake temperatures, and an ultra-realistic first-person viewpoint.
If you put the difficulty of the game to one side for a moment, you can simply admire the beautiful nature of this mechanical beast. How Milestone captured the sense of speed in each race is beyond me. Playing this in first-person is an exhilarating experience that blows your mind! The world melts away into a blur as you scream down straights, and hammer into bends. Crashing your vehicle looks painful as hell and makes you wince as you slide along the tarmac and into the gravel pit.
Familiar gameplay with fresh mechanics.
Fans of MotoGP20 will feel at home the moment they load into this. Create your rider and get to work on your career. You’ll find the usual factory and satellite teams, and the ability to create your own franchise. You can also customise your rider, and adjust the setup of your machine. Most of this is what you’ll find in any racing game and is the minimum standard for the genre. What shocked me, however, was the detail that the developers went into. The weight of the bike feels good, and leaning into curves was challenging and required an understanding of speed and balance. You must observe tyre and brake temperature to ensure they maintain their optimum performance.
For all its difficulty, and trust me there is a lot, it’s the most accessible biking game I’ve played in a long time. A well-designed tutorial talks you through the fundamentals, new mechanics, and some advanced riding techniques. It doesn’t place training wheels on your bike, but it helps to get you on your way.
An array of AI difficulties blended with the choice of riding aids assists or hinders you as much or as little as you wish. Yet, even when you have the AI reduced to its lowest setting, its bloody hard work, and victory or even a podium is a rewarding experience. MotoGP21 isn’t the sort of title that you can pick up and expect to master in five minutes. Even fans of the franchise will have to familiarise themselves with the mechanics before they fling themselves into the bends. If you are going to give this a go, you’ll require patience and a lot of practice.
Some nice touches.
As you’d expect from an official game, it has the full race calendar with each correct track available to select. The accuracy in the layout and look is simply breathtaking. Every curve, bank and gravel trap is a replica of the real thing, and this is as close as most of us will get to experiencing race day. Milestone went one step further with their realism by adding in the penalty lap and a manual bike retrieval for the moments when you crash.
Why not make an already tough game harder by penalising you for exceeding the track limits? This is where the penalty lap comes in! A larger loop around the same track allows you to continue racing. You’ll get used to this as you are learning the ropes as you’ll be off the track more than you are on it. What you’ll also be familiar with by the end of race day one, is crashing! Hit a curve too fast and you crash. Hit the brakes too hard and you crash. Touch the gravel or grass…..you’ve guessed it, you crash! If you have selected manual bike retrieval, you no longer instantly spawn, instead, you must run to your floundering machine, jump back on and get back into the race.
Both these new elements were fantastic and realistic in theory, but there was a glaring flaw with both in reality. The AI appears to be immune to the new mechanics! You make a mistake, take your penalty lap, yet the computer never has to. Watch the AI slide off the track and crash, yet they magically spawn on their bike. It was an unfair and unbalanced element that needs to be sorted.
It’s beautiful until you look at the riders.
For all its stunning details, excellent track layouts, and ultra-realistic riding style, sadly, the rider models are pig ugly. Yes, you rarely see their faces, but it’s a small thing that was instantly noticeable. Pushing this minor issue aside, you are treated to a clean UI with a HUD for all the key information. The simplicity of the screen allows you to focus on the riding (or crashing) and nothing else.
I’m never going to be a fan of the bike sounds produced in any motorsports game. Yes, they react to the engine and the gear selection, but they always sound crass and tinny. The shrill nature of it is a real turn off, especially if you ride in real life. Everyone who loves bikes loves the ear-splitting noise they create. Sadly for me at least, MotoGP21 didn’t get this element right.
Tough to play, but a well-designed setup.
There is no getting away from it, riding a bike at high speed is no easy feat. This is reflected perfectly in the challenging control setup that you experience. Moving the bike has to be smooth, planning your approach to corners must be on point, and you must balance front and rear braking. It’s a fine art to get right, and the developers got this spot on. You’ll understand what must be done, but to master it, it will take a lot of practice.
Like with most sports games, the replay value is found in how much fun you are having. If you are a massive fan, you’ll lose hours to the career mode, and playing friends online. It’s competitive with a lively community that loves the sport. I had no issues joining online lobbies and found it to be one of the least toxic online games I’ve played in a while. For completionists this a tough title to finish. A large achievement list requires a lot of skill and dedication to complete, so best of luck.
MotoGP21 was too difficult for me, but I still adored it.
I admit I wasn’t very good at MotoGP21, but I still adored it. It was an adrenaline-pumping game that pushed me to my limits from smashing into the ground to racing with the aggressive AI. If you are a fan of the sport or are great at the genre, you’ll absolutely love it. If you have patience and want to experience an in-depth racing game, then you won’t go far wrong with this one. I recommend it, and you can buy it here! It gives RIDE 4 a “ride” for its money, and was certainly much more realistic, even if that makes it considerably harder. Grab your leathers, pick your bike, and become the number one rider in the world.