As far as racing simulation games go, the gaming genre has come a long way. With standout car racing sims such as Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport ruling the roost on one side, while other games such as MotoGP and SBK taking the other half, being Motorbike racing. Milestone and Deep Silver have just released their new entry into the series: SBK X: Superbike World Championship, and are trying to appeal to audiences new and old by continually expanding on their old simulation formula, while complementing it with another mode to expand into the casual fans, who just want to have a good time. The game they put together is a well crafted, fun experience, which really gives you the feeling of racing around a track and the wind hitting your face, but unfortunately has some drawbacks that keep it from taking the checkered flag.
As far as modes go, SBK X is broken down into three divisions: Arcade, Simulation and Xbox Live. Arcade is for people who are new to the Superbike racing genre. In this style of play, you don’t have to worry about falling off your bike as much, and it is easier to get around turns, as well as they have added a racing line similar to games like Forza, which is color from green to yellow to red, and helps let you know when you should be braking or hammering the gas. You can also get a jump in speed by holding down the A or X button on the straight a ways, and can boost to catch up to opponents.
The main mode of the Arcade division is Story mode, where the career aspects found in Simulation (which I will go into shortly) are basically dumbed-down, and you have just set objectives for each race to accomplish. These range from gaining a certain number of positions before the lap is over, or not falling off a broken bike. Most of these are simple and straightforward, but do tend to get very challenging later on, when they add in a few at one time. I really liked the Arcade mode, because with being so new to this genre, it really does take a simplified mode to ease you in, and they have really accomplished that goal.
The other main division, Simulation is where the real meat of the game is found. Here, you enter Career mode, where you create your own personal identity, joining a team of racers, and have set goals for each race day. You also have other details like get a higher position than another racer that are built into the contract you sign with your team. It all feels very slick, and gives you the feeling like each race matters. However, once you get into the races, the game could potentially fall apart. This is due to the fact that on each race weekend, you have to endure four difference practice sessions before you can actually compete in the race.
These get very tedious, but I can see the realism aspect, as you have compete for the position you will start the race in. However, there are some players, like myself, who want to get straight into the races. So, if you are like that as well, I suggest that you stick to Arcade mode. I would have also liked to see the team at Milestone focus on one mode or the other. If they were able to incorporate the fun, easy to play aspects of Arcade, with the cool realistic feel and team aspect of Simulation, I really feel like they would have had one well polished game.
In terms of game play for Simulation, you have to be fully accustomed to the way your bike feels in each race, and cannot jump head first into races without taking the time to earn your position, as I have mentioned. In Simulation, the game play almost slows down, as you have to be careful going around turns, as if you take them too sharply, you will most likely slip, fall, crash, and burn. It can get annoying, and there is a steep learning curve to get it right. Once you do though, it can be very rewarding as you move yourself and your team up in the ranks of Superbike stardom.
Aside from the two main modes of each division I mentioned, you can also do quick races and quick championships and time trials under each one, and you can also do just a single race weekend in the Simulation division. The last division of the game, Xbox Live, is the obvious one here, were you go head to head in Championships or Single Races online against other people. All of these modes and divisions lead to a lot of content; just none of it is done particularly well, so nothing really stands out.
Presentation wise, the game does have a cool feel to it. It reminds me of what they were trying to go for in Need for Speed: ProStreet, as balloons fill the air, the main menu is you standing on a podium, and people walk by the screen holding cell phones and looking around at the bikes. Also, before each race day, they have provided real footage of race day events, which play before you get started, which I found to be a nice touch. The graphics are not spectacular, but overall look pretty good. Animations, such as your rider leaning into a turn look good, but when you crash they can become kind of awkward. There really is not much voice acting in the game, but what there is, which is before each race when you are being prepped for the race day is kind of awkward. Overall though, they do have some nice touches, but it all seems average overall.
SBK X Superbike World Championship is overall just a pretty average game. Yes, it will appeal to the diehard fans of these types of games, and I am sure they will sink quite a few hours into it. The problem lies again with what I said about spreading out their game modes. If they could have incorporated the Simulation and Arcade divisions into one mode, this game would have been incredible. Instead, with its boring presentation and steep learning curve, it will get lost into the sea of fall releases.
Review copy provided by publisher.