It has been many years since the last iteration, but the wait is over as SBK 22 is finally here. Created by Milestone, the developers of MotoGP, SBK has returned on all major gaming platforms. Many with long memories will inevitably compare SBK 22 to SBKX, but I am looking at SBK 22 as a standalone entity. With multiple hours under my belt, does SBK blast off the line or go back to the garage asking what happened? Let’s find out in my SBK 22 review.
SBK 22 Review
What I Like
Yes, MotoGP and SBK 22 come from the same developers, and while I found the model to be very similar in many aspects, there were some differences. The speed and weight of the Superbikes are two areas where the differences could be felt on the track, as the Superbike carries more weight and isn’t as fast.
Once I understood the differences and spent time on the track, I came to appreciate the driving model found in SBK 22.
For me, taking the bike around different tracks and gaining knowledge and respect for the nuances of the cycle, the venue, and the marriage between the two is what I found to be most exciting, enjoyable, and challenging.
Every venue is different, with some focusing on speed and others relying upon sharp turns and winding curves to create challenging and diverse events for the track and rider. From there, add in the challenges of how each bike handles differently and the ability to upgrade each motorcycle through a series of improvements provided through an in-house research and development program. With all that in mind, I hope you understand the depth of the challenge provided every week and the number of things the game requires you to focus on to be successful.
Using the left analog stick to maneuver in conjunction with the controller triggers and accelerator and brake work together as they should. This is important because I needed each second I could spare to learn the different tracks, how to approach each turn, my break and acceleration points, and the amount of leaning in to provide the optimal lap time.
If this sounds like a lot to take in, it is. There is no cheating the system or shortcuts with this driving model. For me, that is where the beauty of the game shines the most.
The career mode in SBK 22 does nothing that hasn’t been seen or attempted elsewhere. In fact, for 2022, it is pretty standard stuff. That said, what is there, which was enough for me to enjoy, is done very well and works as a finely tuned machine.
The game gave me the option to create my driver and start my career by choosing whether to join a current team or start my own. I decided to start my own team, which instantly made the game more difficult as I was handed the basics of everything and had to build up my team and brand from the bottom.
As with most careers in sports titles, I had to hire a team, which meant I needed a PR and management department, a research and development department, and a team around me in the garage. With limited funds to start, my initial choices had to fit just right, and my success on the track was necessary. Any misstep at the beginning meant the path to the top was much more difficult.
Once my team and brand were in place, it was time to approach the weekends. Each race weekend in SBK 22 is a chance to better my skills, as the options to practice, qualify, and the race itself were all at hand.
This is where I took advantage of every single minute of track time I could, making sure never to skip any of the weekend options. I tried to fulfill the track test requirements because every success meant XP points that I could put towards R&D, my team, and my bike.
The time away from the track in SBK 22 is not loaded with a lot of mundane, useless actions, so going from one weekend to the next is a quick process. That said, what needs to be accomplished away from the track is essential, so pay attention.
The real-life season calendar is shorter than that of MotoGP, but still, there was enough to warrant a long playthrough, even if just for one season. Again, SBK 22 doesn’t do anything new or genre-defining in the career mode, but what is there is done well, and it all has importance attached to it that helped keep me involved and wanting to move forward.
No matter what mode you play in SBK 22, the presentation is quick and to the point, which is how I like it. In career mode, the presentation package does a solid job of showcasing the track, the surrounding venue, and the fans.
It captures the minutia of the weekend while never reaching a point where I felt the need to bypass anything. This may seem like such a straightforward experience to deliver, yet so many companies struggle with it.
The ability to add to the immersion of the game and the experience while not intruding on the actual game itself is why the presentation of SBK 22 is listed as something I like and always will.
What I Don’t Like
This is less of a complaint and more of a public service announcement. Even on the more manageable levels, SBK offers a challenge to racing veterans and, for newcomers, a long road to climb. Not only does the game ask you to understand how to dwell within a world of synchronicity that involves the bike, the brakes (and breaks), control, and nuances of every single track, you better learn how to do it consistently.
Not every racing game in the genre is equal, and SBK 22 is unique in that for one to do well, it takes real track time, actual practice, and a fundamental understanding of the bike, the venue, and how those two are constantly connected.
I found the challenge simultaneously frustrating and highly rewarding, and when I did compete well on the track, it felt like I earned it in every sense of the word. Again, the challenge found in SBK 22 when it all comes together delivers an enriching experience for those looking for high-energy entertainment.
As with my concern above, the braking system found in SBK 22 is rather difficult to adjust and become familiar with. While similar to MotoGP, even with my years of experience it still offered a high level of frustration early on. Once you start to get a handle on the system, it can feel gratifying, but in a pack of others racing around a very technical course, the braking system was almost always my primary focus.
I am always under the belief that any racing title should deliver a racing experience that allows the user to focus on the track and the pack first, and the controls should be a challenge but not the primary challenge. As I played more SBK 22, I was able to manage and control the braking system and how to utilize the bike in conjunction with it, but it never became a secondary thought.
I wouldn’t classify this issue as a massive problem for the game, but for those jumping in for the first time, know that much of your time will be spent learning the nuances of the overall braking package early on.
With SBK 22, you need to understand what you are getting. These are powerful street bikes, but they’re heavier, more cumbersome, and handle differently than the bikes you will find in the Milestone’s MotoGP series. There will be a steep learning curve for many, and the game will require much time in the testing phase for you to have complete confidence, both on the bike and at each track.
The official WSB series and the season are shorter and aren’t going to deliver a lengthy seasonal journey like MotoGP. Still, the full weekends, research and development, and team improvements will keep you busy for quite some time. SBK looks wonderful within the Unreal Engine and offers a real challenge on the track. If racing is in your blood, you have a solid experience awaiting you in SBK 22.
SBK 22 is now available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, and Microsoft Windows.