Superbike World Championship
The Taxi Ride From The Airport To Milestone's offices in Milan was a pantpooping experience of sphincter-splitting proportions. Clamped to the back seat by the G-forces, my cheeks billowed in the wind as I searched frantically for a seat belt. As the car swerved between lanes, clipping scooters and Fiats, I was sure this day would be my last. Ten seconds later (though it felt like hours) we were coming to an abrupt stop in an unassuming street in the centre of the city. Pallid and moist, I lifted my body out of the car, kissed the tarmac Pope-style and planted thousands of Lire in the driver's palm. Crossing the street, it became blindingly obvious why these Milestone guys are so good at making racing games.
Blissfully unaware of my pant-wetting journey across town, Antonio Farina, the managing director, greeted me at the door. It was time to compose myself, forget the need for new underwear and find out why years of my life had been lost forever. This had better be bloody good.
It's a, it's a, it's a sim...
As an early version of the game kicked into life, it quickly became obvious that Superbikes wasn't going to be a straightforward arcade racing game. It was the main menu that gave the game away - just under the bit that said 'arcade' was the word 'simulation'. Those expecting this to be a pure and simple two-wheeled Screamer clone are in for a bit of a surprise. Time for Antonio to give us the spiel: "Superbikes is the only officially licensed game of the Superbike World Championship. It features all 12 tracks from the 1997 season and all 18 official riders from the five main teams. The game itself is a very accurate simulation, with support from all the main bike manufacturers. We have very close links with the teams' technicians, and they give us as much information as possible, with all the telemetries of all the real races from the whole season." Okay, so it's got the » official license, but will it be fun to play?
...but with arcade bits
If first impressions count for anything, then it's got to be said that Superbikes looks pretty stunning. A hell of a lot of detail has gone into the riders and their bikes, and serious fans of the sport could no doubt tell all the riders apart just by clocking the slight variations in colour schemes. When things get moving, the graphics are equally impressive. Pop-up is non-existent, and the lighting effects really add to the overall effect. In fact, at first it's difficult to stop gawping at the shadows flickering over the bikes from overhead branches - sad but true. In fact, in playback mode it was like watching it on the telly.
But how did the bikes handle? Well, it took just three seconds to come off. Crashing into some well-placed hay bales, the polygon rider flew over the handlebars and skidded through a barrier. It looked painful. Then, as if to relay fears of internal haemorrhaging and shattered bone, he slowly got to his feet and limped back to the bike, picked it up and got back on. What a hero! After five minutes I'd come off the bike no less that 15 times and I hadn't even managed to complete a lap. Half an hour later I was tenth out of 30. This was in arcade mode, and I was soon ready to become an Italian citizen.
"Everything will be customisable." chipped in Antonio. "You can change the angle of the forks, everything. The aim is to create a more complete racing experience. From the full simulation, the arcade section and the reference section, it will be a complete racing experience."
The amount of depth that has gone into the game is pretty staggering, even if you don't know one end of a handlebar from another. Certainly this is quite a departure from Milestone's previous games (the Screamer series). So why make the transition to motorbikes?
"It's been a very long time since any bike simulations have appeared." explained Antonio. "There has been a gap in the market that Superbikes intends to fill. Everybody else is doing car games and don't really consider using bikes. These bikes give you a greater sense of speed, of excitement and danger. You won't have such spectacular crashes in any car game. What with today's technology and the excitement that only racing a bike can give you. we thought it was time for a very good product."
Whether Milestone will provide us with a further instalment in the Screamer series remains to be seen. "It's difficult to say," pondered Antonio. "The Screamer series has been very successful, but Superbikes has been in development for two years and it's something we've had to focus on. "We want to further specialise in racing games," he continued. "I think we demonstrated in the previous Screamer games that we were able to create good arcade racing games, now it's time to evolve into something more realistic. With all the experience we gained from Screamer, we know how to make a racing game playable. People forget that this element is very important in a simulation, and haven't made it a priority." It's certainly true that Superbikes is more than playable, even at this early stage. Both arcade and sim fans are sure to find plenty to keep them occupied even if they don't care much for the sport.
Antonio reinforces the point: "Superbikes is more than a bike racing game. It is 'real' and complete. Although it is a full simulation, with all the details you'd expect, there is a special section of the game that is arcade. You have two games in one, basically. You can take the immediate approach or the more serious approach. It's more like two games from the same focus point. Whether you prefer Screamer or F1GP, Superbikes is going to be the game to go for if you want to race on two wheels."
