- Format: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC
- Unleashed: June 17th
- Publisher: pQube/Milestone s.r.l.
- Developer: Milestone s.r.l.
- Players: 1-2 (offline), 2-12 (online)
- Site: http://motogpvideogame.com/
- Game disc provided by the publisher
Valentino Rossi: The Game (not to be confused with Valentino Rossi: The Human Being) is basically this year’s official MotoGP title. Rossi is a true superstar in the sport, arguably the most popular and statistically second only to Giacomo Agostini in terms of success. The game celebrates him and his career in a variety of ways. You can step into his motorcycle boots, of course, alongside a whole bunch of other licensed drivers. There’s also ‘VR46’, Rossi’s personal brand and here best thought of as a club with him and his best racing mates. There are more informal Rossi-flavoured racing events, including not only bikes but also cars (more on which soon). Then, in a similar vein to Milestone’s Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, there are Rossi events which recreate highlights from his career. Each event is preceded by a brief (and exclusive) video interview with the man himself. Then you also have ‘beat the doctor’ events, where you race a time trial ghost of Rossi in an attempt to beat his times. It already sounds like an attractive package for Rossi fans; and it is.
The MotoGP side of things is also very well catered for. You have official and carefully recreated tracks, licensed riders, bikes and teams, and all the advertising you’d expect. Which, er, is a good thing, right? This is spread across MotoGP 2015 and 2016 as well as Moto3, Moto2, and the various classes with slightly unsettling names such as ‘two stroke’ and ‘four stroke’. MotoGP nuts will feel right at home here.
As previously mentioned, there are cars in this game as well as bikes. While this might have some people scratching their heads, major Rossi fans will be well aware that he likes to jump behind the wheel of a car now and again. So you can participate in the Monza rally for example, or get into a Ford Mustang for a drifting competition. No side-by-side car racing sadly, but Milestone make good use of their racing game expertise to ensure that the car handling isn’t rushed just because this is principally a motorbike game.
The bikes themselves ‘feel’ good and, as you’d expect, completely different to driving a car. Bike handling has been made as realistic as possible which means, should you choose to tone done or completely switch off the riding aids, you’d better be damn sure you have a lot of experience in the genre and/or ride a motorbike in the real world. There’s a noticeable, pleasing chasm between the light flat track bikes, and the fully-souped-up MotoGP beasts which are noticeably heavier and can reach quite frankly terrifying speeds. Terrifying especially for newbies because, even with all assists on, this is a far cry from an arcade racer.
So far, so good. Keep exploring the fine detail though, and you start to notice the cracks. There’s a career mode, which pretty much does what you’d expect; except that your custom driver earns experience and levels up. Wait, what? This is doubly confusing, in that such a system has no place in a racing game aiming for brutal realism, and the difference that attribute increases have seems to be minimal.
We can’t avoid the issue of the graphics any more, either. While not terrible, they are extremely disappointing for a game released on current-gen consoles in 2016. This wouldn’t matter in the slightest if textures and detail had been sacrificed for a consistently smooth experience – but no. The frame rate is usually stable, but even at its best never achieves the sexy smoothness we’ve been spoiled with from the likes of Forza and Project CARS. Infinitely worse than this, and essentially inexcusable in a racing game, are the fairly regular frame rate drops. Rare indeed is the race completed without a single frame rate stutter, a problem most likely to occur on corners if the screen is busy. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it instantly prevents it from being as good as it could have been.
There are also some odd gaps in the realism. It’s not too hard to lose your balance on a bike – especially with assists off and on the most powerful machines – which is perfectly fair enough. Yet rarely – if ever – will your taking a tumble cause trouble for any other riders close by. What’s very strange is the way that, usually, one bike hitting another will result in… nothing. Everybody just carries on as though it’s a game of Mario Kart. On top of that, racing on a wet track does not – in our experience – result in instant and significant differences from a dry track.
VR:TG claws back brownie points in other respects. Rider AI, for one, is excellent. Not only will they hug corners and generally race like professionals, the other riders will not (as happens so often in other racers) try to smash through you as though you aren’t there. They generally respect your space, and overtake only when and where it would be safe for both of you. The rewind feature, too, is extremely good (and will see a hell of a lot of use for most people). We’d go so far as to say that it’s the best such feature we’ve come across yet. The amount of time you can go back is generous, and you’re afforded full control to go backwards and forwards within this limit until you take control again at a precise moment of your choosing. Things even slow for a second or two as you go back in, allowing you to readjust.
There’s splitscreen racing and stacks of online options… none of which we’ve been able to test, as nobody seems to be playing pre-release. We’ll update the review if it proves to polish the value of the package. Avid Rossi fans will find a lot to enjoy here, but we’d advise anybody else to think twice before purchasing.