This is the World Superbikes all right, but is this really 2008? One minute we’re admiring the bucking, weaving bike coruscating towards the next turn beneath Salt Lake City’s imposing mountains, and we’re quite impressed. The next we’re waiting for lumpily-modelled objects such as grandstands to pop into existence, while wrong-faced riders crouch over bikes that are at times so haphazard in their dimensions we wonder why Milestone licensed them at all. There are motorcycles in San Andreas that look more like the real thing.
What this offers is – hey! – the World Superbike Championship, with up-to-date teams, liveries, riders and tracks, including that nice new one in Salt Lake. You get some impressive flourishes: tuning is augmented with a help option, for instance, and it’s all presented within the pit garage. Take the option for setup advice, and you see your rider lean over for a chat with his mechanic. Mmm, immersive. Shame, then, that so much else smells so badly of unwashed helmet liners. There’s a distinct budget twang, from bikes modelled by the blind sculptor from Lionel Richie’s video for Hello (the Yamaha is particularly inbred) to the desolate environments and close-enough-for-jazz track layouts. And that’s despite how attractive these screens look (we actually feel guilty – it really doesn’t look this good in motion and we don’t know how these turned out so well).
It even gets a bit Area 51 at times, with bikes riding into the distance but leaving their shadows behind and things flickering in and out of existence in the corners of vision. SBK 08 is horrible without analogue control, so if you don’t have a pad, stay away. Even the automatic gearbox is bad enough to send you off track. You need as much control as you can get. That’s because these don’t handle like bikes. They take an absolute age to tip in to a corner, despite the real things slapping to full lean quicker than Amy Winehouse – watch Yamaha’s Haga for proof. Yet, despite the initial recalcitrance, the slightest subsequent adjustment flicks you upright like two lines of coke to the eyeballs. Then, of course, that glacial turn-in bites again and you run into the gravel. Sigh. This is a strange and stupid design that has blighted various racing games since the universe cooled. Why? We don’t know. Blame Beelzebub.
And yet! Get your braking points right, tip in at the right moment and gas it up using the non-lethal manual gears and SBK 08 does a flattering impression of a heavy, powerful superbike in full flood. They howl, spin their tyres, slap their bars and wheelie at the slightest provocation. The rider clambers all over it desperately. You can even slide the back wheel out, though it does look unrealistic – there’s no big black line, for a start, and now we think of it the churning grass effects when you slither wide are... regrettable. SBK 08 races on a thin line, then. Get it right and you feel like a superstar, though it’s ultimately hollow. Get it wrong and it’s horribly cumbersome – and while it’s certainly up to date, when so many bikes and riders look wrong, the effect is not as great as it should be. Which pretty much sums up the whole game.
Aug 1, 2008