That may be so, but to date bike games just haven't been as enjoyable as car based racers - anyone remember Redline Racer? The fact that you can't power-slide around corners doesn't help matters. And while the crashes can be spectacular, who wants to spend half the race dusting themselves down and waiting to get back onto their bike as the CPU-controlled uber-riders whizz past?
By making Superbikes more of a sim, the people at Milestone have obviously understood that they need to appeal to the hard-core bike fans. Whether the casual arcade racer fan will be turned on by two wheels as much as four remains to be seen.
Download Superbike World Championship
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
You've just spent two hours negotiating bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway. What better way to unwind than to pop in EA Sports' newest game, Superbike World Championship, and rev that motor up to 185 mph? You can sit atop five of the finest street racing bikes in the world and test your cajones on 12 tough and demanding courses.
EA Sports is famous for its great sports games, and this one is certainly no different. They have managed to package up all the thrills, spills, and chills of competitive street bike racing into a monster game. All you multiplayer people out there won't be disappointed either, because you can hook up with your buddies and see who the real man or woman is. One thing that stands out about Superbike is the fact that each course takes time to learn and master. Some racing games out there can be mastered after a couple of heavy racing sessions, but not this one -- plus you have the option of racing an entire season, so there is definitely tons of meat on this sandwich.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Superbike picks you up by the head and slams you down onto your motorcycle seat with great force. You find yourself leaning into corners, swaying in your seat when you go through S curves, and crouching forward when you have the throttle cranked. One thing I must note is that I used a joystick to review this game. I can't imagine the same racing experience if had used the keyboard commands; the joystick just lets you hang it out there and race. I also noticed that I tended to ride differently depending on the situation and the atmosphere. During qualifying rounds I tended to approach the track less aggressively and I was more relaxed, but come race time, my heart was pumping, my hands were sweaty, and the old mouth was dry as a bone. This game also caters to the tinkering kind of guy because of all the modifications you can perform on your bike, in regards to your transmission, tires, springs, and gear ratios.
I would really like to applaud EA Sports on the practice option in the game. The idea of placing hoops in sections of the track to help you learn how to approach tight turns and curves was brilliant. It helped me understand how to hold a lean when going into long turns and when to cut sharp for tight corners. I also appreciated having the red hoop as a guide to slow down when approaching corners.
When you're going 185 mph it is pretty hard to stop and take a look at all the beautiful surroundings, but for you, gentle reader, I have. I'm putting the EA graphics guys on my Christmas list for this year, because these graphics are just toooo sweeeeeet. Each track is a masterpiece of its own; some have lots of trees with sweeping curves, while others have that Sahara feel to them with climbing hills. The graphics for each motorcycle and rider are awesome too -- while racing on the track you can actually see your shadow and the shadow of the tire spokes spinning. Another high point of the graphics is the video replay. After racing on the track, you can view the race from any of the racers' points of view and switch between five or six camera views. One thing I'm concerned about, though, is how well the game runs with a 2D video card. I was fortunate enough to have a great 3D video card with a 233 MHz Pentium II, but I'm not sure how much fun the game would be without a good video card or a slower Pentium chip.
When I do any type of hardcore racing I never like to listen to music; I find that it distracts the heck out of me. So the first thing I did in the option screen was to turn off the music. Some people might like to listen to it, so it is definitely user's choice here. The bike sounds come out really clear and distinct for each different motorcycle. Gear shifting noises are handled well, while the tire screeching makes you tense up a little. I usually find myself soooo intense during a race that I hardly hear anything, but if audio is a big deal to you, you should be pretty happy with the effort made here.
Windows 95/98, 166MHz Pentium, 144 MB free hard disk space, 32 MB RAM, 2D DirectX6 video card, 4X CD-ROM drive
Highly Recommended: 233MHz Pentium, 8X CD-ROM drive or faster, 3D graphics card, and last but not least a joystick.
This is an easy bottom line for me! I have had this game for two weeks now, and not once has it left my CD-ROM drive. I'm always trying to improve that lap time by a few hundredths of a second, or trying to lean into the corners better at the course at Monza. My wife has yelled at me for not mowing the lawn and I think my cat died from starvation, so yes, I definitely recommend going out and adding this game to your racing collection. On that note I give EA Sports' -_Superbike World Championship _an 89 out of 100, so dust off that joystick and I'll see you on the track.