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Moto Racer 2 (PC) Review

Background Info

Sequels to successful (and often not so successful) titles have become the hip thing in the PC gaming world, so it's no surprise to see EA release Moto Racer 2(MR2). The original Moto Racer was well-received by both the gaming press and gamers themselves, so the mark to hit is pretty lofty in this case. There are several titles featuring GP-style bikes, and a few with dirt bikes, but the MR series is the only one I know of which attempts to do both. Let's see if it's up to the task, shall we?

Presentation/Graphics : 80
EA titles have developed quite a reputation for great graphics, especially with a 3D accelerator (and I know every one of you has one, right? If you don't, I have two words of advice--get one.). MR2 attempts to continue this trend, and is mostly successful. 3D acceleration via Direct3D, anti-aliasing, and screen resolutions from 320x200(!) through 1024x768 are supported, and for the most part worked well on my system. I had a few glitches, such as the game losing track of my 3D card, but it always recovered with a restart of the game, so this is probably a driver issue with my specific card. Other than this, everything worked flawlessly.

In higher resolutions, MR2 is a pretty nice looking game. The track surfaces and trackside objects are well done, though they tend to get quite pixilated up close, and there are a lot of repeated textures. The GP bikes are modeled very well, looking as real as any I've seen, but there is a real lack of variety--the paint jobs vary in color, but not in style, and can get a little boring to look at. The dirt bikes don't look as nice as those in Motocross Madness, but are by no means bad, with a few nice touches--enduro-style headlights and taillights, spokes in the wheels, and brake rotors, for example.

Overall, MR2 is graphically pleasant and frame rates are consistently good, but it doesn't set any new standards.

Presentation/Audio : 70
I'll get this out of the way early--the CD tracks in MR2 are good, but get repetitive very quickly. That said, I would still have to say that the music fits the subject matter well, and can be turned down if you get tired of it. The in-game sounds are somewhat disappointing after hearing the great 2-stroke sound in Motocross Madness, and the GP bike sounds in Castrol Superbike World Champions. If MR2 has a weak area, the audio department is it, even with the choices of 16-bit stereo at 22kHz. And this being a new title, I was surprised not to see some form of surround sound, since other EA titles utilize Dolby for this purpose. All in all, the audio could have been done better.

Interface/Options : 92
It doesn't get much simpler and cleaner than this. The main screen has only 5 choices (start, options, information, editor, and exit) and all navigation starts from those. The controllers are easily reconfigured for up to 4 players via a point and click interface, and will allow joystick, keyboard, or mouse control. Information leads to a handy little system info screen, displaying CPU type and speed, free memory, and other technical info. Editor opens the season and track editor (more on this later), and start goes to the race menus. All in all, a good, no-frills way to get around in the game.

Gameplay : 88
Flexibility. That's something I love to see when I fire up a racer, and there's a good bit of it present in MR2. There are GP bikes and dirt bikes, 3 difficulty levels, a slew of pre-designed tracks, and varying time of day and weather conditions to choose, allowing gameplay to be tailored to the mood you're in. This is a good racer to play when you want to hop on and go without a lot of forethought and setup tweaking. No setup tweaking, in fact, other than picking a bike (each has its own attributes for grip, brakes, etc.) and choosing manual or auto transmission, then it's time to hit the track.

On the track, MR2 turns out to be quite enjoyable. The control was a little hard to get used to, but after some practice I could get around pretty well, and decided to leave practice and race some AI bikes. Surprise...the AI in MR2 will really make you run hard to keep up, unlike some other racers of this sort. The AI aren't all that smart, not trying to block or set you up to pass, but provide a good fun race regardless. Handling of the bikes isn't bad, though I felt more in control with Redline Racer, but that is just individual preference--MR2 is very controllable, and the braking and slide modeling is done very well. Some of the GP tracks will require a little of both, so it's not like being on rails, even with the 'invisible wall' effect present.

The dirt bikes are done a little differently, but have a very similar feel to the GP bikes, though not as fast. The turn radius seems a little shorter, and they are much more forgiving than the heavier GPs. None of the wild 'racing on the moon' physics like Motocross Madness are present, with the bikes staying pretty well earthbound, but still able to catch air at appropriate times. The one shortfall I really noticed was that it's almost too hard to crash--coming off a jump sliding sideways should be recipe for disaster, but it's fairly easy to recover and keep going.

The supplied tracks are well done, with everything from simple speedways to some diabolical twisties, in both dirt and paved types. As a bonus, MR2 has a built-in track editor, allowing for an infinite number of venues to race in. The editor is very straightforward and, if not intuitive, simple to learn. It took about 15 minutes of work before I had my first unique track ready to go--a nice surprise after some editors I've seen which require a lot more study to use.

Difficulty: 90
Dificulty is a tough subject to rate--everyone has a different opinion of easy. That said, MR2 doesn't fall into the easy category by my reckoning. Even with the easy setting in simulation mode, I had a hard time making it to the front. In medium, I was mid-pack, and on hard I was a back marker. Not being real good at arcade type racers (simulation mode is a misnomer--it's still an arcade game), I tend to believe that this is a result of my incompetence, not the game being too hard. With the 3 settings available, I think anyone will find a comfort zone--and that's the aim here.

Overall : 84
I was pretty happy with Redline Racer and Motocross Madness (goofy physics notwithstanding) but have found MR2 to be an excellent joining of the two. Both street and dirt bikes are truly fun to race, and the AI is good enough (fast enough, anyway) to keep my attention. With better sound, this would be a terrific game, but the lackluster effort in that department makes it merely good. Don't let that discourage you, though--for a motorcycle game, you won't find much better.

(Note: Try as I might, I could not find an opponent for multiplayer, other than on the same system, and joystick problems rendered judgement of that feature useless. The game includes multiplayer for up to 4 on the same system, and supports modem, serial, IPX, and TCP/IP.)

By: Scott Moore 11/30/98

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