If you’ve read or watched any of my previous racing game reviews then you’ll know that I’m not really the biggest bike fan out there. With that in mind, don’t expect me to be using the correct terminology and don’t be offended if I’m simply not very good at the game, as you’ll see in the video. And, to be clear, I am not very good at MotoGP 21. At all. I’ve been playing for a week and I’m still happy to chase last place but I’m getting there, slowly but surely.
For newcomers, MotoGP 21 isn’t an easy game to pick up and play. It’s not a casual game like Forza Horizon or The Crew 2 – it’s much more on the simulation side, which means you need to take it seriously and, if you’re as pathetic as I am, crank the difficulty down to the lowest setting and enable every single driving aid and set them to the maximum. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you, as the game doesn’t wrestle all control away from you if you’re a newbie; the system intervenes to keep the gameplay as smooth as possible, which means keeping you on the track and not flying arse following head over the handlebars.
If you’re familiar with the MotoGP series, you’ll already know what to be on the lookout for. You’ll know that the physics are heavy – supposedly even more realistic in this year’s edition – and that progress is a slow road. And a slow road it definitely is, at least for me, but it could be slower.
The game comes packed with a few different game modes but the meat of the meal is in the Career Mode where you can either start your own team or join an established outfit as a team rider. I chose the latter because I’ve no idea what goes into making a good bike team. Two wheels and a helmet would be my guess, but there’s obviously much more. You don’t get to completely shy away from the management side by signing with a manufacturer’s team – you’ll still have some sway over the team via your entourage, including your manager, engineer, and so on. You can hire and fire as you please, but you can also be fired if you’re riding for a team.
Every team has their goals and expectations. Each race will have a clear set of instructions for you, such as finish 15th, or 10th, or whatever. Failing to do this will cost you some of the career points you have and this affects your job security. Fail to bring home the bacon too many times and you’ll be kicked the curb.
The Career Mode has enough going on that hardcore fans will be more than happy to sit through an entire weekend race event, and then get into the nitty-gritty of upgrading your machine and tapping up new talent for the team, should you venture out and start your racing empire. For me, though, the racing was just about enough. If I was a bigger fan of motorbike racing, I’m sure I’d get some kicks out of the management side, but I didn’t.
I’m used to throwing four-wheeled machines around corners and through fields, sometimes through police blockades, so going back to a motorbike game was always going to be difficult. And it really was but I still appreciated the challenge and the accomplishment that came with finally finishing a race mid-table. The trick is the follow the other riders and try to weave yourself into their pattern. Timing is crucial in MotoGP. Anticipation is half the game – you need to be constantly thinking about the next three turns you’re going to pull off. Memorising two of the turns is not enough because you’ll need to make sure that coming out of turn 2 that you’re already positioned for turn three, whether that’s maintaining a knee to the ground or pulling your motor up straight and pushing forward for maximum effort. I liked this and it gamified the simulation a little bit because all I had to do then was observe the patterns, learn the patterns, and repeat the patterns.
So on next-gen, how is it? It’s great and it looks and runs fantastically at a solid 60fps. The adaptive triggers are used to good effect in providing some resistance when pulling the brakes or hitting the gas. Nothing special, mind you, and nothing that we haven’t already seen in other PS5 racing games, but it’s nice to see it there all the same. It’s the little extra effort that goes a little way with PS5 players wanting the most out of their new gear.
On PS4 the game is perfectly fine, albeit with a little bit of choppiness here and there with the game’s frame rate, and the loading times are obviously a little longer than on PS5, but essentially you’re getting the same game.
As a non-biker looking into the world of bike racing as I tend to do a couple times a year, as per my review duties, I enjoyed MotoGP 21. It won’t be my go-to racer but I’ll definitely keep plugging away at it, at least until I need to make some room on my PS5, and then it fights the battle against the other review duty games to see which will die to make room for… another review duty download. That’s a whole game in itself.
MotoGP 21 PS5, PS4 Review
MotoGP 21 is a fine racer that’s realistic to a fault at times. It’s not beginner friendly and you’ll certainly need to be a part of the two-wheeled racing community to appreciate this niche, but it’s good fun all the same. A bit of practice and patience will do newcomers well, while veteran speedsters will feel at home with the familiar tracks, riders, and machines.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5, PS4 Pro.