It’s been no surprise for some time now that third party support for the Playstation Vita isn’t quite what we would like it to be. Milestone however have been giving the Vita the attention it truly deserves and is continuing the love with their third title on the Vita – MotoGP 13. Whereas MUD had all the content of it’s Playstation 3 brother but lacked in presentation, WRC 3 improved graphics dramatically but at the expense of the console’s career mode which hurt the title no end. It feels like this time however Milestone has really listened and managed to create MotoGP 13 without the sacrifices we have seen with their previous titles. Previously responsible for the SBK series, MotoGP 13 is a motorbike sim that is unashamedly realistic and equally as difficult to learn and master.
Unlike the MotoGP titles that were released on the Playstation 2 and had a more arcade feel, MotoGP 13 contains a physics and driving model that can be initially overwhelming. Customisation is key here and Milestone has included lots of driving aids such as showing the racing line, assisting with breaking and even with cornering to help newcomers to the game. Race setups are equally as customisable and players have the option to set race length from 15% (usually three or four laps) all the way up to 100% (usually over twenty). Weather conditions, tire wear and bike damage can all also be customised. With all the driving aids on things are easier but it’s still no slouch. Personally being a racing sim I opted to turn the assists off and to feel the full force of the bikes. I jumped straight into an Instant Race and found myself chewing tarmac within half a second of starting. The physics model here is incredibly in depth and if you turn the assists off you have to learn to take into account the weight distribution of your rider which is vital when accelerating, braking and cornering. Furthermore with the assists set to off you have two brake buttons; front and rear and because of this MotoGP 13 is definitely the most realistic motorbike sim I’ve played. The problem is despite being so realistic and having assists to help, most players will not have experienced driving a 1000CC motorbike around a circuit at up to 200MPH and there is no tutorial to be found. I actually had to go online to understand how the rear brake affects the bike and spent the first couple of hours of gameplay getting used to the feel and control of the bikes before I felt comfortable enough to jump into the career. I’m not saying I didn’t have fun working things out because I did; things just could have been a little more accessible to newcomers. Once you do get to grips with things however it becomes a truly gripping, engaging and downright thrilling ride. Obviously motorbikes differ drastically to cars and the added factor of rider weight distribution makes leaner into corners at breakneck speeds, winding through S-bends and powering down the straights intensely rewarding. Milestone clearly have such a burning passion to get things right that I really can’t praise the driving model enough.
Getting down to the real meat of the game comes in the form of the Career mode which has you starting as a wildcard in the Moto 3 series for single races (Moto 3 is much slower and features lower powered 250cc bikes) and working through Moto 2 all the way up to the official MotoGP season. The lower powered bikes you begin with are much easier to get used to and feel lighter in comparison so there’s a nice sense of progression as you work your way towards becoming a star. Any difficulty other than easy will put your through your paces and I found normal difficulty gave me more than enough challenge. Within the Career mode things are very well presented. In a complete departure from Milestone’s previous releases on the Vita most of the menus within the Career mode are viewed from a first person perspective. Things take place from your camper where you can check current standings via a TV, change your outfit in the wardrobe, check your laptop for emails and social feeds (a clear rip off of twitter) and viewing the calender which allows you to jump into races. There’s also commentary every now and then which briefly explains what the screens and features mean. All the assists and race customisation options are available to you before you race or enter a tournament meaning if things are too easy or tough you can change them on the fly.
When you first boot up the game you create a custom rider and are even able to choose avatars for yourself and your managers. You get to choose things like your clothing colours and helmet and the further you get into the game the more you will unlock. Everything in MotoGP 13 is tied into an experience points system which has you levelling up based on performance. As you get further into the game and your playtime increases you will be given access to new helmet designs, new bikes and riders and new gallery items. It really is a haven for MotoGP enthusiasts and will keep even the best players going for a considerable length of time. It’s also pretty neat that every mode gives you experience points so whether you’re playing the Career, jumping into an Instant Race or battling it out online you are always levelling up and unlocking content. Within the career you can opt to keep races short or you can opt for full race weekends including practice, qualifying, warm ups and race and if you go for the full length times each race weekend can last well over an hour (full length races are around 40-45 minutes alone!). It’s worth including the practice sessions as you can spend some time getting used to the layout and conditions of each track before attempting to qualify. Bike setup is crucial to shaving milliseconds off lap times and it’s definitely best to tinker about to find out what’s best. If you’re like me and have no idea what each individual component does or you don’t want to spend too much time playing around with the bike settings there is a fantastic option within the pits called the Technical Meeting where you can have a conversation with the mechanic who will assess where you are having issues by way of multiple choice questions. Once assessed the mechanic will change settings at a cost of time and you can get straight back out on the track to try things out. This feature is really good and I found that most of the time the mechanic vastly improved my set up; something I wouldn’t have had a clue how to do without him.
