A few months ago, I was lucky enough to have access to a preview build of Milestone’s newest motorcycle racer, MotoGP 21. Since then, the newest version in the long-running licensed MotoGP series has been one of my most anticipated games of this early year. With that in mind, it’s been nice to finally sit down and write this MotoGP 21 review.
However, before getting to the review, I do want to hit on a couple things. In the preview version, I was quite pleased with what I got to check out, hence my excitement for the retail release. Here is a quick list of what Milestone has been hard at work on over the last year:
Developer Talking Points
- Bike Retrieval Sequence: Once you fall, you’ll no longer automatically respawn on track. You’ll have to get up and get back on your bike as fast as you can.
- Brake Temperature: Riding is not only a matter of speed but also of strategy. Monitoring the temperature of your brakes is the key to always having the situation under control. If they are too hot or too cold, they risk losing their effectiveness.
- Long Lap Penalty: Finally, the feature is coming to the MotoGP franchise, meaning that penalties can now be more specific.
- Bike Suspension System Revisions: The level of realism is increasing again. This feature is dedicated to all bike simulation lovers.
Players on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will enjoy Dynamic Resolution up to 4K, along with 60 fps. The overall quality is significantly improved, and the enhanced lighting creates a world that transmits all the sensation of a real race. Loading times are faster, and for those who can’t live without the thrill of competition, online races are now up to 22 riders. Finally, like a wheelie at the finish line, PlayStation players will enjoy the amazing feature of the PS5 DualSense, including haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.
What I Like – MotoGP 21 Review
Gameplay – On Track
The gameplay in MotoGP 21, specifically on the track, has really stood out for me. It’s somewhat difficult to and explain the intricacies and the finesse that is required to be successful now, but I’m going to attempt it.
The MotoGP series has always been a technical series, but not to the level that ’21 requires, and I welcome that change. The minute I hit the track, I could feel the difference in the new physics and bike handling that the developers had talked about previously. Whether it was me sweeping through a curve, attacking an S-curve, or navigating around multiple opponents, my focus and bike control always had to be on point if my goal was to reach the podium.
With over 20 tracks included here, this type of required precision became even more amplified depending on the track. What this ultimately meant for me is that my approach had to change from track to track.
If I were racing in Austin, the Circuit of the America’s is less demanding and a little more open, so my approach could coincide with that. If I were racing at a track like Portugal, which is much more of a technical style track, for me to have a high level of success my approach had to be on the technical side.
Again, the finesse that is required when whipping through a sweeping curve or an S-curve segment of any given track here is substantial. So, if I may, let me deliver a self-proclaimed disclaimer about racing in MotoGP 21 — and please take this advice to heart.
If you wait to see the turn, then you’re doing it wrong.
This game requires full knowledge of each track, and if you try to cheat the game, the results will show. The bottom line regarding the improvements to physics and control in MotoGP 21 is they are as close to the real sport as they have ever been in this series. I say this not to scare away anyone, but to simply inform you of the level of challenge that awaits you.
With most racing game reviews, I do not get the chance to express a large amount of gratitude and appreciation for AI opponents. Luckily, I do get to do it here. There are different aspects that I look at when determining how well the AI interacts with me and other riders. Some of those areas include how well the AI recognizes me as a real opponent on the track, how fairly the AI races against me, and how well the AI approaches the idea that it is riding against other AI riders as well.
I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed the overall AI experience in MotoGP 21. Not only did the AI present itself as formidable regardless of what level of difficulty I was racing on, but it also raced me fairly while always striving to win.
What I mean when I say the AI raced fairly is just that. My AI opponents recognized me as a villain on the track, and they still took chances to take advantage of my mistakes and better their position. They also raced each other extremely hard and mistakes were witnessed multiple times by me when I had nothing to do with those errors.
In fact, I had to stay focused on what the AI opponents were doing because of the mistakes they made, and the quick adjustments that those mistakes required me to display.
