Milestone knows its motorbikes. The Italian game studio has been making racing games for over two decades, and is most prominently recognised for its work as the officially licensed developers of the MotoGP and MXGP series of motorcycle titles. More recently, the studio has cultivated its own bike racing franchise with the Ride series, which has garnered positive acclaim for its impressive simulative elements and extensive garage of vehicles.
Milestone has been hard at work for its 2018 slate of games, and recently gave us a preview of what’s on the horizon for the studio. First thing’s first; Ride 3 is happening, and it’s coming out later this year, November 8.
The game will include over 310 (310!) officially licensed bikes, and refine and expand the series’ mission statement as the ultimate motorbike experience, in which players can drive across some of the world’s most famous country roads and racing circuits. So far, Milestone is only showing trailers for its showcase IP, but franchise fans will no doubt be happy to see its return.
The games I did get to try out for myself were MotoGP 18 and MXGP Pro. The former is this year’s instalment in the annualised series of licensed MotoGP games, MotoGP being the premiere league of motorbike racing tournaments held every year. Think of it like FIFA or Madden, but with motorcycles, and you get the idea.
Having worked on MotoGP games for over five years, Milestone has pretty much got the formula perfected to a tee now, and is using each new instalment to expand the scope and broaden the horizons of what’s possible for an airtight racing simulation like this one.
Unsurprisingly, MotoGP 18 looks great, especially if you’re willing to risk wetter racing conditions to check out all of its amazing weather effects. I was activating photo mode at practically every corner, not just to take some snazzy action snaps, but to really appreciate the sheen of every bike, the detailed posture of my driver, and the accurately realised clarity of each real life race track.
Milestone used drones to fly over and take pictures of the actual circuits for a more accurate model to work from, and you can tell that the extra research has paid off. The only major exception are the human characters, which look like waxwork models of the actual racers they’re based upon, but I won’t deny that their amusing appearance made the pre-race warm up scenes a little more entertaining.
That visual smoothness translates over into the gameplay, too. Driving feels naturally exhilarating, with a wide range of customisation options to accommodate both motorbike neophytes and more advanced racers who really want to get into the nitty gritty of things like tire conditions, turn postures, and more. You’ll also be able to track all your progress with the new Moto GP ID profile system, which gives everyone an identifiable barometer to see how they’re doing, and further streamlines the expanded customisation for your desired racer and bike.
Mud, sweat, and tears
If MotoGP 18 is Milestone’s slick, sophisticated professional motorcycle game, then MXGP Pro is its wilder, wilier little brother. This is off-road, motocross racing, where smoothly tarmacked tracks are traded for bumpy, mud-strewn obstacle courses littered with fierce competitors and unexpected twists and turns. Milestone describes MXGP Pro as a soft reboot of the series, with a new emphasis on realism that tries to simulate the sport of motocross as accurately as possible, as the added ‘Pro’ part of the title suggests.
That means racing has a new sense of challenging physicality to it, and Milestone worked with real MXGP professionals to make sure players feel every bump and bounce of the discipline. With each jump, you’ll have to take considerations of your rider’s weight, positioning, and momentum, and adjust your landing accordingly, as failing to do so could slow you down or throw you off your bike entirely.
At first, it’s a little hard to get used to the frailty of the physics engine, and you’ll probably fail more jumps than you successfully land, but once you’ve figured out the knack, races become a terse and intense ballet of petrol and rubber that really comes into its own, even when competing against the surprisingly aggressive AI.
If you do find yourself struggling, MXGP Pro provides a small, but completely open compound area, which acts as the unofficial breakroom between races, where you can leisurely explore the wooded square mile zone, practice tricks, and take a breather from the ferocity of the competition.
Despite its more boisterous tone, Milestone looks to have successfully translated the science of motocross with as much commitment to authenticity as the MotoGP series, and while it might be a game made for a niche audience, even an external onlooker can admire the results.
MotoGP 18 is out first, June 7, while MXGP Pro will follow soon after, on June 29. With Ride 3 capping out the trifecta in November, Milestone really has got its hands busy for 2018, but I came away from my previews confident that this is a studio that knows what it’s doing. Whether you care for these kind of prudent and economical motorsports games or not, it’s hard to deny that the racing genre is a better place with three quality bike sims ready to be delivered to the virtual garage.