Before each race weekend you are given a nifty little intro to each country where you will see a video showing snippets of the life and culture. You are also given commentary prior to and after each session and race which gives MotoGP 13 a polished feel. Out on the track itself the frame rate remains constant and smooth although some rider detail looks blurry up close. Even so with 16 riders on track the game performs admirably and detail is generally high if occasionally a little bland. Rain looks particularly pretty and creates satisfying looking puddles and splatters when the weather turns bad. Skids and effects in general all looks pretty decent and rider animations in particular are fantastic; should you shunt another rider you visibly nearly fall off and sometimes when you spin out and lose control your rider ends up with both legs on one side of the bike, struggling to balance which is a neat and realistic looking touch. The same can’t really be said for when you come off your bike however as your body becomes rigid and slides across the ground looking more like a dead person with rigor-mortis than a living rider. Luckily moments of graphical weirdness like this are very rare and everything runs at the Vita’s full resolution. The bikes all look fantastic as well and reflect nicely in the sun and when wet. If things get a little too hairy there is also the same rewind function which was in place in WRC 3 and can be accessed by tapping the front touch screen. It certainly helps in the longer races where one mistake can see you dropping from the front of the pack often several places down and certainly helps alleviate stress. There is a limit on how many you can use though and you also have the option to turn the feature off if you feel like it’s cheating.
Aside from the Career and Instant Race features there is also a Grand Prix mode where you can enjoy single races and customised tournaments. Championship mode allows you to jump straight into the Moto GP, Moto 2 and Moto 3 championships and to play through in their entirety and there’s also Time Attack and online Multiplayer. For the first time in a Milestone game I was actually able to try online play as there were several tournaments in action when I tried to find a match. If you wish you can jump straight into the first game you find or you can also create custom tournaments and wait for people to join. I like the fact that everyone playing can vote for the track and weather conditions though this did work against me in some matches as the same players would select their favourite track over and over. In the case of a tie the game randomly selects for you and online play as a whole was pretty good. You can only have up to six riders in online races unfortunately but the competition seems to be fairly equal so it can be a lot of fun. You can also chat by touching the rear touchpad but all the people I played against were Italian so needless to say I didn’t attempt conversation!
All in all Milestone have once again proven that a smaller development studio can still be more than competent with the right passion and dedication in place. It’s exciting to see just how they are growing and progressing as a company and I feel MotoGP 13 is easily their best Vita title to date. Apart from the graphics which are good but not amazing it’s difficult to find all that much Milestone could have done to improve things here. If you’re a fan of Moto GP you need this game or if you’re a fan of driving sims you need this game. If you’re into arcade racers only you’ll probably be a little out of your depth here but for those willing to learn the game there’s little not to love. It’s refreshing to see a driving and physics model so technical that really takes time to learn and master and such depth is rarely found in racing games outside of Gran Turismo. At £10 cheaper than its PS3 counterpart on the Playstation Network digital is probably the way forward though the game is still great value for money and will keep you going for quite some time. It’ll be exciting to see what Milestone come up with next and I’m salivating at the prospect given the leaps and bounds they have made since their last Vita title. It’s not that often I write reviews yet while writing I’m addicted enough to the game I’m covering to want to stop writing and get back to playing so I feel this one is definitely worth a look. It’s also one of an ever growing number of games that delivers on what Sony promised; MotoGP 13 is a full console experience on the go and I imagine it will be some time before a new racing simulator takes the crown.