Can a motorcycle sim work on a portable? We go hands-on to find out.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: September 7, 2006
One of the great joys of dealing with hundreds -- if not thousands in some years -- of video game releases is that there are inevitably games that sound similar. In the case of MotoGP it just happen to have the exact same name as another game. Well, that's not entirely true; there's a space between the last o and the GP in the other game, which incidentally is developed by Climax Racing in the UK and is a staple of the Xbox racing library. The Japanese-developed one, however is all about the PlayStation luv, and while the game's share the same license (and thus the same name), the approach is subtly different.

On the PSP, though, it's fairly wildly different as our hands-on time proved. For starters, the game is significantly whittled down. It's not utterly lacking in features, but it does use the 2005 license data, meaning riders, tracks and stats will be taken from last year's PS2 entry. It sports only eight tracks, but all of the licensed riders and the actual courses that you'd find in real MotoGP circuits along with a few tracks dreamed up by the Namco staff. Oh, and there's one other thing: it runs beautifully.

We were only allowed to play the game for a couple minutes, but it's obvious that Namco absolutely owns PSP development. Tekken: Dark Resurrection was an experience that floored all of us that played it, demonstrating for perhaps the first time that a console game couple make the leap without losing any of the visual impact or polish. MotoGP further strengthens that this-is-too-pretty-to-be-PSP feeling.

The draw distance is extremely roomy with just a hint of pop up on the track (yes, singular; like we said, our play time was short), and the framerate was absolutely gorgeous. When we inevitably ate it taking a hairpin, seeing the bike flutter around and our driver react to the hit in butter-smoove 60fps territory, it was jaw-dropping -- partially because we haven't seen PSP games running this smoothly yet. The only down side to things is that there's no analog control of gas or brake (implementing something like a slow ramp-up like Sumo Digital did with Race Driver 2006 would be perfect for avoiding spin-outs), and the front and rear brakes aren't independent.

With a slightly pared-down set of tracks, Namco is trying their best to make up for it. 50 Challenges ranging from time trials to corner navigation to overtaking will unlock progressively better riders, bikes and gear upgrades, and once you've unlocked it, the One on One Mode will allow you to race against the rider with the best time on a particular track. The game will support multiplayer, but sadly it's only Ad Hoc this year.

We do wish we'd had more time with the game, but the short little session we got was at least enough to show the PSP is plenty adept at handling the conversion of a crotch rocket racing sim. The key now will be cramming a complete game onto a UMD, but we're guessing that's best left for next year's inevitable sequel.