Milestone is back with the latest installment of their officially licensed motorcycle racing IP, MotoGP 20, and with the actual season postponed for now, the timing of this release could not have come at a more perfect point. Now, MotoGP fans have a chance to dive in digitally and replay the 2020 season in a way that real life will never be able to replicate.
All of that is well and good, but the game itself has to be up to par to match the anticipation of playing out the current season. With the experience and know-how of Milestone, MotoGP 20 has taken steps forward, but let’s chat about whether it’s a big enough upgrade over last year’s version or not.
What I Like
A career mode done correctly will pull me in and consume me in a way that I enjoy, and what Milestone has delivered with my experience in MotoGP 20 comes close to hitting the spot. On the surface, it will feel like a lot of other career modes, at least it did for me initially. As you start to travel down the path of your career though, that’s when the little nuances start to take hold and push Milestone’s career mode up to the next level.
MGP20 once again gives you the option to start off down in Moto3 and work your way up or start out at the top in the MotoGP series. I chose the Moto3 series because I enjoy the depth and longevity that the climb offers.
As a beginner, I found myself with limited funds, limited experience and limited options, much like one would in real life in most scenarios. I was forced to prove myself to attract the right sponsors (or any sponsor) and that’s where the fun began.
Now I had to assemble a team to help my performance on the track, and with limited funds, that wasn’t an easy task. The team consists of multiple mechanics and engineers, each with their own specialty and expertise, and the more talent they possess the more they cost.
As for the sponsors and their requirements, they are all different in what their expectations are. The more upfront signing bonuses and race payouts increased, the more they expected on a weekly basis — rightfully so. If I struggled to deliver on their expectations, the sponsors would start to get nervous and inform me that my contract status might be in jeopardy.
It’s no secret you need talent to win even at the Moto3 level, but you also need the right equipment to help you achieve that success. The game provided me an under-powered bike at the start of things, and I had to rely upon my “research and development” staff to build, construct and transform it into a speed and handling machine. Here’s a little hint and tip: the process is anything but quick, and be prepared to “dance with the one you brought” for some time.
It is extremely exciting and fun to see the research and development team deliver on their promises after weeks of hard work and diligence, but patience is absolutely a requirement when it comes to the total process of building your bike into a competitive machine.
The career mode in MotoGP 20 gave me plenty of options to aid me along the way, and the game did a wonderful job explaining most things during my time of acclimation. In the end, there is a lot of fun, a lot of depth, and depending on the route you choose to start your career, a lot of time and effort that can and will be spent in the career mode provided by Milestone.
As much as I enjoyed the career mode in the newest iteration of the MotoGP series, the newly refined race and bike physics were just as impressive. I witnessed very few instances where what I did with my controller and what took place on the track didn’t match up exactly as my mind and eyes would expect. In other words, that input-to-output ratio made sense here.
The most important thing I had to learn was accomplished by taking the time to understand the power and handling of each bike and how it interacted with each track. Once you hit the track, the feel of the bike takes time to master. However, once you do that and possess the knowledge of how to let the bike work for you in the sweeping curves, and gain an understanding of how to feather the analog stick in just such a way to maintain maximum speed and control, the racing becomes art in motion.
There is no shortcut to becoming a good racer in MGP20, and while the learning curve can be quite steep on higher difficulties, it really adds to the overall depth of the game. I experienced a lot of frustration early on as I struggled to find the perfect balance of speed and control on the track, but taking the time to understand the intricate control system and how each bike and track offered different experiences, made the investment worth it.
The AI in any racing title is so important because it can literally make or break the overall experience, and thankfully the newly refined “neural AI”” in MGP20 is executed by the developers extremely well. So, what is neural AI for those who are not familiar? In the own words of Milestone:
“In MotoGP 20, the team pushed the level of realism so far that the AI had to learn the new and improved physics of the game from scratch. The new and improved AI now has the capability to manage the most extreme situations, including reacting to the environment to use its knowledge to make critical decisions to win. The AI is also capable of managing tire wear and fuel consumption, which are two new features introduced in the game this year.”
Basically, it means that opponents are different in their approach, capabilities and they are constantly learning as they try to race you as other humans would. This all sounds great, but if the execution is lacking, then it just becomes a lot of words that have zero impact on my in-game experience.
I can attest that the AI in MGP20 does almost exactly what the developers at Milestone had intended it to do, which is race hard, race clean, but be competitive and fight for the victory. I also witnessed the AI making mistakes not only against me but while racing each other for position, which is a huge component when it comes to creating a realistic experience on the track.
What I Don’t Like
When it comes to graphics, there are very few “engines” that provide as much punch as the Unreal Engine does these days, but yet when I fired up MGP20 it felt a bit grainy, washed-over and a little underwhelming, especially in the day and age of HD and 4K. That’s not to say that the game looked bad, but it did not wow me overall. That being said, the track, rider and bike details were rather impressive.
I tested and reviewed the game on the PS4 Pro and on a BenQ monitor and a brand-new Samsung monitor in game mode, and the results were the same. Maybe games like GT Sport and F1 2019 have raised the bar so high that it creates a bias, but in the end, I was hoping for a bit more graphically than what I witnessed. That said, the lack of high-fidelity graphics in no way detracted from the overall game experience itself.
This was a tough one to list on things I did not like because Milestone has been showing solid improvements in their presentation delivery for the last two or three years. Still, even with the improvements, I would like to see the presentation aspect go much deeper, especially in the career mode. Both the MotoGP series and its career mode are such an exciting experience that the presentation package should at least complement and enhance the journey. So while it is improved, the overall package still has room for growth.
Milestone has really taken hold of the racing genre and placed itself as one of the leaders in it during the last couple years. Their effort with MotoGP 20 will do nothing but enhance that perception because MotoGP 20 delivers an exciting, fun and deep experience. On top of that, it’s an experience that can be considered accessible to the masses with the number of options the game provides.
The single caveat to everything I just described is that one has to be willing to take the time and embrace the learning curve that MotoGP 20 initially throws at you. If you are willing to do so, then the experience that awaits is a thrilling ride that will last for some time.
MotoGP 20 was released on April 23 and is available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows.