Review by dancer62
A technical motorcycle racer
Motorcycles, vehicles with a different dynamic than cars, these overpowered roadable gyroscopes handle differently, and require different skills, both in real life and in video games. The motorcycles in Arctic Edge and Midnight Club are not too difficult, except for the disorientation of the tilting first person view, but those are arcade games. Playing sim-oriented games like the demo of MotoGP on the PSP, or Tourist Trophy on the PS2 (Gran Turismo 4 for motorcycles, try it!), the different forces operating with a motorcycle can definitely be felt. So, for a different thrill than my usual racers, I picked up Honda Superbike Championship.
Honda SBK (in the title screen SBK-07) makes a good first impression, with a nice intro montage of racing scenes with dramatic symphonic music. Loading screens show smiling girls in bare midriffs and short shorts. The menus are clear and understandable, with choices for Quick Race, Time Attack, Race Weekend, Championship, Challenges, Multiplayer, and Options.
Options opens another set of choices, ranging from driving aids, controls (traditional Playstation vs. shoulder button accelerate/brake as in Motorstorm), sound effects and music volume, and display (including an ideal driving line display a la Gran Turismo), languages, and unlockables.
Challenges offers a set of missions similar to and just as unforgiving as the Gran Turismo driving tests. I have yet to complete the first one, to pass a series of checkpoints with a certain minimum speed, without going off the track at any point.
The game offers 10 real world courses, all very technical with low speed corners and elevation changes, like Silverstone, Monza, Brands Hatch, etc. There is a choice of 7 1000cc 200+ horsepower motorcycles, 3 Hondas, a Yamaha, a Ducati, a Kawasaki, and a Suzuki. there is a selection of real-world riders from the SBK 2007 series, a choice of two riders for each bike.
A peeve: All the riders are male and all the females are eye candy. Maybe this is realistic, and reflects the actual SBK series. I'm not all that politically correct. I know that when I and members of my dance troupe are hired as belly dancers or hula girls for parties and political rallies, it's understood that we're there as much to be visible and cute in skimpy costumes as to put on a show, and we're paid well to smile, be charming, and mingle as well as dance. But, nonetheless, to find this kind of chauvinism carried over to a video game still bothers me. Yes, girls DO game, so if unlockables are going to include pinup girls, how about some bare chested hunky guys, too? Sorry, don't EVEN get me started on GTA!
Racing includes single races, race weekends, and championships. A Race Weekend is a series of events at a single track, with practice and qualifying sessions, warmup, and two races. Championship involves choosing a team, and playing a whole season. Each track has the same events as the Race Weekend, with practice, qualifying, and racing. Single Race and Time Trials are self-explanatory. Single Race does not offer last-minute adjustment of tires, steering damper, suspension, gearing, and weight distribution, but the other modes do.
So, how does it play? Graphics are nice, with detailed textures, a good sense of depth, and sharp and detailed bikes and riders. There is no slowdown, pop-in, or chugging. It could be a PS2 game. Viewpoint can be selected from three distances and heights behind the bike, or driver's behind the fairing view. Weather effects are good, with rain beading up on the windshield. The sound is effective, with realistic motor sounds and screeching tires. Music is not available in races, menu music is techno hip hop with gutteral grunting, replay music is metal rock with (inidentifiable) foreign language screaming. I wish the symphonic music of the intro was available all the time. There is no music selection or editing.
Racing, ah, there we go. A good sense of speed, corners come up awfully quickly. With driving aids turned on, the ideal racing line is visible on the track, and the heads-up display direction arrow changes color according to cornering speed, green is OK to accelerate, yellow is acceptable speed, orange requires braking, red: oh, well, you're going off track. Even a duffer like me can accomplish a lap with driving aids on, and even pass a few of the AI bikes. OTOH, even with driving aids, the simulation is unforgiving, and it's easy to go offtrack and lose position. Late braking and diving to the apex does not work NEARLY as well as with cars, and these machines accelerate like rockets, so the difference between competitive speed and "in way over my head" is miniscule.
Replays are fun to watch, they show all my errors, including spectacular crashes with my rider flying through the air, or going wheelie over backward, or just falling down on the grass. There is a telemetry option in replay that I find fascinating, it displays details of gear/rpm/power, speed, lean angle, suspension deflection, throttle/brake position, tire wear front and rear, and damage.
Bottom line: If you want a detailed motorcycle simulation, with a range of real-world tracks, a wealth of adjustments, and good graphics and gameplay, then you can't go wrong here. Other than the inherent difficulty level and learning curve of a sim-oriented motorcycle racing game, there are no glitches and nothing to dislike. Is it fun? If you find the challenge and learning curve fun. I end up playing for longer than I had really intended. It's not a knockout, but still a good game, definitely worth the money, a competent racer and very competitive within its genre.
Pros: A wealth of options, assists, and technical adjustments
Attractive and effective graphics
Cons: Steep learning curve
Music not selectable or editable
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Hannspree Ten Kate Honda: SBK Superbike World Championship (US, 03/18/08)
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