What I really love about video games is that they allow me to experience things I could never do in real life. While fighting blood-thirsty dragons and exploring the vast emptiness of space certainly fits that mold, so does driving at speeds of over 200 miles per hour with only two wheels separating me from the unrecognizable blur of pavement below. Capcom's MotoGP 09/10 provides just such an experience, featuring enough real-life tracks, riders, and bikes to attract any diehard motorcycle-racing fan. However, for everyone else, the slew of problems affecting the actual racing will make the game much harder to enjoy.
In MotoGP 09/10, players can choose from an assortment of game modes to get their motorcycle fix. The standard championship mode allows for an entire season to be played through, in any of the three (125cc, 250cc, and MotoGP) available bike classes. Arcade mode features a more old school race against the clock where you have to finish the course in a limited amount of time, and you receive time bonuses for staying on the track and overtaking your competitors. The game also features both online and split screen multiplayer, with online allowing for up to twenty players in a race.
The most intriguing mode that MotoGP 09/10 has to offer is the Career mode. It's there that you'll create a racer, start a team, and take the entire motorcycle racing scene by storm. At every event, you'll get three cracks at the course: a practice run, a qualifying event, and then the race itself. You don't have to do the practice run if you don't want to, but it's a good idea to map out the course in order to get the fastest time possible in your qualifying run. You'll also encounter wildcard races from time to time, which will forgo the practice and qualifying rounds completely. It takes awhile to unlock the bigger, faster bikes in Career mode, which may annoy some veterans looking to jump in and play at the highest possible level right away.
Where Career mode really shines is outside of the actual races. It's there where you'll have to hire a full staff to make sure your career is a successful one. For example, you'll have to hire a press officer to help you line up sponsors for your team. Sponsors will give you certain objectives during a race, such as finishing in a certain position. By completing these objectives, you'll earn some extra cash, which is needed to pay your staff. Fail to meet your sponsor's requirements, however, and you'll get nothing.
Perhaps the most important member of your staff will be your mechanic, who is needed to upgrade your bike. Once you hire a mechanic (or a team of mechanics, as your career progresses) you'll be able to research a certain part of your motorcycle, such as your engine or tires. Over time, your parts will be upgraded as the research is completed, which will affect your performance on the track. The amount of upgrades you're allowed to make is quite extensive, and will appeal to casual racing fans as well as fanatical gearheads.
At first, hiring and maintaining a staff for your team may seem relatively insignificant compared to the actual races, but their importance becomes noticeable as you get into the bigger classes. For example, your choice of sponsors can play a pretty big role. As your staff grows, so does their collective salary. In order to pay them, you might need to pick a sponsor that pays a lot, perhaps requiring you to finish a race in 5th place or better. If you fail to finish within the top five, then, you may have to fire someone in order to make it to the next race. The system isn't perfect, but it is fun, and adds some much needed depth to the otherwise pick-a-race and go layout used throughout Career mode.
As good as the Career mode is, it's the racing itself that will take up the bulk of your time in MotoGP 09/10, and it unfortunately isn't all that great. The biggest problem that the actual gameplay suffers from is that it can't decide whether it wants to be a racing simulator or an arcade racer. For example, the game features a racing line; similar to the one found in the Forza series, which lets players know how fast to take a turn. Another sim-like feature would be how your tires wear out over the course of a race, changing how aggressive your driving can be. The HUD is also cluttered with information about pretty much everything; another common element found in racing sims.
Alternatively, there are a lot of elements that are really arcade-like, and detract from the sense of realism that Capcom appears to be striving for. You can crash into other racers at speeds of 150 miles per hour, for example, and simply bounce off of them like a ping-pong ball and keep driving. In fact, I never crashed once as long as I stayed on the paved track; no matter how sharp of an angle I took, or how many people I hit. As soon as I touched the dirt, however, I'd violently fly off my bike. Handling is also ultra-responsive when leaning into a turn, the slightest movement of the thumbstick will pop your bike right up, which is not only unrealistic, but also makes it difficult for newcomers to learn how to turn. The mix of arcade and sim elements in MotoGP 09/10 results in a case of mistaken identity, and really makes the racing difficult to enjoy.
Other issues that mar the gameplay of MotoGP 09/10 include the rubber band AI. In races, if you've fallen behind the leaders, the AI will appropriately slow down, allowing you to catch up. Likewise, if you're in the lead, the AI will get a boost allowing them to catch you. Although this may keep races close and exciting, it's more often than not just an annoyance, and detracts from the realism even more.
Graphically, MotoGP 09/10 isn't all that impressive. There are some nice visual effects, such as the reflections in puddles of water on tracks with rain, but on the whole the game looks pretty mediocre. The animations can look stiff and disjointed at times, and look especially ugly during crashes. Luckily, the frame rate remains stable, even with twenty bikers on screen at once. The game's soundtrack is surprisingly catchy and original, but the sound effects aren't very noteworthy.
By not having mind-blowing graphics, a lot of the emphasis is put on the gameplay of MotoGP 09/10, which is unfortunately not all that fun. Incorporating elements found in both sim and arcade racers only detracts from the overall experience, and keeps it from establishing its own identity. Of course, hardcore motorcycle fans will be able to look past these shortcomings, and find a lot to enjoy in this racer. For the rest of us, however, it's not quite as easy.