G1 Jockey 4 2008 PlayStation 3
Published by: Koei
Developed by: Koei
Release Date: Out Now
Around two and a half years ago we reviewed G1 Jockey 4 for the PlayStation 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then of course the game has been remade for the Nintendo Wii and made good use of that system's unique control scheme to give a more immersive experience. G1 Jockey 4 2008 is essentially the same game as G1 Jockey 4 for the PlayStation 2. There are a few differences but disappointingly there aren't enough differences to warrant a purchase if you've played the PlayStation 2 or the Wii version from last year.
G1 Jockey 4 2008 has a Story mode, Trial mode, Tutorial mode and an Edit Horse mode. The Story mode in G1 Jockey puts you in the role of a rookie jockey. You'll begin by creating your character (male or female), taking part in some mock races and then heading off to the stables you selected when creating your character, in order to begin your career as a jockey. Aside from the Story mode, you can also choose the Trial mode to have a single race on the horse of your choice and even go up against a friend in a split-screen race. You'll want to visit the extensive Tutorial mode if you haven't played a version of G1 Jockey 4 before as the learning curve is quite steep. There's also an option to view any race replays you may have saved in the Story mode.
In G1 Jockey 4 2008 there are flat races and steeplechase races. Racing isn't a matter of button bashing and to race well, there are many things to consider. Each horse has a racing style. There are Front-Runners (horses who like to lead from beginning to end), Drop-In horses (who like to be close to the front and then break away near the end), Drop-Out horses have a greater spurt than Drop-In horses and therefore are able to break away from the centre or even the back of the pack and finally there are Hold-Up horses that like to shoot from the back to the front in the final stages of a race. Your potential gauge will fill quicker if you ride your horse in its preferred style and seeing as potential can be used to maintain your horse's top speed after its stamina gauge has emptied, you're going to want it to be as full as possible. You also have to consider the horse's motivation gauge. A horse's motivation is its desire to run. When the marker in the gauge is green the horse is running as well as it can but by riding poorly, you'll eventually turn the marker red. Once the motivation marker has turned red your horse will simply not perform and you'll see your opponents speed past you so it's best to make sure the marker stays green for as long as possible. During the final stages of a race you also have to make sure you change the horse's leading leg as well (although you don't have this to worry about in steeplechase races, you do have to concern yourself with using the jump gauge correctly).
This all seems a heck of a lot to keep an eye on and it is to begin with and when you consider you can fall if you don't time your jumps correctly and that it's easy to block an opponent's horse (and earn a suspension), it may seem a little overwhelming. Thankfully though there are several options available to you when you choose to start a career. You can choose Easy, Normal or Hard difficulty levels, whether or not to enable Stewards' Enquiries (which can result in a suspension), you can choose whether to make it as falling from your horse in a steeplechase race means you're disqualified from a race and probably injured for a few weeks, you can choose whether to have the ability to restart a race and having the option to save at the paddocks between races at a meeting. In effect these options allow you to play with punishing realism or play in a forgiving environment that allows you to correct mistakes, which is essential if you're new to the series.
The Story mode is where you'll be spending virtually all of your time with the game. As we said earlier you'll begin by creating your jockey and then heading off for four mock races before joining the stables you've affiliated yourself with during the jockey creation process. The game progresses on a week by week basis. Each week you'll be able to negotiate for any available rides. If a trainer offers you a ride you can simply accept the ride but if you want a ride that was initially being offered to another jockey, you'll have to use some of your riding points (which are earned every week and you'll receive bonus riding points for doing well in races) to put in a request to have that ride for yourself. You'll lose the riding points regardless of whether your request is successful or not though. Other than the races you can also give three of the horses, you've managed to gain a ride for, a workout. This enables you to do some training in an effort to increase the horse's form before a race. From April in your first year you'll be able to train a new horse. You get to pick whether the horse will take part in flat or steeplechase races and then you'll pick the horse's parent and a new horse will be created taking on characteristics from the two parents you selected. For the first year you can't ride your horse in any races (you can in the second year though) and you'll just be doing various training exercises to improve the horse. The training exercises can be quite frustrating to begin with but as with the rest of the game, if you put the effort in you'll be rewarded by having a really good horse to ride the following year.
At the beginning of the Story mode you'll notice there are three characters that are to graduate with you. These characters will become your rivals (albeit in a friendly way) and during the game you'll have feedback on how they are doing and they will comment on how your performance is going. You can upset your relationship with these rivals by requesting horses they were due to ride. You'll notice that each jockey and trainer has a relationship icon that displays what they think of you and it is all well thought out. What I really like though is that no two careers in Story mode seem to play out the same which really adds to the replay value.
The biggest disappointment with G1 Jockey 4 2008 is that there aren't enough differences that make it a worthwhile purchase for those who've played previous versions of the game. The Edit mode is a welcome inclusion and gives you the opportunity to edit the fictitious horse names. You can also edit the various attributes for each of the horses. A new control scheme option has been added to take advantage of the Sixaxis' motion controls. These new controls are OK but not as accurate as the original control schemes. Graphically the game does look better than the PS2 version but this is mostly due to the higher resolution. Disappointingly, the game does not look as good as it could have done on the PlayStation 3.
G1 Jockey 4 2008 is just as deaf gamer friendly as G1 Jockey 4. All of the dialogue, from the trainers, rival jockeys, journalists etc., in the game is shown in text and you will need to press the X button in order to move the dialogue forward. During races the various gauges will show you all you need to know and the force feedback (if you have a DualShock 3 controller) gives a nice tactile representation of the horse's movements. Should you or another jockey commit an infringement, the word 'enquiry' will appear to inform you that a Steward's Enquiry will take place after the race has been completed. The results of the enquiry are shown in text.
Whilst it's great to see the G1 Jockey series arrive on the PlayStation 3, it's a shame that we have essentially had the last one that appeared on the PlayStation 2, albeit with a few extras, and not a G1 Jockey game to fully take advantage of the PlayStation 3 hardware. If you haven't played a version of G1 Jockey 4 before and you don't mind the steep learning curve then you'll find a game that's deep and satisfying. Those who have played a version of G1 Jockey 4 before will have to think long and hard about purchasing what is essentially the same game. The future of the G1 Jockey series certainly looks unclear at this point with Koei and Tecmo, who are responsible for the Gallop Racer titles, set to merge. It certainly will be interesting to see whether the series are kept separate or merged.