Xbox One, PS4, PC,
April 23, 2020
Pull on your racing gloves and grab a helmet! Italian developers Milestone have hit the track with MotoGP 20, the latest entry in the motorbike racing series for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Google Stadia, and Nintendo Switch. Will it get your engines going?
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, MotoGP 20 puts you in the high-octane seat of a professional motorbike rider. You take part in a fictional version of the 2020 MotoGP season, travelling the world with your team and competing in Grands Prix. It’s slick, it’s fast-paced, and it’s adored by a dedicated fanbase who take it very seriously.
I dove into MotoGP 20 ready to fully embrace the testosterone-camp of skin-tight leather, shiny plastic bike decals, and Monster Energy-sponsored logo tattoos. Jumping straight into a race, I was excited to see what a realistic motorbike racing experience would feel like. Within seconds I was instantly brutalised by a fellow rider and desecrated on the asphalt, my bike flung into the distance. Art truly imitating life.
MotoGP 20 is, at its core, a simulator. Down to the finest details, the game aims to recreate the experience of riding professionally. And, to nobody’s surprise, racing motorbikes is HARD. To ease the learning curve, the game lets you turn off features like fuel consumption, realistic brake physics, and tyre damage. In theory, I love this. Allowing options for the player to customise their own gaming experience will always be a win for me.
However, the largest draw of MotoGP 20 is its realism. Removing features designed to simulate a real race, while making the game easier for newcomers, detracts from the experience. As a new player I began by turning everything off so I could get to grips with the controls. Without the tension of stressing about the fuel gauge or spreading wear across tires, it quickly became like any other driving game – and not a particularly fun one. The thrill of MotoGP 20 lies in its mastery, which takes hours of practice.
MotoGP 20 offers a variety of game modes, including quick races, time trials, championship mode, the main career campaign, an ‘historic’ mode featuring famous riders and bikes, and finally, the multiplayer modes. On PS4, Xbox One, and PC, online multiplayer is available and includes a competitive Esports season. On Switch, multiplayer is extended to local wireless play only, with up to 7 other consoles. Disappointingly, no version offers split-screen multiplayer, which I feel is a missed opportunity.
You get a decent amount of options in the various single-player modes, allowing you to use your custom rider or pick from a current real-world rider. Career mode is where the bulk of the game lies, as you manage a racing team through what would have been the 2020 season (obviously delayed due to COVID-19). In between races you hire managers to gain better sponsorship contracts, and engineers to develop better parts for your bike.
It’s surprising how similar progression in MotoGP 20’s Career mode feels to grinding in a single-player RPG. There’s a sense of slow, methodical repetition to approaching a racing weekend. You gradually learn the racetrack, grind for development points, and test out your bike setup during free practice sessions. Next, you use every second available in the qualifying rounds to eke out a quick lap time. Finally, you complete the race against AI riders (controlled by MotoGP 20’s ‘revolutionary machine learning’ system). Return to management mode, fiddle around in some menus, then repeat.
“It’s simple to slap on a podcast and mindlessly smash through a few races.”
If grinding is your thing, it’s simple to slap on a podcast and mindlessly smash through a few races. This is where the only advantage of the otherwise inferior Nintendo Switch version lies – portability lends itself to grindy gameplay.
Regarding presentation, MotoGP 20 is a slick package. Menus are smooth and stylish, and scenes in between races mimic televised MotoGP footage. The inclusion of challenges with ‘historic’ riders like Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi is a nice feature. However, I would have loved to see a bit more personality in the title. The ability to customise your outfits and bike are nice, but much of the UI and commentary would be right at home in FIFA. Sure, it’s clean, but it feels a bit soulless. A touch of Monster Energy Supercross’ enthusiasm would be welcome.
In a return to form for the franchise, the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions of MotoGP 20 run at a steady 60FPS. From the footage I’ve seen, they look absolutely gorgeous. Little details like rubber building up on the tarmac as the weekend progresses provide a real sense of immersion. Unfortunately, I reviewed MotoGP 20 on the Nintendo Switch, which does its best to maintain 30FPS. The hyper-realistic art-style is scaled down to get the game running on the portable console. Although it mostly holds up, there are some rough edges where compromises have had to be made. Colours are muted, frames drop, and the lack of anti-aliasing occasionally makes the edges of racetracks glisten jaggedly like a 3D platformer on the original Nintendo DS.
To be fair, the developers have done their best to get this beast of a game even running on Switch. For its flaws, the game functions as a simulator. I’m just confused as to who the audience is for this particular version. Hardcore MotoGP fans aren’t going to love the lack of functionality compared to other platforms, and there’s very little incentive for the average gamer to pick this up due to its steep learning curve and niche concept.
I guess that’s my takeaway from my time with MotoGP 20. If you’re a hardcore fan, you’ll find more of the same grindy gameplay you know and love, with a few graphical and content updates from previous entries. But if you’re wondering if you should pick this up as a casual player, I’d say skip this one and pick up something a bit less serious. I hear in Burnout Paradise you’re supposed to crash into each other on every corner.
- Authentic racing experience
- Satisfies a grinding itch
- Lacks feature parity across versions
- Not very fun without substantial investment
- No split-screen multiplayer
Gamers looking for a hardcore, realistic motorbike riding simulator might feel right at home with MotoGP 20 – if you have a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. Otherwise, stick with arcade racers, or try out the now considerably less expensive MotoGP 19.