MotoGP 20 Review

April 24, 2020
Also on: PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Given the current situation across the globe and the cancellation or postponement of major sporting competitions, their gaming counterparts are the only way for fans to get their sporting fix. If you’re a fan of two wheels over four, then the MotoGP series is, alongside World Superbikes, the top formula for stars of the discipline. The last time we visited Milestone’s MotoGP series was for its 2018 installment. We noted the strides it had taken, but that it struggled with accessibility and translating the thrill of the sport alongside some ropey AI. Given that a new “neural” AI is among its highlighted features we could be in for quite the ride and that’s mostly true but like anything in gaming, it’s far more nuanced than that.

One thing that MotoGP 20 impressed upon us was patience, even with driver aids on getting one of these two-wheeled beasts around the track quickly is no easy feat. To go fast you’ll need to learn to take your time and ease into things. Jam on the throttle too early or with too much venom and you’re likely to see your rider tank-slapped off the bike.  Turns and braking are tricky as well. Show a little too much aggression and you’ll be sliding off your ride in no time. Truth be told, the bike physics are really rather splendid and far more predictable than before. As you take more of the assists away you can then start to slide and throttle control your way around the circuits. It’s a shame that there are no tutorials to key you into the finer points but if you take your time, learn the circuits and slowly wean yourself off the aids the progression feels just as natural and perhaps, a touch more rewarding.

That boy’s good!

Whilst you can create your own custom race or championship, the meat of MotoGP 20 exists in its career. Here you can either join an existing team in Moto3, Moto2 or MotoGP or take the road less travelled and create a new team and start from the bottom. If you do, then you must keep an eye on who is on your staff and ensure you take part in testing to keep up with the other teams. As you improve your team’s standing within the MotoGP world, you can attract better technical staff which in turn improves how well they can help you tune your bike. You can tune and meddle with your bike’s setup as much as you want but if your knowledge on all things bike aren’t up to snuff, you can sit down with your engineer instead. 

Similar to how you set up cars in Project Cars 2 you can tell your engineer where you’re having problems and, a few questions later, they will then suggest and adjust the bike according to your feedback. This very much adds to the realism as we’d be surprised if Andrea Dovizioso gets the spanners out and adjusts things like his bike’s ride-height on an average race weekend. It’s a great dynamic to see and, much like learning to handle the bikes, once you’re confident in what’s going wrong you can slowly tune bikes to a track and make further use of the free-practice sessions before each Grand Prix.

Feeling the need for speed

Should you wish to, you can take part in all three free-practice sessions before every race and the race warm-up alongside qualifying and the race itself. Early on when you’re perhaps just getting to grips with things the benefits other than completing team objectives is scarce. However, as you move up the classes knowing what your fuel consumption and tyre wear is like will be crucial to getting podiums or more importantly wins. We learnt this the hard way in Moto2 when, despite loading up with enough fuel for seven laps (according to the guide) we ran out of fuel with three-quarters of a lap to go in a five lap race. Confused, we tried again yet netted roughly the same result. It wasn’t until we realised our power settings were still set in qualifying mode did we realise what had happened.

Much like any high-performance racing vehicle the engine can be set to different modes which allows for more power. The trade-off is that more fuel is used and so it’s a question of when and where to unleash it to keep ahead of the chasing pack yet save enough fuel to complete the race. As the old saying goes, to finish first, first you have to finish. With our lesson learned we successfully completed our next race and understood more on how to fuel-save as we went. Immersion and realism, it seems, is very much the focus of MotoGP 20 and it doesn’t stop with the physics, fuel and tyre wear either.

Thanks to Unreal, MotoGP looks quite realistic

If you really want to go that extra mile and experience what it’s like to go 350km/h on two wheels without risking your life, MotoGP 20’s helmet camera is quite something. As your virtual rider leans into and out of corners, navigating the course as well as other riders, the camera movement gives a real sense of just how frenetic the real thing is. MotoGP 20 is the third iteration to use the Unreal engine and whilst that switch paid dividends straight away it really is now coming into its own. Every circuit is faithfully recreated alongside beautiful bikes, rider models and some wonderful rider animations. The race weekend experience is somewhat restrained but that’s no bad thing with things like commentary sparsely used during practice and qualifying and not at all during the race. Should you perform well and finish on the podium or first the post-race celebrations are just as you’d expect and are much more varied than our last visit in MotoGP 18.

Should you tire of the modern machines there’s a wonderful historic mode allowing you to race in curated scenarios on the backs of some of the older 4-Stroke and 500cc bikes from MotoGP’s past. If you complete a scenario in first, second or third you’ll receive a payout of in-game currency which you can use to purchase new teams or riders. These challenges and available purchases are changed daily which keeps things fresh and hopefully you, the player, coming back for me. Each one pays out a number of points which can then be used to unlock other riders or teams from MotoGP’s past. In there you’ll find the likes of Valentino Rossi during his hayday, Mick Doohan, Casey Stoney alongside Max Biaggi, Marco Simoncelli and many, many more. If you unlock the historic teams you can take part in these races as your custom rider so this mode isn’t just locked down to just the pre-made riders.

Riding my invisible bike again

MotoGP 20 strives for realism and simulation over making it simplistic and too arcade-like which would diminish the challenge of riding these bikes fast. Previously this pursuit was let down by the controls which were difficult to use on a pad. That’s not so this time around and much like any other simulation racer out there to be good you need to practice and that effort is rewarded if you stick through it.  Really the only major disappointment is the neural AI. Touted as a smarter and more accurate AI what we found was an AI that is seemingly no different from MotoGP 18. Our AI combatants are still tied to the racing line whether you’re there or not with lunges from deep and into ever closing gaps a mainstay. First corner pile ups can be difficult to avoid, especially if you happen to be on the racing yet not going fast enough.

When all is said and done if you’re a fan of the series then MotoGP 20 is the best yet and a fantastic simulation of the sport. Still, the AI seems to take decisions no real rider would take in similar real life circumstances but, as it relies on machine learning perhaps that can still improve. Despite that, though, the racing is still close quarters and thrilling as a result. As a game MotoGP 20 is unyielding and if you dive in expecting to take the chequered flag without a thought to strategy and control then you may come away disappointed. Whilst it may turn casual fans of the sport away it will reward those who put in the time to learn not just the courses but the physics which are spot on. 

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MotoGP 20 is a top notch recreation of one of the fastest series on two wheels. The career mode is entertaining, especially if you decide to take on being a new team. Visually stunning, audibly arresting and just downright fun to play when you get the hang of it, MotoGP 20 is a must for any serious fan of the sport.
Pete Taylor

A long time gamer since the days of the mighty ZX Spectrum +2. The bug really bit when I got a Sega Mega Drive 2 and it hasn’t let up since. Huge racing fan but I also enjoy losing myself in a well-told RPG and management sims. It doesn’t have to be good-looking to win my heart, it’s what’s deep down inside that matters.