MotoGP 15 is one of those 'incremental updates' that invariably causes wailing and gnashing of teeth. But actually, in this instance, the small tweaks have made a noticeable difference to the experience, so I'm not sad. This is a more welcoming and consistent package, and just as exhaustive in terms of reproducing the sport.
As before, you get all the teams, bikes and riders of the current Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP season, but you also get last year's too, with a 2014 events mode asking you to replicate classic battles like Rossi vs Marquez at Qatar. It's a great use of the license, and seeing Valentino beaming at you from the loading screen (alongside a suitably inspiring quote), goes a long way to making you feel closer to the real life sport. That said, the presentation feels very similar to last year's game.
On the track, the AI riders put up a great fight, outbraking you into hairpins and slipstreaming past you down the straights. They tend to keep themselves to themselves in close races (which is necessary seeing as real-life contact can kill people), but they also tend to play it safe. If you take a gamble on a particularly crazy line, you can often make up several places in one corner. But overall, the racing is solid and challenging, and securing a podium finish without resorting to the rewind function is a significant achievement.
The bike handling is superb, and with all the assists set to their hardest setting, save for the traction control set to 'Low', I felt I'd found the best compromise between playability and realism. When even a simple practice session is fun, you know the handling is good.
Disappointingly, even on PS4, the game only runs at 30fps. It's solid and good-looking, certainly, but seeing as Project CARS manages 60fps with damage modelling and even better dynamic weather, this isn't quite up to the standard of its peers. At least it still feels fast - those MotoGP bikes are like rockets.
Naturally, the MotoGP bikes themselves are monsters. With the same settings, you'll have many more wobbles, especially if you squeeze the front brake too zealously. Most moments can be saved if you watch for the signs… Just call me 'the Doctor'. What's that? Oh, apparently that's already taken. Jokes aside, however, the fact remains that bikes require a great deal of effort to control on anything other than newbie settings, and that doesn't always equal instant fun. So be warned.
Career mode sees the biggest new feature, as you can now start up your own team. You begin in Moto3, with a rather uncompetitive bike, and must attract new sponsors by meeting performance targets. You also build up 'Data Package' tokens - returning from last year - which you can spend on upgrading your ride, but now you also accumulate credits, which you can use to buy better bikes for your team. Sadly, any Data Packages you spend upgrading your first bike get wiped out when you switch to another, which does seem to negate the point of earning them, especially as a new bike's performance is noticeably better than upgrading an existing one.
The visuals have been tweaked - albeit subtly - to deliver much more organic-feeling environments. It's far from perfect, with incredibly basic trees on some tracks and uniform dry patches that totally shatter the illusion when they're regimented perfectly down one half of a straight (that doesn't count as a 'dry line', I don't care what anyone says). But, thanks to some more natural-looking lighting, and the occasional moment of hazy-filtered gorgeousness, MotoGP 15 feels far less sterile than last year's game.
As you can probably tell, I like MotoGP 15. It's a strong official product to go alongside the real-world season, and the core riding experience is just as great as Ride's, only with better racing, presentation and tracks. It's definitely the best bike racing game on PS4. But there's a nagging feeling I can't shake...
Namco's MotoGP for PSP came out in 2006. It doesn't have any weather effects, nor garage scenes or any kind of side-modes. It just provides an exceptional core experience that I still felt deserved 9/10 on our old rating system (yes I have been here that long). And I still like it more than MotoGP 15. Milestone's game is much more likeable than last year's, certainly, but Namco's little beauty still has that element of magic. This doesn't. Some elements are clearly superb and there's nothing dreadfully wrong with it, but it isn't an essential video game experience; it's merely very good.
This game was reviewed on PS4. A version of this review also appears in Official PlayStation Magazine.