I should start by putting all my cards on the table. I LOVE this game. It isn’t perfect by any means (far from it in fact) but it fits my gaming niche perfectly and throws me right back into the arcades of seedy British holiday towns. In fact, all that’s missing is the suspiciously sticky plastic motorbike between my legs and Faithless playing in the background.
Initially I was a little disappointed with Moto Racer 4. I play a lot of racers and usually get the most fun from the acclimatisation period, that point where you’re not quite used to the new systems and essentially are a bit bad at the game. Moto Racer 4 doesn’t have that. You race using the triggers but if there’s a point at which you need skill in braking I haven’t come across it yet, with the sharper corners simply requiring you simply push harder/longer in that direction. However, It didn’t take me long to understand that finishing a lap without crashing really isn’t a measure of success in this game.
Heading into career mode I arrogantly rated myself three stars for the first event – you choose how well you think you will do with a star rating. If you achieve the goal corresponding with your choice you get to keep the stars, though exceeding it still only earns you your own rating so it pays to be cocky… well… providing you don’t lose, at which point stars are actually taken away. The result was comical. Apparently not effectively using the style system to gain boosts makes being able to avoid walls and obstacles count for little…
Swiftly chastened, I practiced a little and reduced my star rating (which also appears to reduce opposition quality and provide more achievable goals) and again I began to think the game was a little too easy. Switching to ‘Dirt’ mode from ‘Asphalt’ stopped the thought in its tracks though, the new experience feeling vastly different and demanding a new driving style and mastery of its own. All in all it’s a game you’ll spend a long time getting to grips with, particularly if you intend to unlock all of the collectibles.
Moto Racer 4 is relatively big, especially considering it’s an arcade style racer. With ‘Quick Play’ mode featuring ‘single race’ and ‘time trial’, an extensive single player career mode, online multiplayer, and the golden grail of split-screen multiplayer (oh how I miss split screen) there’s plenty to keep you interested. When you add in the differing ‘Dirt’ and ‘Asphalt’ styles and as of yet limited VR mode, Moto Racer 4 certainly offers plenty of bang for its buck.
Visually the game is less than striking. Whilst it never looks abhorrently bad, it doesn’t even come close to being on par with other biking titles such as ‘Driveclub’. Landscapes are a little sparse in places and the lack of detail in little things like the bike dashboard let it down, in turn taking away from the overall feeling of authenticity.
At least Moto Racer 4 is fun to play. Occasionally things can go a little haywire though, particularly when a lot is happening on the screen at once. A good example of this is that sometimes when performing a trick (to gain a boost) the function simply doesn’t process and nothing happens… except it did happen and the resulting crash occurs because whilst your character appears to be sitting serenely waiting for the jump to end, the game is under the impression that he is doing a back flip. It’s a minor flaw but it’s enough to frustrate when in the middle of a five race championship.
The VR component of the game is a difficult thing to judge. I expected the drop in visual quality (though maybe not quite so extreme) but what I didn’t expect was the jaw clenching queasiness I felt. I’ve played a bit of VR and know some people experience it but up to now it’s not been something that I’ve had to worry about. I’m not certain whether it was due to the high speed, roller coaster style tracks, or the handlebars of my vehicle flicking across my vision windscreen wiper style, but something didn’t feel right. Either way, the effort of holding onto my stomach tainted the experience a little and it’s not something I would encourage people to buy the game for.
One thing that did become apparent during my VR trial is how much the game suffers when played in (my preferred) first person view. It just isn’t the same – near crashes mean less, style points become non existent, and the whole ‘vibe’ of the game feels a lot more shallow. I suspect the developers know this though, hence their decision to keep starting me in the third person view despite changing it for the last fifteen races or so…
All things considered I really enjoyed Moto Racer 4. Most of its negatives can be disputed depending on how fussy you are, whilst the gameplay is fun and varied with plenty to do and enough difficulty to keep it interesting. Most importantly for any manic racer is that victory demands you try a little harder and takes you out of your comfort zone, offering that cheek clenching feeling that often results in a satisfying chaos. You have to win in style, something that’s all the more enjoyable when the game feels so fun to play. It’s far from perfect, but if you’re a fan of bike racing then it’s certainly worth checking out Moto Racer 4 – just steer clear of the VR mode, unless you really want to throw up.
Developer: Artefacts Studios
Release Date: 03/11/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC