SBK-07 Superbike World Championship PlayStation 2
Published by: Black Bean
Developed by: Milestone
Release Date: Out Now
Compared to the number of four-wheeled racing titles, the number of motorcycle racing games is ridiculously small. Needless to say it's always refreshing to be able to review a motorcycle racing game when the opportunity arises. The difficulty with creating a successful motorcycle based racer is that for the most part it can be difficult to strike a balance between arcade style simplicity and the punishing nature of a hardcore simulation. If the game is aimed at being completely accessible to all you tend to have an arcade racer that poses little challenge and disappoints hardcore fans of motorcycle racing whilst, if the simulation approach is taken you please the hardcore fans but alienate everyone else. Most games tend to fall into one category or another. SBK-07 Superbike World Championship manages to achieve a successful compromise and does enough to appeal to arcade racers and enthusiasts alike.
SBK-07 Superbike World Championship has all the usual game modes for you to enjoy. Quick Race allows you to take part in one-off races. Time Attack is pretty self-explanatory and allows you to attempt to set your own personal best lap times. If you fancy the full race experience without committing to a whole championship then Race Weekend is for you. Should you fancy completing a whole season then you'll want to select the Championship mode. If you're looking for something different then you can play through the various scenarios in the Challenge mode. Here you'll be able to play through Training, Acrobatic, Time and Scenario based challenges. If you fancy racing against a friend you'll able to select the Multiplayer mode that allows two-player split-screen racing. There is also an Extras section where you can view the SBK video, pictures, umbrella girl pictures, cheats and prize trading cards (that you get for winning races) that you've unlocked.
So far it seems like pretty standard stuff but it's only when you look at the options do you realise how flexible the game really is. As well as being able to set the race length in 5% increments and the overall difficulty level of the AI as Rookie, Amateur and Professional, you can also alter a variety of settings to make the game as punishing or as easy as you want. As well as being able to simply select an Arcade or Simulation racing style there are many options to enable you to fine tune the experience. You can enable braking and steering assists, traction control, rider health (which can force your rider to retire through injuries sustained), tyre wear and you can even enable official rules meaning you'll be penalised for driving in an incorrect fashion. These are just some of the options and there are many more to choose from. Essentially this enables you to play the game the way you want to. Both the arcade racers and the hardcore simulation enthusiasts will be able to create a racing environment that suits them and that is a fantastic achievement.
When it comes to the races SBK-07 manages to get things pretty much spot on. As you'd expect when playing the game as an arcade experience the races are pretty straightforward and most gamers should be able to win quite easily. When treating the whole thing as a simulation, and racing against the AI on Amateur and Professional difficulty settings, it's a different matter of course. Here you'll have to be patient and prepared to endure the steep learning curve. The AI races fairly realistically and even the slightest mistake could cost you the race. A race weekend includes Free Practice 1, Qualifying Practice 1, Qualifying Practice 2, Free Practice 2, Superpole, Warm Up, Race 1 and Race 2. You'll have a say in how the bike is setup. You can adjust settings for Front Tyre, Rear Tyre, Front Suspension, Rear Suspension, Handlebar, Gear and Extra Weight to achieve a ride that feels best for you and also to suit the circuit you're racing on.
Perhaps the main disappointment with the game is that there is no online racing available and you're confined to two-player split-screen races. The presentation of the game as a whole is rather bland however. You'll see a multitude of umbrella girls thrown around for good measure. No doubt their presence on the loading screens is to distract you from the fact that the load times are pretty chronic. Whilst the bike models look quite good the circuits simply look OK and certainly aren't the most detailed we've seen on the PlayStation 2. However, the frame rate is rock solid and I think that sacrificing some graphical detail to keep the frame rate as good as possible was definitely a wise decision and makes for a more pleasant racing experience.
Deaf gamers won't have any problems with SBK-07. Virtually all of the information is given in text. There are no race commentaries here, as in other racing titles, so that's one less thing that deaf gamers will miss out on. The game uses colour-coded directional arrows to show if you are going too quickly when taking a corner (these can be disabled if you like) which again is fine for deaf gamers. All of the scenarios in the Challenges mode have their objectives in text so you'll know what needs to be done. In fact it's fair to say that deaf gamers aren't really going to run into any problems with SBK-07 which is certainly good to see.
SBK-07 is easily one of the best motorcycle racing games you can currently purchase for the PlayStation 2. In fact along with MotoGP 4 it's definitely our favourite motorcycle racing game on the system. Where it really succeeds is that it can be enjoyed by both fans of arcade racers and those looking for a pure simulation experience. This is quite an achievement and I don't remember a motorcycle racer ever giving you so many options to tailor the experience to your liking. Yes the presentation is rather bland and the load times are on the long side but these are fairly small flies in the ointment and don't prevent SBK-07 Superbike World Championship from being a definite purchase for PlayStation 2 owning fans of two-wheeled motorsport.
It may lack a certain something in regards to its presentation but SBK-07 Superbike World Championship is a fine racing game that caters equally well for those looking for an arcade racer and those looking for a realistic simulation of the sport.