Review: Moto Racer 4 (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): November 4, 2016
- Release Date (EU): November 4, 2016
- Release Date (JP): November 4, 2016
- Publisher: Microïds and Pqube
- Developer: Artefacts Studio
- Genres: Racing, motocross, superbikes, motorbikes
- ESRB Rating: Everyone
- PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
- Also For: Computer, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
File size: 3.1 gigabytes.
Parental concerns wise it is no more out there than an episode of wacky races.
Moto Racer started out on the PS1, where it got a sequel and a spinoff, after that a third numbered entry hit as a PC only title in late 2001. Since then it got a few side entries on the GBA and DS, apparently the first game was remade for IOS and there was a 15 year anniversary collection a few years back. To the best of my knowledge I have played none of them prior to this, certainly none at any length. In any case with the length of time since the previous entry I could happily treat this as a new series based on an old name, give or take a few allusions in the flavour text to games.
Somewhere later in a review there is often a comment along the lines of “the developers had clearly played [insert game] when designing this”, here though they had clearly played dozens and the result sort of works rather than being a cheap imitation like it so often is. Elements of burnout, need for speed, road rash and loads of other popular racing games besides all feature.
My high water mark, and thing I went into this hoping I would find a substitution for, though is MX vs ATV unleashed on the original xbox, quasi sequel to the ever enjoyable Motocross Madness. Ask me what my favourite game is for the xbox and it will be something else, ask me what game I am most glad to have had on it and it is that, without question and without qualification. Sadly that series somewhat languished on the xbox 360, and the versions made for the newer consoles still failed to reach that bar either.
To spoil the conclusion early this hearkened back to earlier times still and had me remembering PS1 and N64 titles, though with the benefit of modern graphics, controls and levels. Some might consider that a bad thing, but I actually had fun with those sorts of games where since such things have been less common than is desirable.
Speaking of earlier times this has one of those rare and hard to come by features that were ever present back then, something that subsequent consoles have seen all but vanish despite being better equipped than ever to handle it. This lost and near forgotten feature that brought so much joy, and strife, to the world? Splitscreen. A quick search would have this as one of the only splitscreen racing games on the PS4 too.
Sadly this is one of those games where various things are gated off until you play career mode, and this includes several important racing mechanics as well as tricks, tracks, other racers and upgrades. Functionally it does act as a bit of a tutorial; if you were thrown right in there and expected to learn the turbo wheelie mechanic before regular wheelie then it would have probably put a lot of people off, and it would also see you return to earlier races to try to do better. On the other hand gated off is still gated off and it is a hard pill to swallow.
The sub races, an unlock of a trick, showing a required racer and the end of the career tree.
An unusual progression mechanism was at play here. At the start of each race you choose how many stars you are trying for. More stars, theoretically (and most times practically) harder. The twist comes in that if you fail your goal the stars get removed from your total until you try again and win the race. The amount of stars you need to unlock new sections is also such that you can't just cruise through the game getting single stars and expecting to get it all. Ultimately this elicited a feeling like those times I would pop in Gran Turismo as reigning Mario Kart/Diddy Kong champion and run smack into the licenses there.
Upgrades tokens are granted for beating the number of style points in a race, and it is not a trivial thing, especially if you have not unlocked all the turbo mechanics.
You unlock new characters by beating the championship at the end of each sub group with three stars. Certain races/challenges will require certain characters, several of which are not unlocked at the start.
Just a shot of a championship
You have the option of a race, a three lap time trial, a championship (multiple races) and a hot lap in which you attempt to beat the developer times. Sadly some of the fun modes from career like chase, knockout, pack leader, slalom and crown are not available here, though they are available in split screen. You could always go back to the career mode and try them, give or take the stars problem as your fun might get in the way of progression, but it does seem like a bit of a missed opportunity. Unlike career you can use any bike you have unlocked, including upgrades, with any character. The options for a race are fairly basic and you can pick the track, number of laps, number of opponents and their difficulty (four modes ending with godly). Hot lap doubles up as a bit of a free ride but it is certainly not the free roam of MX vs ATV or even various Need for Speed games.
Just two players unfortunately, no AI either which makes some modes a bit dubious in their merit. The joining player gets all the unlocks the other player has, and any hints that would be given to a new player. Seems to only be a vertical split and with the speeds you go it makes sense to see more of what is ahead.
Modes available are Single race, Championship, King of the Road, Hunter (catch with a lead), Last Man Riding (elimination last place, not great with two players compared to 7 or so in career), Golden Helmet (Get the helmet, hit the opponent stay on the track but ride any direction for a specified length of time.
The limitations were kind of odd to see, especially when the championship mode had the option to stack up dozens of races, including random tracks, set laps and more which clearly meant someone thought about what would be nice as far as options.
Online. Tried on multiple occasions to get in an online race, same modes available as single player. However I never found one when during this review so comments on the netcode will have to wait.
First up it should be stated this is purely an arcade affair. Not at all without challenge but when you are sitting there hoping you time your turbo wheelie correctly to get a somewhat paradoxical increase in control then you know it is not a simulation.
There are two sides to the game.
