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July 30, 2003
MotoGP 3 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
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Once again... lovely graphics.
Motorbikes are strange things; people seem to either love or hate them. Compared to cars, motorbikes are (normally) faster, more economical, cheaper, more environment-friendly and take up less space. But theyíre not without their flaws of course; like the possibility of falling off and having the only thing between you and grating bitumen being a thin layer of leather padding. So maybe itís not so much a love and hate relationship, but more a fear-based one? I know that thatís my excuse. Moving up to the professional motorbike racing arena, the men are separated from the boys in the world of MotoGP. Where else do you see full-grown men crouched over, clutching on for dear life while zooming around a track at +250 km/hr, with opponents merely inches in front with others breathing over their shoulder? While the risks are great, great skill and athleticism can result in even greater prizes. MotoGP 3 welcomes you to the world of MotoGP; no rollcage. No airbag. No crumplezones. No second chances.

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Got a bit of catching up to do...
Being a racing game at heart, MotoGP 3 has your typical arcade and time trial (free ride) modes, as well as the primary simulation mode where you compete in the MotoGP championship for a season. They say that first appearances leave lasting impressions, and MotoGP 3 leaves a great one; the slick opening cinematics followed by simple, stylish and easy-to-navigate menus set the stage for a solid racer, which unfortunately isnít without itís flaws.

The season game mode lets you create a rider and join one of the 12 official teams (being officially licensed, everything in the game, from ridersí leathers to their bikes and courses is authentic to the real thing). From here, you then race across the 15 stages held in various parts of the world, including Phillip Island here in Australia. Depending on how genuine you want your racing to be, the degree of simulation can be adjusted by means of assisted braking, weather toggling, and laps per race among other things. To help make the racing more Ďpersonalí, there is also the option to display an icon of the other ridersí faces above their helmet. A simple, but well needed touch so you know exactly who is cutting you off and who that is up ahead that you just canít beat!

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4-player split screen mode rocks!
Time trial mode in MotoGP 3 is nothing to be laughed at either; aside from the handy ghost to race against, graphs and best segment times are displayed at the end of the session to help you recognize problem spots and then shave those extra few milliseconds off your lap times. Arcade mode too, is a notch up from other racing games, supporting up to 4 players racing simultaneously! A very extensive challenge mode is also there to confront the most hardcore MotoGP fans. Imagine the license tests from the Gran Turismo series, made ten times harder, and twice as many, and you have MotoGP 3ís challenge mode. Here there is also a grading for your results; grade highly and youíll unlock more bonuses than if you grade poorly. It will take the most dedicated enthusiast many hours to complete all of the challenges, as they are very tough. No, they are crazily tough. Iíd almost border on calling them impossible at the higher levels.

ďSo the challenges are impossible? Well, they are meant to be challenging, you weaklingĒ I hear you all cry. Now if it was only the challenges that were hard, that wouldnít be too bad; however there is a very steep learning curve to the game and it is comparable to Mt Everest. That is, many make it half way up, but very few conquer its peak. MotoGP 3 is hard, and I mean damned hard. Even after an entire week of practicing, and then using the fastest available bike, it is still doubtful that you will land a position in the top 3 of a race, and thatís just with the difficulty set to normal. While there is a simulation option, by where you crash and lose balance more easily when turned on, it doesnít seem to help much (when disabled) in the quest to be first to the checkered flag. Braking assist does Ďassistí you in stopping without zooming through the outside of the corners, however it also Ďassistsí other riders in overtaking you at all the wrong times. Perhaps itís just me with my hardcoded-Gran-Turismo brain, but after giving this game a good hammering, Iím still not that much better than when I first started. But difficulties aside; AI doesnít play a role in a 4-player race, which is mountains of fun; shifting your weight on the bike allows you to knock off mates while sliding out of a corner, and then pull a wheelie as you cross the finish line having stolen their victory!

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Replays are spectacular.
Graphically, this game is a visual banquet. The graphics are appealing, with highly detailed bikes and riders, which never suffer from the slightest hint of slowdown. While the landscapes are little sparse, the crowds and scenery that are present are well presented. At this point the graphics are very good but what makes them great is the myriad of small touches that are found throughout the game. Things such as drips and road reflections on bike windshields, realistic bike hydraulics and rider moves, heat shimmer and mirage-like reflections and bike sparks form just the tip of the iceberg. Then thereís my favourite; tire skidmarks that stay on the track for the duration of the race! Itís a little thing, but itís been absent from most great racers since Ridge Racer on the PSOne. No effort has been spared by the guys and girls from Namco in MotoGP 3ís graphics department, however my only criticism is that the wheels are a little on the boxy side when seen at low speeds; get past 100km/hr however, and you donít notice it at all.

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The on-bike viewpoint.
Like most games, the sound doesnít quite live up to the graphical standard. While there isnít really much to be done with motorbike engines with regard to variety and depth, they still sound a little mechanical and synthesized in-game. That said, the use of sound in the game lets you know the moment that another rider is fast approaching, and when youíre stuck inside a pack of other bikes you can definitely hear the difference. Similar to the small graphical extras, there are many little sound effects that first go unnoticed, but add to the aural experience; such as the tire slipping and skidding, crowd ambience and suspension sound effects. The game is backed by an almost generic pop-rock-techno soundtrack, which fortunately is bland enough to go unnoticed. A bit more pizzazz in the music section would help lift the game in this area (a shame since other Namco racers, like the Ridge Racer series always had such nice original tunes).

In summary, MotoGP 3 is typical of the MotoGP series; while it does update from itís predecessors, both visually and in the gameplay, it really is more for the motorbike and MotoGP fans due to the simulation nature of the game. For the more casual gamer, itís hard not to be attracted by the great visuals of the game, but be sure to play this game before buying it. Thereís a lot to be done in this game, with many, many unlockables. However after weeks of failed attempts you may want to invest in an Action Replay or something similar to fully appreciate what this game has to offer.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSLooks almost as nice as the almighty Gran Turismo 3.
SOUNDGood engine and sound effects; music has room for improvement.
GAMEPLAYHas a nice simulation feel, but too hard for most mortals.
VALUEOodles of challenges to unlock; 4-player mode is a blast.
OVERALLA very attractive motorbike racing simulation, with loads of potential and replay value that are almost destroyed by a crazy difficulty level. In-game and replay visuals are to die for, however. Oh and did I mention this game is hard?

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