What a year it is for MotoGP fans; so far, we’re only five races in to the 2022 calendar, and there have been four different winners, Aprilia have secured their first Grand Prix victory of the modern era, and now this – Milestone S.r.l. drop an absolutely excellent MotoGP game on us; their third great racing game of the last few months following on from Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Videogame 5 and MXGP 2021. With a new Super Mario Bros. film around the corner, there hasn’t been a better time to be Italian since that year when it rained espresso in Sicily and gelato stocks went up 50 points in a day.
A series based on a niche sport or hobby needs an engaging way of introducing potential new players more so than most; a game like MotoGP 22 will certainly attract people from the motorcycle and auto-sports world, not least because it’s one of the few games of its type in existence these days. But what about the pedestrian masses who would like to dip their calloused feet into the world of motorsports, but find racing lines hard to master, don’t know why you would want to use a set of Bridgestone tyres over Michelin ones, and think Valentino Rossi designed dresses? MotoGP 22 has them covered so well you could market it as a duvet.
Revving the game up, we begin with a wonderfully in-depth tutorial that allows you to go through pretty much every aspect of racing, as well as test out the various driving aids and toggle them on or off at your leisure, until you’re comfortable with the game’s controls, and familiar with the intricacies of its difficulty settings. The tutorial is a little bit overbearing for the first few minutes (automatic braking and cornering are the worst), but for someone unfamiliar with motorcycle racing this might be beneficial, as the handling is completely different from the cars that most people are used to.
Once the training wheels are off, it’s time to explore what MotoGP 22 has to offer. There is the usual array of modes you would come to expect; a single player career, where the player gets to choose from starting right at the beginning as a newly signed Moto3 rider, before working your way up the ranks to Moto2 and finally MotoGP. The career mode is highly customisable, allowing seasoned veterans who just want to get to the high-octane stuff to skip the Moto3 and Moto2 stuff entirely. Beginners might want to start with the lower powered bikes, as they’re much easier to learn the ropes on as, depending on your assist settings, MotoGP bikes can be difficult to take even a single corner on at first. When you finally tame one of these 1,000cc beasts though, it feels incredibly satisfying and for veterans of the series Moto2 and 3 might feel a bit too slow in comparison.
That’s where the career mode’s nifty manager mode comes in to play – allowing you to sign a junior Moto2 and 3 team to manage alongside your character, letting you keep your fingers in all of the pies and enjoy the action of the lower leagues even if you’re not racing in them yourself.
Race weekends can be customised completely, from choosing whether to take part in free practice, qualifying or warm ups. Unlike many racing sim type games, there’s rewards associated with spending time in the practice and qualifying sessions beyond just getting a better place on the grid; your team of engineers offers a set of challenges for each race, such as completing three laps during free practice while improving your lap time each time, to placing in the top tier during qualifying. Completing these challenges earns you development points which can then be used to improve various aspects of your bike. Team members can be hired, fired and replaced at will, so if you don’t think your chief engineer is doing a good job, or your manager isn’t finding you the contracts you want – replace them with someone who will.
MotoGP 22’s career mode is about what you would expect from a game of its type and doesn’t do anything to break the mould particularly, but what it does do, it does exceptionally well. The racing physics are fantastic, leaning into a corner and slowly guiding yourself along that racing line feels incredibly satisfying, especially once you get the hang of the more powerful bikes. All of the tracks, racers and brands you would expect to see are here, and completing challenges to develop your bike adds an extra sense of progression to the single player experience. There are also time trials, quick play modes and online multiplayer to get your hands on, but the single player content does not stop there, oh no, MotoGP features the brand new Nine Season 2009, and what an absolute joy it is.
Nine Season 2009 allows you to play out the classic 2009 MotoGP season, known for being Valentino Rossi’s final win, as well as just being a spectacular year full of amazing races. MotoGP 22 doesn’t just plonk you on a bike and send you on a slightly altered career mode, it instead puts you in the boots of the likes of Rossi, Casey Stoner, and Jorge Lorenzo, as you play out parts of each race from different perspectives, with different challenges for each.
The races are interspersed with fifty minutes of historical footage narrated by Mark Neale, director of the brilliant MotoGP documentary, Hitting the Apex. Nine Season 2009 is an excellent introduction to the world of MotoGP for a newcomer and an awesome way to relive history for old-school fans alike. Seeing one of the high-points of the sport from a historical perspective, in an interactive format, with unlockable customisation items and exciting race footage, is exactly the kind of thing these games need. It seriously feels like any sports game without a feature like this will be lacking from here on out, it’s that good, and has elevated MotoGP 22 from one of the best racing games of the year to one of my games of the year full stop (so far, there’s some exciting releases coming.)
There’s really not a great deal more to say, then, about MotoGP 22. If you’re a fan of the sport, MotoGP 22 is a brilliant entry in the series that does everything you would expect it to and a bit more. If you’re hoping to get into motorcycle racing, it’s a superb entry point and as we’re in the early stages of what looks to be another thrilling season, there’s no better time than now to get involved.
If you don’t like motorcycle racing games or motorsports in general, you won’t find anything here that will change your mind, and I’m quite surprised you’re still reading this review if I’m honest. Maybe you could wait around for our upcoming review of Tropico 6 on Xbox Series X|S instead? That’s nice and relaxing.
MotoGP 22 is available to download from the Xbox Store