Being a high-stakes professional game reviewer is tough work. You must commit to spending countless hours playing pre-release games on relentlessly tight deadlines. You have to navigate various embargoes and work for hours on your written thoughts. It’s enough to put emotional stress on anyone, but the real danger is often not talked about. Developer Milestone S.r.l. Seemingly churns out so many motorcycle racing games every year that if you don’t keep your head on a swivel, the newest one is likely to knock your teeth out as it barrels towards you.
Thankfully, I was able to hear the 4-stroke engines of MotoGP 20 just in time to duck out of the way. Once I got back up, I uninstalled my other recent Milestone motorcycle games Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3, MXGP 2019 - The Official Motocross Videogame, MotoGP 19, and Ride 3 so that I had enough room to load up MotoGP 20. If you are after the best Grand Prix motorcycle racing simulation on the market and are not experiencing two-wheel fatigue, this will be the game for you.
MotoGP 20 is built to give players the full 2020 Grand Prix motorcycle racing experience. Milestone has licensed the full flare of real-life riders across the various classes. The new track in Finland makes its debut in this year’s edition of the game as well. Fans of the sport will be tickled to play around in the new Historical Mode that presents custom challenges for dedicated riders and will offer rider and bike unlocks. A selection of licensed legacy riders is also available and helps to flesh out the offering.
The reworked career mode offers players the chance to play as one of the licensed teams of the 2020 season or to create their own team from scratch. You will hire team members to help build ever-improving bikes. It is not as involved as something like Motorsport Manager or similar modes in games for other racing disciplines but is a welcome addition to an already sizable collection of things to do. MotoGP 20 touts a new Graphics Editor that is not as extensive as I would like to see but does offer sticker, number, and some other livery customization.
Hitting the pavement
Unlike Milestone’s Ride 3, which offered a more casual approach to motorcycle racing, MotoGP 20 leans fairly heavily on the simulation side of things. The default configuration has loads of driver assists enabled to start out that will help with traction, braking, and cornering for novices. I am no bike racing expert and hit the tracks with this setup, but found it to be entirely too limiting and lacking any fun. The game physics and how the bikes interact with the track are everything in MotoGP 20. In my opinion, even newcomers should disable the assists, save for the front/rear braking option.
Keeping the bike upright at any competitive speed is difficult at first. I continually laid down the bikes during the opening hours I spent with the game, but slowly grew more comfortable with additional last place laps. There are subtle visual and haptic feedback cues to let you know how effective your braking and throttle control are working, making for a very rewarding experience. Mastering braking on the high-displacement classes is a tough hurdle to overcome, but finally getting through a corner at speed without drifting or doing a stoppie feels exhilarating.
Managing the nearly unforgiving controls and physics is even more challenging if you actually have plans to keep up with the pack of other riders. The A.I. is fairly believable and navigating the tight packs at the start of races predictably works to raise your blood pressure but in a good way. Once you spend an eternity coming to terms with the way the bikes handle, you can throw it all out the window for races under rain. The journey of white knuckle terror and frustration starts all over, but you also get wetter this time.
The game offers a few different first-person cameras for an attempt at simulating the feeling of tearing around the super circuits in these pocket rockets, but I found it to be too stress-inducing to be useful when I was actually trying to progress. The third-person camera was how I spent most of my time, but I appreciate the option to soil my pants whenever the urge should arise.
On the presentation side of things, MotoGP 20 offers up solid 3D models of the real-life riders and they can be seen in the pre-race cutscenes along with the decidedly lower fidelity NPCs in the staging areas. These non-gameplay shots are a welcome addition though and do help to give the proceedings the vibe you’d expect from a AAA sports title.
The graphical presentation gets the job done in a workmanlike fashion, though I didn’t feel that it offered the same wow factor I got with Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3. Where that game had strikingly bold colors and lighting enhanced by the indoor events, the outdoor races in MotoGP 20 lack the same sizzle. MotoGP 20 has a clean HDR-capable picture with lighting, shadows, and texture detail that never detract from providing immersion, but it never wowed me outside of the races held under rain. Once the pavement gets soaked, the reflections help to make things look much nicer than what you see on clear days.
The audio exhibition offers the same no-nonsense approach as the graphics. All the 4-stroke engine noises sounded good to me and playing with headphones and high dynamic range worked very well. I could clearly hear A.I. bikes around me and what little music was included worked well enough.
I went into this with only a basic understanding of serious motorbike track racing, so I am unable to speak to some of the superlatives or shortcomings that would only be apparent to diehards. Still, MotoGP 20 offered me a good time. I dove into the PC version of the game and it delivered a rock-solid performance outing at both 60Hz and 120Hz at max settings and high resolutions, making it the clear choice over its 30Hz console cousins. If you are going solo or not worried about missing out on playing with friends on a specific console, the PC is the version to snag. Admittedly, I am starting to suffer Milestone motorbike game fatigue. It has affected some of the initial excitement I had for MotoGP 20, but I cannot deny that my time spent was mighty fine. 8/10 crotch rockets
This review is based on the PC Steam release. The key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. MotoGP 20 is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
- Outstanding physics
- Precise controls
- Loaded with content
- Fully licensed for 2020 MotoGP season
- Visuals look good in the rain
- Steep learning curve eventually offers satisfying reward
- Not very approachable for casuals
- Slightly underwhelming visual presentation against other Milestone games
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, MotoGP 20 review: A knee-dragging good time