MotoGP 18 represents a reboot of the long-running series for developer Milestone.
Determined to refresh the title down to its core, Milestone has done away with the archaic system of the past in favor of Unreal Engine 4. While the new system is the most discussed feature, a bevy of series-altering changes—which represent an attempt to free the title from disappointing past iterations (last year's version had a score of 68 on metacritic for the PlayStation 4 version)—offer plenty of promise.
Boasting more than 310 vehicles and refined gameplay, an emphasis on true-to-life track design and Esports, MotoGP 18 attempts to paint in broad strokes while taking the biggest leap the franchise has seen in a long time.
Whether Milestone makes the ambitious advances few annual releases seem to accomplish will dictate not only the success of its esports scene, but also whether dedicated fans of its niche corner leave the experience satisfied.
When it comes to gameplay, MotoGP 18 walks a fine line between the nuance and depth hardcore fans seek and the accessibility required to reel in casual players.
The depth will likely impress athletes in the sport itself. Height, balancing the load between the front and rear tires and even the model of the bike all play factors in how a race unfolds, and the latter point makes each brand feel unique, as it would on the track itself.
Pre-race decisions matter as well. Players can choose between five methods of riding based on how classic and modern professionals take turns again—each one plays differently.
Compounding the depth of realism are the revamped physics permitting realistic crashes and damage. The latter doesn't mean a race is over as soon as it happens, but it does mean the way the bike rides changes. There is notably less rubbery bounce back on contact, though when a wreck does occur it's swift and race-altering.
Add an improved weather system to top it all off. Dynamic weather such as rain isn't just pretty, it also changes the way the tires grip and the game plays. Night races mean a cooler track and a different tire grip.
While there is a high barrier of entry, Milestone doesn't ignore casual players in favor of its hardcore audience seeking the most realistic simulation possible. In-depth tutorials are interactive and span different levels of skill. Like Forza or other racing franchises, MotoGP 18 offers various assists such as auto tucking, braking and the visible path line, giving players the best possible course around the track.
In short, gameplay is a fun experience, and the systems in place more than help players ease into the experience if necessary.
Graphics and Presentation
A revamped system means new emphasis on presentation.
Graphically speaking, MotoGP 18 finally matches its superb gameplay to its visual fidelity. Professional drivers' faces have been scanned in and look great. The attention to detail pairs nicely with the realistic physics that unfold on the screen.
This nuance extends to the tracks themselves. No longer is Milestone relying on track data from an outside company. It puts drones in the air to map all aspects of a track—from degrees of turns to outright elevation. These are faithful recreations, and making them all the more impressive are the details on the edges of the tracks to make each one feel like a living environment.
For some portion of the audience, realism in the form of presentation is just as important as how things look during a race. This is something Milestone has hit on through the additions of cutscenes to give each even more of a broadcast feel.
The effort put into this area isn't just pretty talking points—not when the developers are sending drones into the air for track recreation. These improvements show and are the perfect complement to the improved gameplay.
Esports and Features
The 2017 MotoGP eSport Championship was a surprise hit for Milestone, combining some of the sport's biggest stars with an online challenge that led to the Grand Final in Valencia.
Milestone is expanding on this feature in a major way by taking the esport competition multiplatform and expanding the qualifiers, which turn into a live semifinal featuring 12 gamers in Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli before the Grand Final at Valencia—with the BMW M240i Coupe as top prize.
This is a lot for Milestone to throw out there before a release, though the game itself seems to make strides in the right areas. The arrival of spectator mode is a necessary one for a game trying to establish itself as an esport and functions well, offering access to individual player cameras and cameras alongside the track.
Helping tie this area into the rest of the game is the new Moto GP ID profile, which offers a detailed statistical overview of a player's career performances, spanning online or otherwise. Wins, poles and all the rest get sketched out here for the world to see.
Elsewhere, Road to MotoGP is a rewarding career mode worth a look. The usual bells and whistles are here: Players receive emails from people surrounding their climb through the ranks, which eventually culminate in racing on the top-tier teams in the world. Earning experience and being recruited by teams is rewarding, as is trying to perform well within a team's parameters.
This is a satisfying career ladder to climb, though player customization options were somewhat lacking (picking from premade faces is a weak point in 2018). The same applies to fine-tuning vehicles; whereas other games offer swapping out specific parts, this is more of an RPG-leveling system of certain areas. This isn't 100 percent a bad thing, but it's likely a point of emphasis developers will address in later installments.
Solo players can also work on fine-tuning their game in the superb tutorials (Basic Tutorial, Semi-Pro Tutorial, Pro Tutorial and What’s New) or run-time attacks. Creating a customizable championship is an option as well.
Whether players have dreams of global glory and a sweet new ride on the esports scene or simply want to grind a fun single-player experience while being rewarded for skill improvements, MotoGP 18 doesn't fall behind other annual sporting releases in its wealth of options for varied audiences.
MotoGP 18 represents a stark jump forward for the franchise.
Niche audience or not, Milestone has delivered a true-to-life simulation experience via an overhaul of the game's critical systems. The result is a challenging affair for veterans and newcomers alike, offering a glimpse at the foundation of a powerful annual release.
Innovation in the esports arena on top of the expected next-gen advancements from a sporting title place MotoGP 18 in a different class from its competitors. Those competitive modes aren't a required part of the experience either, which should entice a broader audience to pick up the game.
While it isn't perfect, MotoGP 18 shouldn't be ignored, either, and should serve as a turning point for the franchise.