I've been playing motorsport games for longer than I can remember. Consoles have come and gone, but the roar of an engine has always been filling my ears. From Formula 1 games to Gran Turismo and Colin McRae Rally I have been trying to guide cars to the chequered flag for years.
One motorsport game that has not crossed my path has been Moto GP. The most experience I have racing a bike is on Mario Kart 8. So just how easy is the new Moto GP game for an experienced racer to jump into and play?
Same aim, different journey
You still need to get around a track. Having any experience in spotting braking points, hitting apexes, and flowing through esses is still a benefit, but the way the bike handles compared to a 4-wheeled car is startling.
The difference in steering is the first thing you notice. It's much harder to correct your line on the bike than it is in an F1 car. The way you have to swoop and lean with the bike makes minute line changes tricky, and that immediately puts you on the back foot as you'll often approach corners off the ideal line.
The next thing is the brakes. Stopping power is greatly reduced compared to a car for the obvious reason that you only have two wheels doing the braking, not four. That means braking zones are massive and the ability to squirt the throttle between corners is limited. The bike is also far more squirrelly when braking and liable to buck you off than a car. There is little to no forgiveness for trying to turn while braking.
Finally, there is the acceleration. You can't just hit the throttle as soon as you reach the exit of the corner. Even with the traction control system enabled and maxed out you have to be patient and bring the bike up from the corner before you can accelerate, otherwise your rider will be in a world of trouble.
All of these differences make riding even a familiar track a vicious test of your nerves. How late dare you brake? Can you resist the temptation of applying the power too early? Can you stay on-line for longer than two corners? I have put at least 500 hours into F1 2018, but I felt like a complete amateur at motorsport when Moto GP 19 loaded.
Assists are your friend
The "ideal trajectory" assist is a must even if you are racing a track like Silverstone that is well known. The lack of a 3D line makes it a bit trickier to see, but it still provides the best route through corners and is helpful with your braking and turning points.
The other great assist is the joint brakes. The default controls have different buttons for the front and rear brakes, a completely alien concept in other motorsport games. Without this assist stopping can become a nightmare of overshooting corners and wobbling yourself off the bike.
The physics simulation level is also a terrific assist to help you get used to riding. Flicked to "assisted" it reduces the viciousness of the machine underneath you, stopping erratic bursts of acceleration bucking you into the gravel.
Practice makes perfect
Like any game, the more you play the easier it becomes. You start most motorsport games from a fairly confident place, we all know roughly how cars react and feel even if you haven't driven before. Bikes are a totally different beast but like anything practice makes everything better.
The feel of Moto GP 19 is terrific. The feedback system allows you to learn your way into correct braking patterns and steering style. There is even a track engineer that can help guide you through setup changes which is a very welcome addition to help a Moto GP novice.
If you are suffering from instability at some points or difficultly with braking they can help, and the explanations for all the different setup options are good too. Again, this is extremely useful for someone coming into the game from a place like F1, where the setups are all-important and hard to comprehend.
Moto GP 19 feels like a good game, but it is a battle for a new player. There is nothing else like this game out there. Experience on Gran Turismo will help you in F1, which will help you on Forza. None of that really helps you here and may in fact hinder you.
ABS assists in racing games allows you to be extremely aggressive with braking and turning, but in Moto GP 19 even a hint of that will be a quick trip into the gravel. With 4 wheels you can plant the power nice and early, with 2 patience is key and without it you're in the ground.
Moto GP 19 is a challenge, but it is the kind of challenge you keep coming back to so that one day you can conquer it. If you are willing to put some time in and work through the early frustrations then the rewards are there waiting for you.