Moto Racer 2 (PSX) Review
Presentation/Graphics : 85
For all the praise heaped upon the graphics in Moto Racer, they left me cold. They were not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but they struck me as rather sterile. Whatever it was that caused those graphics not to appeal to me has been remedied here. The graphics in MR2 just seem to have more character. At first glance, MR2 looks leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. However, it doesn't take long before some warts make their way to the surface, primarily in the form of abundant draw-in. That's the price that's been paid for so much additional trackside detail and increased speed (more on this later). Fortunately, this is limited to the surroundings and doesn't affect view distance. Unfortunately, there is so much draw-in on some tracks that it can be distracting. That's the bad news. The good news is that it's only really noticeable when racing in certain environments (there are several) at certain times of day and, in most instances, the game looks terrific.
Races are set in one of many locales ranging from metropolitan to county (which looks strikingly similar to the Hometown track in Need for Speed III) to desert to jungle, and all look great. Weather effects, rain and snow in this case, look equally good, as does night driving. Although the beam of light cast by your headlamp looks cool, it doesn't illuminate the track like the headlights in Need for Speed III or V-Rally do. With few exceptions, everything looks clean and moves along at a good clip. However, there are areas (particularly the jungle tracks) where you'll notice a fair bit of pixelation and graininess. Some environments are definitely more eye-pleasing than others and this results in the graphics being a bit of a mixed bag. Still, there's a lot more to like than dislike and I'm sure that, overall, most gamers will be impressed.
Presentation/Audio : 82
Music is a collection of 8 unremarkable punk tracks that sound like one track that has been mirrored and reversed, with a little Clash-style reggae thrown in for good measure. They are so indistinct from one another that I was actually convinced the random track function on my copy of MR2 wasn't working. I made a point of checking by going back and listening to each track and, sure enough, it was working fine. Not that it matters much because you'll need to have the music level set way down if you want to hear your engine anyway, which is a must if you're using manual transmission.
The original announcer makes a return appearance, throwing in the odd comment during the course of the race, and ending with his typical, annoying put-down "You...lost...the...race." if you fail to finish in the top three.
Interface/Options : 80
You're now ready to race, but be prepared to wait. Load times in Moto Racer 2 are long, almost intolerably so. It can take up to 45 seconds to load a track and almost half a minute to get back out to the menu after a race. If you're running an 8 race championship or, worse, a series of them, load time can really add up. It's not hard to imagine that load time alone could add a half hour to 45 minutes to a full evening of Moto Racer 2.
There are a limited number of options available from the front-end menu. Load and save options are located here, as are screen adjust and controller selection. Audio options are conspicuously absent, being accessible only from the in-game pause menu where levels for sound effects, announcer and music are independently adjustable. MR2 supports both standard and analog control (dual shock and 'wheel' modes). Several configurations are offered, but it's not possible for the user to remap game functions to create their own. Moreover, there is no option to adjust steering sensitivity in dual analog mode. There are four sensitivity settings to choose from in wheel mode, but they are non-adjustable. Most gamers should be able to find one that suits their driving style but, still, it would be nice to be able to tweak them.
So, what about the much ballyhooed track editor you ask? Well, there's a learning curve to be sure but, once you get the hang of what's possible and what's not, it's really quite simple. As an indication of just how easy it is, I was able to create my first track without peeking at the manual. Granted, it took quite a bit longer than it otherwise would have, but I was able to figure it out on my own. You can either modify an existing track, or start from scratch with a circular model. You're provided with a set of tools, presented as Windows-like icons, which you use to stretch the basic track into turns, create different elevations, and add uneven surfaces (mounds). When your basic design is done, you can choose the locale of the track as well as the default conditions (day/night, weather, number of laps) that will be used when the track is run as part of a championship series. Up to 8 tracks can be created and they become part of the basic track set as well as forming the Custom Championship series on their own. I was somewhat concerned about how much memory card space this would hog, so I created and saved the maximum 8 tracks. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that MR2 took up only two blocks total, created tracks and all. Very nice. The track editor is a very worthy inclusion that is sure to extend MR2's replayability.
Gameplay : 80
I tried MR2 with the Sony Dual Shock and Namco NeGcon controllers, and in both cases control is solid. I do wish it were possible to adjust the steering sensitivity of the Dual Shock, but the default is quite good. The shock function is quite well done, and is almost strong enough to shake the controller right out of your hands as you bounce over the hills and uneven surfaces of the dirt courses.
Another major gripe I had with Moto Racer was with the track design. There is often a fine line between challenge and cheapness and I thought Moto Racer crossed it a little too often. That's been mostly corrected in the sequel, but there still seems to be a spot or two on every track that is designed to set you up. On the whole though, track design is good if a little uninspired.
As far as tracks go, there are lots of them. EA claim 32 or more, but I'm not convinced they are all unique. It's pretty hard to tell for sure though, because they're disguised every which way through use of different environments, times of day, and weather conditions. My guess is that the number of 32 is arrived at by counting mirrored and reversed versions of 8 basic layouts, but I'm not certain of that. In any case, there are sufficient tracks to keep things interesting and any lack of variety has more to do with the limited number of locales than anything. Plus, you've got the track editor to fiddle with, so there's eight fresh ones right there.
There are eight street bikes and eight dirt bikes to choose from, each rated in the areas of speed, acceleration, grip and braking. It's important to pick the right one for whichever track you're racing because there are noticeable differences in handling between them.
You can race them in either arcade or simulation mode. EA contend that simulation mode introduces real-world physics. That may be true, but the most noticeable difference is that if you contact a barrier in simulation mode, you crash. Arcade mode is far more forgiving in this regard. It's still possible to crash, but the more likely outcome is a loss of speed commensurate with how hard you hit the barrier.
This brings up the most serious problem I encountered in MR2. If you're using a manual transmission and hit a barrier while racing in arcade mode, not only do you lose speed, but the CPU drops you down a certain number of gears based on how hard the contact was. That's fine if you're running with automatic transmission, but in manual the natural inclination is to gear down before taking off again. Trouble is, even after you adjust to the fact that the CPU does this, you can't tell how many gears it will drop you down and there's no adjusting to that. Furthermore, there are times where the contact has been so slight that you're not even aware of it and then you suddenly realize that you're a gear or two lower than you thought you were. This occurs quite frequently because it's possibe to drive over some roadsides without penalty and you never know when the CPU will decide to gear down on your behalf. Thanks but no thanks.
There are several championships that can be run including Street Bike, Dirt Bike, Mixed (Street and Dirt courses), Custom (your created tracks), and an Ultimate Championship which is a collection of the toughest courses and is unlocked by performing well enough in the others.
In addition to being pretty aggressive, the AI riders are pretty unpredictable: not to the point of fallibility though, at least not that I've seen so far. They will, however, take different lines and that requires you to bob and weave your way between them in order to work your way to the front of the pack. The only downside is that if you make contact with them you'll be subject to the slow down described above and they won't. On the contrary it almost seems like they get a slight speed boost a la Rage Racer.
Overall : 83