When the Xbox first came out there was one game that really stood out over the first six months of Xbox Live and that was Moto GP. Moto GP took the motorcycle simulation genre and made it fun and easy to play expanding the reach of the game its sequel still remains one of the most popular and played games on Xbox Live. For the third game Climax have made the game even more mainstream and while this will tick hardcore Rossi fans off, the rest of us casual gamers can find a great deal of variety and continuing sublime gameplay from the first two games.
Moto GP at its core is a replica of the world championship complete with real world riders, teams and tracks. It is what Climax has done for the third game which really makes it stand out against the pack, especially the PS2 exclusive Moto GP 4. The modes on offer are Individual Race, Championship, Time Trial and extreme mode; fairly self explanatory except for the Extreme Mode but we'll get onto that further into the review.
Half the game remains much like the first two games. Choose your class (100, 250 and Moto GP), your rider, track and then race. As with the first two games the more famous riders are locked from the outset and points must be gained by winning races and championships to unlock them for usage. You can create your own rider or use one of the famous ones in the championship and really that's the only change from the previous title.
The other half of the game is brand new. Extreme mode is the name and extreme is definitely an apt word to describe racing through the outback at 200mph+ on a motorbike. This is the game that takes the simulation side of things, throws it in the bin and gives fans what they have wanted; intense high speed racing on fantasy tracks with some stunning graphics. The engine does remain the same and it is still just as hard to ride the bikes and maintain control but it has allowed Climax to create some unique, challenging tracks and really, it had to be added to keep the series fresh given this is the third game.
The other changes are a lot more subtle such as the increased crash animations, the collision detection seems a bit more accurate with crashes a lot more often this time around and the online play has returned although not as expansive as the Xbox version. The AI riders have been reworked as well and now recognise when you are near them and take evasive action instead of running straight into you. Of course if you brake too early, you will be slammed into, but that's just part and parcel of the sport itself.
The game is based around the 2004 season and thus for the first time has the Chinese track which you may have seen in the F1 games and some new riders and teams. Rossi is on the Yamaha in the game so you can recreate his history making rides of the 2004 season race by race. Everything about the game is licensed including the sponsors and motorcycle types and on the PC this is the only game which has the license.
Visually the game is stunning and at the highest level is on par with what we are currently seeing from Xbox 360 preview movies. Climax has had the reputation from MGP to create some of the best graphics with high speed racing and the Extreme mode just enhances this reputation even further with stunning rock formations, water falls and lots of trackside objects making it hard to concentrate on the riding. The sound effects from the engines are realistic and the soundtrack suits the game well.
Moto GP 3 continues Climax tradition of superb motorcycle racing games and gives the PC possibly the best racing game of the year for the platform, ironic considering it's not a car game. Bike fans will love it while casual fans will appreciate the high speed action and simple game mechanics.