MotoGP 21 Preview – Evolving With the Sport
MotoGP is a series I've not had a great history with. I hadn't even reviewed the previous two releases before MotoGP 21, 19 and 20, though I have played 20, which showed steps in the right direction. Before that, my reviews of MotoGP 17 and 18 weren't exactly glowing. The concern I've made clear for a long time is that I think Milestone S.r.L. is taking on too much, spreading themselves too thin and trying to meet far too rigid of a release schedule.
Every year brings a MotoGP game. I can understand this; it's an annualised sports franchise. However, every year also brings Monster Energy Supercross, MXGP, and usually one other title on top of that. MotoGP has usually been the title to suffer due to this, but the question is if MotoGP 21 has made that jump to the next level.
My time with MotoGP 21 was limited, with only Time Trial and Grand Prix made available. I can't talk about many of the other features for that reason alone. Let's talk about getting on the bike first. MotoGP 21 seems to be learning from RIDE 4, with a major focus on simulation while including a wide variety of options for fine-tuning your vehicle and how the game will react to you. There's no doubt that you can tweak everything to make it more accessible, though there's always the option of ploughing through the learning curve.
Part of the evolution of racing within the MotoGP games comes brake temperature, looking to bring the game closer to the real thing. If you're anything like me, some of the moves towards realism are probably going to be punishing. MotoGP 21 will feature a bike retrieval system, where you actually have to pick up the bike and get back on it after crashing, no more instant teleportation. There's also the long lap penalty, where your mistakes can lead you into being forced onto a narrow, even more, accident-prone section of the track. If you're me, that is.
As for the AI, A.N.N.A. (Artificial Neural Network Agent) seems to have learned a few things from my criticisms on RIDE 4. She's still a little ditzy here and there; I've noticed a few riders thinking they were The Flash and could phase through somebody else on the pre-determined perfect line, but this does seem to happen less than in earlier titles. The challenge is there; It's just getting the balance right in the options, depending on how utterly abysmal you are at this sort of game.
If I have one problem with MotoGP 21 during my preview, it's that the game seems washed out. Somebody has ramped up the luminosity. The textures in the tracks, the lines, everything seemed to be lost thanks to the brightness. This, fortunately, isn't meant to be indicative of the final product because it completely ruins the look of the game, making the graphical improvements seem pointless.
Speaking of improvements, there have been a few. One is in basic presentation, with a slightly larger UI, but one that looks better and offers all the information you need in an easy to digest way. You also get a more realistic presentation of an event, the camera circling the map, watching the dead-eyed zombie... no, bad Chris. Positives. Watching the crew behind the scenes as in a real Moto GP event. It's all adds to the realism.
Milestone is still slowly improving everything. With graphical and animation improvements - the slight wobble of your bike and rider when braking hard, the animations around the wheels are more detailed. The bikes and riders generally look a lot better and more detailed. As I've said, slowly improving. It's the same slow evolution that all of their games seem to be going through, rarely, if ever, taking that giant leap forward but still moving forward as the developers learn more tricks in Unreal Engine and add more to the games.
It needs to be made clear that I don't know if MotoGP 21 will be good. I've no idea what the new career will be like. So far, the game feels like an evolution from the earlier outings. It's taking slow, tentative steps in the right direction. If the career and features end up being more fleshed out than those in the last outing, this really could be something special. I don't doubt that this will be good for those already fans of the series for pure racing.
At the time of this preview going live, you're going to get to watch the very first race of the MotoGP 2021 series, unless COVID has its way like last season. Just one month later, on the 22nd of April, the game will be released. As has been customary for practically all Milestone games, MotoGP 21 does seem to be taking steps in the right direction, but only time will tell if that extends to the rest of the game and if it lasts throughout.