A lot has happened over the past 14 months which has disrupted sporting events across the globe. Sports fans are slowly starting to get back into their viewing schedules and gaming companies are starting to release titles that cover the now-infamous 20/21 season. It has been two years since Milestone released their hit title MotoGP 20. Now is the time for a new season, a new generation of consoles and a new world. Here is the review for MotoGP 21 for PS5.
Milestone is a game developer that has firmly cemented themselves in their passion. If it has two wheels and an engine, you can bet Milestone will be interested. As well as MotoGP, Milestone has also been responsible for the creation of the RIDE and MXGP series’s; firmly establishing them as the top-dog when it comes to motorcycle racing games. Fans have been patiently awaiting the next instalment in the MotoGP series with high expectations but will this new generation of hardware be the catalyst that drives the MotoGP series into pole position? In a word, yes.
The first thing that struck me about this game was the sheer amount of customisation and settings that became available to me. I wanted to get stuck into a career mode but I held back in favour of a relaxing time trial to dust my leathers off and get the helmet back on. This “quick” session swiftly became a deep dive into the incredible amount of features available to shape your track experience. Riding aids are as in-depth as you can imagine with electronics, cornering inputs, transmission, brakes, and tyres all there to be enabled (or disabled, if you feel confident). Let’s just say that I stuck firmly to the lowest level of difficulty.
When I finally got out there, I was immediately impressed with the graphics that were on show. The attention to detail on the bike and rider was in line with what the PS5 is capable of and the weather effects are gorgeous. I thought that my sunny day in Spain was showing off the graphics until I switched to rain and really saw what the game could do. The track was slick with a deadly film of water and the rain hitting the camera added a cinematic edge which gave the precarious time trial more of a sense of excitement. I did notice that this attention to detail did not extend to the rest of the experience as hillsides and stands full of crowds looked more at home in a PS4 title than a PS5 release. Still, this is a massive upgrade to the distractingly clunky graphics of their previous MotoGP title. This game was made for 4K and 60FPS.
One stand-out feature of MotoGP 21 is the use of the PS5’s controller. The haptic feedback is as impressive as you would expect: the controller really makes you feel every bump and surface, but the added resistance in the triggers adds a sense of realism that I now have a taste for. The accelerator and brakes utilise the PS5’s adaptive triggers and react to the level of power needed to execute the action. You will find the brakes sluggish and unyielding if you misuse them and accelerating out of a corner becomes more satisfying when you can almost feel yourself pushing the throttle. Trust me, this is something you have to try.
But, with the shift to the simulation genre comes the inevitable fact: this is hard…very hard. There are a wealth of tutorials that help you to get to grips with the mechanics of the gameplay but casual players can find themselves struggling with the sheer amount of information that is presented to them. This is without the fact that the game itself is brutally unforgiving. The AI, while improved significantly, is there to win and does not care about you and your well-rehearsed racing lines. The Long Lap Penalty is in line with current MotoGP rules and the Bike Recovery feature is as punishing as you can imagine. Taking a corner too sharply and crashing is damaging enough to your final placings but having to manually run back to your bike and get back on it is a sobering experience in the midst of a race. I eventually turned this off as there is only so much realism that I can take (that and I kept crashing. Luckily no one was around to see it). These features make the gameplay satisfying to master and seasoned veterans of the sport will rejoice at the mountains that are there to climb but I can’t help but feel that newer players may feel left behind on the starting line. I grew up on racing simulators and it took me a fair while to start being competitive and not feeling like my bike had one wheel made of melting cheese.
The other big feature of MotoGP 21 that will appeal to players is the career mode. Returning fans will be happy to know that the MotoGP 21 career does not leave anything to the imagination. You have the option of starting right at the beginning of your career or jumping into Moto 2, Moto 3, or Moto GP with the bikes and riders from each being available for selection. Starting from the beginning allows you to create a rider and select a team who will be with you during early contract negotiations and eventually, the creation and management of your own junior team. Another nice feature lies in the calendar; you can choose to play out the season as it was meant to be scheduled pre-COVID or you can play out the 21 season as it happened. It may be a small choice but I was impressed. Sport has undergone such disruptions during this time that it is worth remembering how much was changed just to be able to accommodate these factors. I hope that other sports games follow this idea as it is a welcome one.
With all of these enhanced features comes the disappointing fact that there have been some areas of the game that feel neglected. The aforementioned background graphics stand out but the main area for me that needed a lot more development is the sound design. The shift to simulation-style gameplay is a welcome one but this does not mean that the sound should be as flat as I felt that it was. The game does boast 3D positional audio but this is not enough when the base sounds are not up to scratch. The bikes sound thin and there is a minimal amount of atmospheric/crowd sounds to give that added edge to the realism that the developers focused on in other aspects of the game. Even the footstep sounds while you are running back to your bike are disappointingly copy-and-paste. Sometimes, you need some hyperrealistic embellishments to give an experience that is larger than life. Isn’t that why we play games? This may not be a big factor for some players but sound plays a huge factor in my enjoyment of an experience and I was expecting more from this. There is also a step back in the online experience as there are now just options for single-races. This may be good to test your skills against individual riders but I wanted to get some hours under my belt with some online variety or championship modes. It feels like the development was mainly focused on single-player with online-play being an afterthought.
Overall, it is clear that Milestone has worked around the clock to deliver the next step in their MotoGP series. The step up to the PS5 has given the developers a chance to make a game that has pulled ahead of any other potential competitors in the genre. The game is jam-packed with more features than I can get my head around and its flaws become easier to swallow when you take into consideration how much is there on offer for you. If you like, love, or live for MotoGP then this is a no-brainer. MotoGP 21 builds impressively on the previous release and the haptic feedback on the controller makes the racing experience even more breathtaking. If you are new to the series then you will need to dedicate time to getting to grips with this game before you brush it off. If you come into this title with the mindset that it is a “plug in and play” experience then you will be bitterly disappointed. This game rewards patience. Imagine Dark Souls…but with bikes.
I give this 8 Valentino Rossis out of 10.
GameRev was provided with a digital download of the game for the purpose of this review.