Review: MotoGP 2021

Every year, a new MotoGP game, but thankfully although this year’s edition does not seem like a massive improvement, it does feature a lot of minor tweaks that serve as an excellent refinement of the series, rather than a total revolution.

Making a game that reflects a season of anything, in a time of a pandemic is difficult. Do you go for what was, or what might have been? How do you manage this when a season that would be ‘normal’ would perhaps make for a bit of a weird game. Well, astutely, the developers decided to cover all bases here as you begin your career with a choice of the 2021 season as was (with double races and missing tracks) or as was intended (missing tracks and all). This is a great touch, and little considerations like this are reflected throughout MotoGP 2021.

Regardless of what option you choose, your career begins the same way. Sign with a team, and pick a manager. Running a team in the back end is a big thing here, all the way from establishing a Junior team to help fund your research and development requires attention off the track. I enjoyed this aspect a lot. 

But it all counts for nothing if the on-track racing doesn’t cut it, and thankfully MotoGP 2021 does a great job here. It replicates the speed of bike racing, as well as the brutality of the crashes which I experienced a number of times because it’s really, really hard. Thankfully, this year, Milestone has introduced some training. At last! And unlike almost all of their other bike games, this one is actually useful and does the usual ‘start and stop’ nonsense to more advanced things like the electronic controls on your bike which can be adjusted mid-race. For sim-racing fans, this is important to have (and even more important to know how to use). 

The sim aspect doesn’t just stop there, with tire wear and fuel management all playing a part, and a cool new feature this year is that when you crash, you have to run over to pick up your bike to carry on. This is fantastic until you realise that the AI just warp to their bikes so if you and an AI opponent fall off, they have a massive advantage. Thankfully, all assists can be toggled on or off, so no big deal but a bit of a shame. 

An aspect that I enjoyed and found essential to be able to actually get around the track without crashing, was the PS5’s adaptive triggers. I normally play games with these disabled, but like to give them a try now and again, and the pressure on squeezing the left trigger for the brake was both brilliant and helpful in managing braking to optimally take corners and not fly off every single one. A top addition.

Not to bang on about the sim aspects, but MotoGP 21 also adds in another new thing this year – the Long Lap Penalty. This is a longer route on each track which is sort of an equivalent of F1’s ‘stop and go’ penalty, punishing rule-breakers on the track by taking this route and costing them extra time. For all of the authenticity added though, there are some minor but obviously glaring problems.

Let’s start with the visuals. Almost completely fantastic, until you see the rider’s faces. Gross! They’re an absolute mess. The UI is a bit over-complicated off-track, but that’s a minor niggle. Female riders make an appearance but are referred to as male. This is not great. 

MotoGP 21 is probably the fullest, and best motorcycle sim racing game I have played. There are some minor niggles, but the raft of accessibility options really help, including things like the unlimited option of being able to rewind during a race, and the benefit of the PS5’s adaptive triggers. It’s still really, really difficult, but if you’re willing to persist there’s a rewarding and fun racing game here.

Reviewed on PS5

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