MotoGP3 is based on the extreme and visceral sport of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing, and allows you to compete against various real-world riders through a number of licensed racetracks. Yet it is difficult to pinpoint what makes this game so incredibly entertaining, even after three relatively similar incarnations. Well, it could be the realistic water speckles that form on your windshield when you are driving in the rain. On the other hand, it might be the super-detailed bike models that appear 20 at a time. It could also be the photo-realistic environments that feature spookily realistic weather effects. Or perhaps it’s the immersive gameplay that allows for control like no other moto-racing game before it (except MotoGP Xbox). In actuality, a culmination of all these things sets MotoGP3 apart from the competition. While not substantially different from its predecessors, this third installment adequately sweats the details and dishes up a heaping serving of improvements in the way of four-player multiplayer support, a new Challenge and Legends mode, and 15 new tracks to keep you coming back for more.
Not unlike the previous MotoGP games, MotoGP3 includes an Arcade, Season, Challenge, and Time Trial modes of play. As fans of the series know, Arcade mode allows the player to define a host of options for a single race on any track. These definable options include the type of motorcycle, weather condition, amount of laps, level of difficulty, and the style of play, be it arcade or simulation. Newcomers will certainly want to stick with arcade mode to begin with since it is the best way to become acclimated with the game’s unique physics and gameplay dynamics, while GP veterans may want to jump right into the more realistic simulation mode. The difference between arcade and simulation is mainly the fact that crashing is nearly impossible in arcade mode, while simulation mode is vastly more unforgiving and requires precision turning in order to stay safely on two wheels.
You’ll also be able to tune and tweak your motorcycle to a certain degree between each race, though real hardware buffs may be disappointed to discover that buying new parts or otherwise upgrading your machine is still not possible. Instead, you’ll be able to doing things like adjusting the gear ratio, engine output, bike response, braking, and tire size. There are 41 different bikes to choose from, each with their own unique feel and handling, but the ability to somewhat customize each one is an appreciated addition that’ll keep you constantly tweaking to perfection. Still though, had Namco included some sort of monetary cash prize system that could be used for buying new parts and upgrading your ride, there could have been a whole lot more incentive to keep playing.
Next up is Challenge mode. This is where you’ll want to go for quick bursts of challenging action. There are over 100 unique challenges to conquer, and plenty of cool goodies that can only be had by doing so. Most of these challenges revolve around beating a particular rider or finishing a track in record time, and each challenge has three levels of completion from bronze to gold.
New modes of play come in the form of MotoGP3’s four-player split-screen feature and the Legends mode, which throws you into the mix against four legendary racing personalities and challenges you to take top place. While the game’s instructional manual warns that this mode is only for the experienced racer looking for a challenge, my personal experience with Legends proved to be surprisingly simple on every difficulty but the hardest. Perhaps more exciting to returning fans is the new four-player mode via multi-tap, which can be played either quarter-screened on one display or half-screened across two displays. It’s great that Namco has finally seen fit to get more than two people in on the action, but there is room to complain yet as no on-line support is present.
Like MotoGP on the Xbox, MotoGP3 features independent control over front and rear brakes, not to mention front and back weight shifting, though the latter is only present once you manually enable it in advanced options. While basic maneuvering and precision timed turns will almost always ensure that you’ll rank in the top tier, the ability to individually control front and rear brakes will considerably improve your overall performance once you master their unique dynamics. For example, rear braking is great for rounding out tight turns, while front braking is optimum for quickly slowing down when things get a little too hectic. Combine the independent braking with the ability to shift your body weight around on the bike and you’ve got a control system that imbues the player with the power to pull off wins at nearly the last second, especially in tense multiplayer races.
The great thing about the aforementioned control additions is that while they are excellent for players looking to eke the most potential from their racing machine, they aren’t required learning for staying competitive. Newbies will appreciate the subtle line indications on every track that come in the form of layered skid marks, since following these lines will guarantee that you are in the prime position for the upcoming turn. Closely following the helpful skid marks allows you to efficiently run each race without worrying about the micromanagement involved with last-second recalculations.
Visually, MotoGP3 is noticeably improved over its forerunners and is probably the most impressive moto-racing game to date on the PS2. The game runs at a constant 60 fps without exception. Both the bike and player models are rendered in a detailed fashion and boast impeccable animation, and the weather effects are drop dead gorgeous. The more you play the game, the more you come to appreciate the developer’s attention to detail, noticing small details like the eerily realistic digital speedometer, the lighting reflections on every drop of rain on your windshield, or the finely rendered decals that laden your primed machine. Backgrounds are thoroughly realized sporting surrounding buildings, tons of onlookers, and to-scale grandstands. The cockpit mode allows you to not only view all this action from the eyes of your rider, but each motorcycle boasts a unique dashboard display system purporting basic information like your level of brake fluid and current speed. The same dedication to quality also went into the game’s sound, delivering unique engine emissions for each bike model and lots of ambient sound effects depicting the sound of screaming wind as you slice through at hundreds of miles per hour, and a suitable soundtrack featuring almost two dozen rock and techno tracks. Unfortunately, there is no support for Dolby Pro Logic II, despite the game’s affluence for spatial sound.
MotoGP3 offers an assortment of new features over the last installment, some of which greatly increase the game’s lasting appeal (four-player support and Challenge mode, for example), but there is no getting around the fact that it is basically just an incrementally refined version of the last game. If you’re a racing nut and have thoroughly mastered the 10 included tracks on MotoGP2, then you may want to pony up the requisite cash for GP3, but if you’ve yet to partake in the high-octane visceral sport of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing, then there is no doubt that you should check this game out.