MotoGP 18 is the latest in the annual franchise from Milestone, bringing the pinnacle of motorcycle racing to pc and console. With a switch over to Unreal 4 for this years game, is MotoGP 18 riding off into the sunset, or coming off at the hairpin?
The main bulk of what MotoGP 18 has to offer comes from the titles career mode. The mode is akin to that of WRC 7, starting the player off in the lowest league, the Red Bull Rookies, and allows the player to rise through the ranks of Moto 3, and Moto 2 on their way to the big leagues riding in the MotoGP Championship. The career mode is surprisingly well fleshed out, with all of the teams and circuits across all four championships licenced, giving the player a lengthy experience should career be their cup of tea. It would be nice to see a little more added to increase the immersion between events, perhaps akin to the interaction between the player and their agent in F1 2017, as the current format leaves little between events until the higher championships, and even then it remains limited. in higher championships (Moto3 and above) the rider is in charge of hitting their race and qualifying targets in order to maintain their relationship with the team, and ultimately advance to first rider status, or gain an offer from another team impressed with their progress. from Moto 3 onwards the player can also begin to develop their bike, gaining points over the race weekend, with more on offer from practise challenges. The system is nice, and gives players something else to work towards, but ultimately lacks depth and detail, again something that could be taken from the F1 franchise.
Unfortunately, MotoGP 18 lacks anything in the way of notable narrative within its career mode, with the social media posts shown on loading screens serving as little more than something to read while the game proceeds to take a further 2 minutes to load despite stating 100% on the screen. The commentary has the delivery of a soggy flannel, and feels ultimately shoe-horned into the title, often simply stating the glaringly obvious. I’m fully aware I’m leaving the pits, I pressed the fucking button myself. Ultimately it lacks the immersion of titles like F1 2017 and WRC 7, and neither of those titles are exactly the pinnacle either.
Thankfully, career isn’t the only mode on offer within MotoGP 18. The game also features single events (Grand Prix), Time Attack, custom championships, and 3 Tutorials. The tutorials are very much a requirement for anyone who isn’t remotely familiar with motorcycle titles, and is also recommended for those who are, they really help with some of the nuances that MotoGP 18 has over other titles. I’ve come into MotoGP 18 off the back of this year’s Isle of Man TT title, and still found myself needing to take the tutorials to get through the title.
That’s the thing with MotoGP 18. It just doesn’t feel quite right. Control feels rather numb, and no matter what, there’s always some form of failsafe for riding. You don’t get the raw seat of your pants feeling here that made Isle of Man TT so enjoyable. The racing line is there to help, but all it really does is serve as a means of showing just how different the AI ride the circuit. It has the standard modes of assist that you expect in a bike title, combined brake, auto lean, and handily gives you control of the traction control on the fly which is a nice touch, but it still feels so numb even when you take everything off. It’s not as unsavable as Isle of Man TT, if anything it’s too savable, as half the time you don’t have to do a thing to save the bike. When the bike does go, you get the textbook Unreal Engine rag doll. Which while funny, does leave you wincing a little imagining it was yourself skidding down the back straight on your face.
Graphically, the title falls behind as well. It simply doesn’t have the polish you’d expect from a franchise as frequent as this. It’s a shame, but when you look at MotoGP 18 and Isle of Man TT side by side, the difference is night and day. The game features drone scanned tracks, and they’re fantastic. It’s nice to have some faithful recreations of the tracks to ride on, and the tracks themselves look grand, it’s just everything else. The Crowds look like they’ve been dragged in from an asset library from 4 game’s back. The scenery around the track really takes from the game, and is only emphasised when you look at the implementation of tracks like Mugello into Forza Motorsport 7, where the track looks absolutely stunning all around. The animations lack polish, while it’s nice to see so many riding styles implemented into the game (you can even chose your riding style for your rider in the customisation menu, along with boots gloves and helmet) it’s a shame to be going around a corner and notice your rider isn’t even holding the handlebars. The bikes and riders are modelled ok, but they’re nothing to really write home about. It’s a real shame, because we’ve seen countless times just what Unreal 4 can do, and this title feels like more of a step backwards for the franchise than it does a step forward. Oh, and the game has stepped back to 30 fps from 60. Fantastic.
MotoGP 18 attempts the helmet camera that made Isle of Man TT so immersive, but just fails to hit the mark of creating something that gives the player that sense of being in control of a real machine at high seed, and instead is just too animated and over the place. Done in a manner that makes placing the bike and hitting an apex almost impossible, and just lacks any form of finesse and refinement.
MotoGP 18’s UI leaves little to be desired either. It’s a lot cleaner than other titles, and doesn’t take up ridiculous amounts of the screen during gameplay which is definitely a plus, but the menus feel sluggish, and come across as more of a shopping list than a game. The game lays out the progression of the players rider skills nicely, although the game never really illustrates how these come into effect. The time in the pit’s is probably the best the UI looks, with the game taking on the clean clinical look of a modern Motorsports garage. It’s a shame this hasn’t been used throughout, and instead the dark, murky load screens and homepage exist. Sadly the menu’s just lack the polish of other titles, and really don’t invite the player into the experience. Thanks to the apocalyptic load times, you’ll spend a lot of time looking at these.
One menu players will be able to find within MotoGP 18 is for E-Sports, with the heading coming soon. If the multiplayer is anything to go by, then they might want to change sooner to later. Multiplayer uses the voting system of titles such as Forza to determine the following event, which is all well and good but it would be nice to have the option to search for lobbies and race types. The netcode within MotoGP 18 is about as smooth as a teenagers face, with a strong rubber banding effect making racing side by side, or judging where on earth anyone is, frankly impossible. Grids are chosen by lobby join order, but none of it really matters as half the field will jump the start anyway. That or they seem to have twice the power. Which, if any, of these little quirks you get is purely down to luck. The result is simply appalling. Milestone really have some kinks to iron out if they wish to make E-Sports even remotely viable.
MotoGP 18 is sadly a bit of a first lap engine failure for Milestone. The game seems to have taking 2 steps backwards with the engine change, and while the career has its good qualities, it’s really going to take a lot of work to keep anyone playing this for more than a couple of painful hours.