When it comes to Moto GP games, the PS2 really hasn't had the best game around. That belongs to the Xbox and Climax with their competing series. With Moto GP fast becoming the most popular motor sport series around the globe due to its intense racing, Sony had to act on this and get their game up to scratch and on par with Formula 1. Namco has once again been responsible for the production but this time around have done a heck of a lot with the game and created what perhaps is the best Moto GP game around and Climax is not guaranteed to retain its status this year as the number one bike developer, that's for sure.
Moto GP 4 is divided into three segments; arcade, career and simulation. Career and simulation are almost one and the same but arcade is for those who just want a pick up and play game. You won't get the most out of this game in arcade, but its fun for a quick bash with friends. The meat of the game is found elsewhere in the simulation modes and this is where a huge improvement seems to have been made. Obviously the main aim is to become the Moto GP world champion in the quickest time possible, but the game does this in a way different to others.
When you first begin a career you have the option to choose either an existing rider with lower stats or create your own rider to play as. From there you're thrown into the 125cc circuit and must impress to be offered 250cc and then Moto GP rides. At the end of each season contract negotiations take place, and you can see what's on offer from other teams. You can also be ridiculed by your team boss after poor performances, so it's a two way street. This really is the first game to fully show a bike rider's career through the lower ranks then to the Moto GP circuit and that is why this game will probably be in bike fans PS2's for months to come.
However it doesn't end here, the physics engine is probably the most advanced seen on a console to date as well. There are two options for players, normal and simulation physics. Unless you have a degree in physics we recommend the normal physics because simulation is exactly what it says, simulation of the most ridiculous physics ever. Go offline one centimeter and your rider will be kissing concrete rather quickly. This is a mode that you can play for hours and still not do a perfect lap making it superb for replay value, but extremely frustrating as well. The other mode still doesn't allow you to ride in a stupid manner, but is a lot more accessible for the average gamer.
In terms of licenses Moto GP has it all; teams tracks and everything but the kitchen sink has been licensed from Dorna to give the most accurate representation of a race weekend yet. All the usual tracks have been included as well as the brand new China track which made its debut in Formula 1 2004, but is now also a Moto GP track. The tracks are planned out well, but do seem a bit bare when compared to the real world circuits in terms of surrounding environments such as buildings and trees. The animation is very impressive however with riders featuring multiple crash animations as well as being able to have wheel to wheel racing without collision detection issues.
The game in terms of visual appeal is a disappointment in some areas yet exceeds expectations in others. The riders are definitely the pick of the bunch with detailed bikes, animations and skeletal models they are the standout as are the important bits of the track but the rest of the game seems closer to a PSX game than PS2 and considering we are coming towards the end of PS2, it's not exactly acceptable. One thing which is cool is the helmet camera which gives you a true perspective of a Moto GP race. The sound effects are a different story with loud bike engines emanating well, and a soundtrack that suits the game well.
Moto GP 4 is leaps and bounds above its predecessors and finally gives Climax something to really think about with their game due out in a few months time. Namco has really put a superb effort into this year's game with the physics engine, career mode and generally overall. Moto GP 4 is the latest and best bike title on the PS2 and probably any console to date.