As always, nothing like a bike game to cheer you up. Or something. I generally pass on bike games ever since about 1990, which is when I played Superbike Championships (at least I think that is what it was called) enjoyed it quite a lot, loved the music, and though that that’s about enough bike racing. Then there was Moto Racer, of course that was quite amazing, and I had a lot of fun with a good friend of mine shaving off hundredths of a second to claim the title of the best driver in the house.
When I saw Ducati World, I figured hey, why not while I know, unfortunately, that the vast majority of fancy licenses go completely underdeveloped and turn out to be extremely lame games (case at point: Ford Racing, which I honestly wanted to review, but I couldn’t manage to play it for anything more than two laps, it was that bad) but then, there are the occasional jewels, like Yu Suzuki’s F355 Challenge (I still marvel at the arcade version of it). Anyway, Ducati is a pretty impressive bike brand always having respected it, I decided to give the game a shot. I was both surprised and not surprised at the same time.
The game is made by Acclaim, which, unfortunately, has a pretty good track record of churning out budget titles (with the occasional unexpected exception). As a result, Ducati World portrays many traits of a budget title, for example, yesteryear graphics (they get a bit better with triple buffering turned on, but still, nothing earth-shattering). This is reflected in a completely static driver/bike model (there is a speedometer arrow that moves, but the gear shifting and braking is never reflected), and a questionable purple glass windshield, which looks rather fishy, especially in its purple beauty. The menu music is not bad, but for some reason, the menu music is the only track I liked (there seems to be a bad trend in games to have the menu music be way better than anything in-game - Deus Ex is a good example. The in-game music was so much worse than the menu music!).
However, the game exhibits some redeeming qualities, too. The physics, while not incredibly realistic, are not the traditional paper-unit ones exhibited in most fancy-license games that is, you can actually sort of drive reasonably well. I admit that, never having ridden a bike, I wouldn’t know how true to life the physics actually are, but they *seem* to be right, so I’ll leave it at that. The AI is not exactly amazing either, but it’s neat to see opponents crash in the dumbest possible ways, which lightens up the atmosphere a bit.
There are two modes of play. The quick race, and the career. In quick race, that’s precisely what you do race a single race, time attack, progress, or a 2-player race, which is limited to splitscreen. In career mode (Ducati Life) you get 10,000 units of money to start, and you race and do various exams to achieve higher status and better financial position, which allows you to upgrade your bikes and buy better ones. I remember a time when I sorely missed a feature like that in games but lately, I sorely wish it would disappear. For some reason, it has been extremely lame in the last couple of incarnations of games, where higher upgrades offer no disadvantages, and you are never (or extremely rarely) forced to balance anything. It seems that “if it costs more, it’s got to be good”. That philosophy always makes me think of www.riceboypage.com I mean, you just *know* that when you buy a level 8 leather uniform for yourself before getting onto the bike that it WILL make you go faster! I’m quite surprised there are no options for stickers, to be perfectly honest. I suppose I’ll have to stick to upgrading my helmet to the level 8 one with flames on it
That having been said, Ducati World stands out from the usual sea of budget titles but not enough to be actually called “outstanding”. Its lack of any reasonable multiplayer is quite detracting to the overall experience. If you are a Ducati fan, you might want to check it out, but I’m not quite certain where the enjoyment lies besides that. It’s not a completely horrible game, but it’s a pretty niche market one, so I don’t see the majority of the readers out there enjoying it. Oh yeah, and can someone explain to me the reasoning behind failing a driving test with an “Out of Bounds” message? Could they just say “You suck” or something?