‘Let’s do a motorbike racing game’ they said. ‘Oh it’s tough’ they said, ‘challenging – they’re more difficult than cars plus it’s been done’.
‘How about, rather than use existing real world racetracks, we base it on the Isle of Man reproduced perfectly and make your eyes water?’
Well, they did it. The Isle of Man TT, an annual event is recreated in its blisteringly fast glory. Scary, terrifying, the way it should be. And ultimately this is the main event so it should be good, but maybe because it is, it dwarfs everything else in the package.
Laser scanned, the full 37 mile course (264 corners!) is reproduced here in fantastic detail. It’s savage – as you’d expect and hope, with the tiniest details shown here in full. Road signs, little shops, the smallest changes in camber of the road and dropped curbs all support the feeling of involvement, immersion and danger. I actually couldn’t really believe it was as severe as this, but a quick trip to YouTube further supports the fantastic job the developers have done in recreating this crowning jewel in motorbiking.
You have to make it that far though to experience the joys of the Isle of Man ‘track’. The package surrounding the main meal is bare bones at best, barely functional is probably too kind. The build of the menus, the setup for the lacklustre career mode, configuring your character, bike and attire – all just about held together but it isn’t pretty.
It feels like the effort spent on the Snaefell course is offset by a negative effect on the rest of the game. There are other tracks, fictionally built around other areas of the UK. It’s nice and all, but they lack the sheer passion of the main attraction, filler if you will to the main course. They all look very similar, which I suppose to a degree is a function of the United Kingdom as much as anything else but you can generally tell if you are in different parts of the country. Not in the game though.
This impacts the game’s career mode. A long slog to the 37 mile ‘boss battle’ of the game, it’s simplistic. Bike choice is limited overall so your career choice to sign with a team is more a coin flip than anything else, and then it’s a simple race, buy different bike, race, repeat. Most of the challenge will come from mastering the facets of the game yourself, disabling assists to get a ‘purer’ motorcycle experience. I’m reminded how at one point, playing Project Gotham Racing online became a chore as everyone just wanted to do the Nurburgring. It feels like this is a motorcycle game for those folks with the game existing to justify the purchase price of the opportunity to ride the Isle of Man track.
It’s just a shame it’s so good then, as this would make it easy to not recommend the game. The AI is all over the place, and there are plenty of glitches which see you flying off at the slightest bit of turbulence yet you end up convincing yourself it is all your fault. Multiplayer is bare bones; locally it exists by turn based time trials (why??!) and online sadly is an empty space – after repeated attempts I was only able to match with one other human.
In short, if racing the Isle of Man’s Mountain Course appeals to you, then you should buy this game. If it doesn’t, you probably shouldn’t as there’s not a lot else here. But once you do get on it, you will be impressed, the test is how long you’re happy to repeat that experience.
Reviewed on PS4