It takes skill, balance and a well-developed pair of cojones to control a 180-mph MotoGP racing bike on the worldwide Grand Prix stage - but 60 bucks and a videogamer's steady hand will get the job done on an Xbox 360. Of course, pretty or not, that last bit may determine whether or not you'll even like MotoGP '06.
It's not that the game is overly sim-like; the cursory controls and arcade bike physics are easy enough to manage. But you must remember one thing: you're piloting an unstable two-wheeled rocket around a hard surface at blinding speeds. Mess it up - even a bit - and you'll tear some big holes in those fancy riding leathers.
Your personal riding proficiency is one thing (and it is satisfying to master the rear-brake powersliding technique that leads to quick lap times), but MotoGP '06's real allure lies in its exquisite eye and ear candy. Owners of last year's MotoGP 3 (for the original Xbox) might resist the temptation to upgrade because of content overlap - MGP06 adds in only a handful of new tracks - but they'd be cheating themselves. The lush new HD visuals are postcard perfect and the dizzying sensation of speed you get as your Yamaha rockets up Laguna Seca's backstraight is enough to give your eyeballs windburn.
The audio is just as sweet. Brit developer Climax Studios made sure that each bike emits its own signature engine note so you can now pick out that Honda or Ducati behind you without a backward glance.
With 17 real world GP circuits awaiting your riding expertise and an equal number of fantasy "Extreme" tracks to appease underground racing fans, MotoGP '06 taps the odometer pretty hard. The single-player AI is reasonably challenging at the higher difficulty settings and upwards of 16 players can duke it out on Xbox Live with nary a hiccup.
It's not all high-octane and champagne, though. Load times are aggravatingly slow; off-track excursions produce quicksand-like velocity reductions; and, to further rub salt in, a ridiculous penalty timer deducts precious seconds from your lap time whenever your wheels leave the asphalt. Your chosen mount - deliciously pristine and detailed from all angles - is also immune to any sort of performance-hindering damage.
These speed bumps aside, MotoGP '06 delivers exceptional bi-pedal racing action for anyone who likes to roll at high speed and who understands the difference between driving a car and riding a bike. A really fast bike.