1) Street Racing
2) Dirt racing
Street is far faster and lacks the tricks component, dirt is like a motorcross track really and has a tricks component, a slide component and everything save drafting/slipstream from the street side of things, even if the tracks mean some aspects are downplayed; without the fast straights you are not going to be as focused on turbo wheelies. The turbo wheelies, once you unlock them, are a vital mechanic for the rest of the game. They unlock the speed boost of a wheelie and if you get a proper timing, which sends the screen a bit blue, you are not slowed by being off the track and, somewhat paradoxically, you get even tighter handling which allows you to go full speed round corners, cut a corner, ride right over the top of a chicane or make a bigger jump and gain some precious time. Jumps are interesting too as you tend to be slower during them so you want to time them right, on top of the general timing and speeds you want to take the dirt jumps in. More speed is not always the answer.
You also have opponents on the track, in early races it tends to be fewer but later ones see 7 or more appear which makes things feel a bit more full. The comparisons with road rash come in as you have a shove mechanic and nudging your opponent in front of the oncoming lorry is not discouraged at all. It is not as major a mechanic as in something like Split Second Velocity, and certainly not like Carmageddon, but it is more than a happy accident of game design.
Both modes are clearly their own thing and both do well, you can also get them mixed up in championship races where the difference in speed and play style can keep you on your toes.
Tricks are present in MX mode and very useful, if nothing else doing a trick will mean you are ensured a landing, with attendant boost, which you might have crashed on otherwise. There is no dedicated trick mode though which is a bit of a missed
Speaking of tricks I did have my character hold tricks and crash because of it. Whether this was a mechanic or a bug I am unsure, it was never quite explained that I saw. On other bugs then you can occasionally get somewhat unexpectedly launched by certain objects, and other players.
The off track detection got in the way a few times as well. Most annoying is where you just fail a jump and if you had crashed you would have been put back but here you have to falter until you get back, or reverse out of your predicament. Another is the wrong way detection which can come on if you miss certain jumps or take certain shortcuts.
It opts for the various takes on certain larger level approach here. Each is peppered with little shortcuts, some of which are shortcuts only if you can handle the tighter twisty bits, and many have alternative routes. You also get very nicely placed features in several levels to discourage riding by Braille. The levels themselves are pretty varied in their styles which certain helps when compared to some racing games where you are in the same desert, city or slightly wooded area for the whole game.
Most levels also have a reverse mode which does occasionally pop up in career and throw you a bit.
The levels in general are not going to feature in any kind of masterclass of level design list any time soon but they are very very solid.
Time was you could tell when a small developer had... lovingly hand crafted an engine, especially for racing games, but now we have the likes of the unreal engine, which this uses. It also has its tells but it does leave you with something more than functional in most cases.
There was some pop in, or more like fade in, but none of it ever got in the way like some older games where you would suddenly be faced with obstacles. Similarly it was only when I took my eyes of the race that I could see it; many years ago there was an amusing court case, owner of the bike gets pulled in for speeding and when the judge asks if there is anything that might mitigate it “yes, your honour, I was not in control of the vehicle at the time”. True enough the speed camera images showed him majestically sailing through the air, soon to be a demonstration of the object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless it is acted upon by an external force (friction, your body, the ground). A similar sentiment carries here for if you are trying to win a race you should probably have more on your mind.
Otherwise the racers have nice little animations that go on throughout the race, and all are given a bit of character, some individual designs and some humour underpins everything, not Mario Kart or Street Racer but... actually the earlier comments about arcade games were apt for this as well. Nothing to really write home about but good to see.
Very rarely I did get some slowdown for a fraction of a second but most of the time it was absolutely fine.
Engine sounds are not amazing but perfectly serviceable, music is generally upbeat techno and electronic game music that you will not hear during most of the races but is present in the menus. For my money better than anything EA Trax put out there, perhaps not as inspired as some moments from the Need for Speed series though.
The game features a measure of compatibility with the PSVR system. I lack such a thing and word out there is it is a bit of a last minute and token effort right now, supposedly to be improved later. If having it in first person mode on a 27 inch screen at times maybe 500mm from my face is anything to go by then it could make for a entertaining experience.
Similarly there is an option to buy a more expensive version of the game to get some DLC as it comes out, said DLC is apparently racers, horns and the like rather than new tracks and modes. I have not tested it as part of this but it is probably not going to be the good DLC as much as the legacy of the coin-op this probably would have been 15 years ago.
Some of the character customisation
Ultimately this is not my replacement for MX vs ATV, however I had a damn sight more fun than any non MX vs ATV game in years and this includes superbikes, motogp and definitely the various pretenders to the MX vs ATV crown. Most would want to compare it to the likes of 2008's Pure rather than the more recent MXGP. It is then one of the rarer cases of smaller dev and publisher actually punch considerably above their weight and make something quite good. If you are a fan of old school arcade racing games, or otherwise looking at the general lack of racing games this year, then consider this a recommendation. If you absolutely can not function without the shiny shiny of Forza or Gran Turismo then I feel sorry for you but this is not that.
+ Split screen racing game
+ Nice and varied modes in career mode
+ Difficulty down to the player but scope for everybody.
- Have to unlock fundamental mechanics in career mode
- Split screen is a bit bare bones with no AI option.
- Limited modes of play in single player
In a phrase it is old school arcade charm. By no means a graphical tour de force but loads little touches show this is no hastily thrown together game either.
If a fast paced racing game with an old arcade bent is what you are up for then this will give it to you.
Career mode will take a while to fully unlock things. Replay is down to the person and though certainly it suffers for a lack of free roam there is very much the option to have a quick race, or an evening racing.
out of 10
(not an average)
I can see this being an always in the stack, never traded kind of something to play quickly or for a while type game. Not a hidden gem, not a cult classic in the making but goes to the same parties as those.