My experience with the AI in MotoGP 21 is one of the best experiences that I’ve had to date with any game in any genre. I’m not claiming the AI is perfect, but the effort that has gone into improving it is highly recognizable and appreciated.
The graphical quality of Milestone games has always held them back to a degree. In today’s world of beefed-up gaming PCs and next-generation gaming consoles, the graphical experience is quite important to myself and many others.
While I would not claim MotoGP 21 is the best visual experience that I’ve had on the PS5, I have zero hesitation saying it’s one of the better showpieces right now. The colors of the bikes, the tracks, and the venues are vibrant and alive when they need to be. On the flip side, the game does a wonderful job of delivering a muted experience when it’s overcast or rainy.
For years, I have complained about the graphics in just about every Milestone game, but it seems the company as a whole has turned the corner and is now delivering visually impressive experiences along with the already solid gameplay.
For me, this is where I spent most of my time, and rightfully so. The career mode in MotoGP 21 is deep, fun, and extremely customizable.
When I fired up my career mode, I was given the option to start in MotoGP 3, MotoGP 2, or in MotoGP. I chose MotoGP 3 because I wanted to embrace the full experience, but obviously you don’t have to make that same choice.
Another reason I chose to start at the bottom goes back to what I wrote about earlier in this review, and that is the new riding model and physics system. By choosing to start in MotoGP 3, it gave me time to acclimate myself, and gain valuable experience and knowledge that I utilized as I moved up from tier to tier.
Career mode in MotoGP 21 contains many different aspects, and one of those is the research and development mode. For me, the R&D aspect of career mode added realism and depth that allowed me to feel like I had real input on my career path.
When you start career mode, you start with just the basics, and that is noticeable on and off the track. So, I embraced the research and development aspect of career mode. By doing this early, it allowed me to experience and enjoy what this mode really offers.
You will also be able to hire staff that has a real impact on what options will be available to you. What I loved the most about career mode in MotoGP 21 is that there were no shortcuts available. I did not obtain any success without going through the weekly regimen of getting results on the track and investing money in the team and bike off the track.
I quickly want to point out the strides Milestone is making overall when it comes to presentation. For years, it seemed as though the presentation aspect in its racing games was an afterthought, but that started changing within the last 18 months, and it continues with MotoGP 21.
What I appreciate so much about the presentation package that is now included in a game like MotoGP 21 is that the broadcast elements are quick, precise, to the point, and then done. The current presentation package available here may not be as strong as others out there, but obvious strides and improvements have been made. It now feels like the presentation is a point of emphasis, as it should be with any licensed sports/racing title.
What I Don’t Like – MotoGP 21 Review
I love the career mode experience that is offered, as I mentioned earlier. The sole issue I have with career mode is the overall depth, which is awkward to write because there are certainly additions here.
When I speak of depth, I’m talking mainly about the career mode options that are presented to me off the track — they are minimal. As this series continues on next-generation consoles, I would love for Milestone to take a similar path that Codemasters does with its F1 series.
Allow my created rider to do interviews, attend specific and special events, and have a social life with a hint of an RPG element to it. What’s provided in career mode is deep and fun, but there are always ways to branch out and create new experiences away from the track.
The rider creation suite here still feels like something I would have seen back in the PS2 days, or worse. I have touched on this before with Milestone-developed racing titles, but it does not make it any less of an issue. While I understand the riders we create are typically covered by a helmet and fire suit, the choices and options we have to create them are as basic and rudimentary as it gets.
MotoGP 21 is addictive, fun, and there are plenty of reasons to keep coming back to it. The challenge is real and does require effort and time investment, but rarely does a game pay you back the way MotoGP 21 does. As I spent time playing MotoGP 21, my only thought was to continue playing it.
Whether you’re a newcomer or veteran to this series, MotoGP 21 is an absolute must-own. It offers a distinct challenge for people of all skill levels, and I grew to respect that challenge in every way possible.