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Superbike 2000 (PSX) Review


Although I don't follow motorbike sports on television, I'm a fan of any machine that can go really fast. The PlayStation may play host to a variety of motorbike/motorcross racing games, but a decent Superbike racing game has yet to appear on the system. Last year's atrocious Castrol Honda Superbike Racing was laughable at best, and it seems that Superbike 2000 will follow in its footsteps. Superbike 2000, unfortunately, will not satisfy fans of the sport, nor those looking for high-speed thrills.

Presentation/Graphics : 65
While not completely horrible, Superbike 2000's graphics fail to impress on a number of levels. When I was finished watching the FMV opening movie (which is arguably the best part of the game), I immediately jumped into a quick race to get my high-speed racing fix. Unfortunately, what I was greeted with was a decent-looking motorcycle and rider that appeared to be floating above the track instead of racing on top of it. This is mostly the result of poor shadowing, which does nothing to suggest that the bike and rider are racing on top of the asphalt. The lack of effects like tire marks, tire movement, smoke, and crashes also detached me from the racing experience, which are details that should have been included. Races can take place during varying weather conditions (sunny, overcast, rain), but all fail to impress. On the bright side (no pun intended), there's a pretty nice lens flare effect included when playing with a first-person view, but almost every racing game includes this stock effect nowadays.

Even worse than the lack of effects, though, are the bland tracks. The game does include all 13 official International Superbike World Championship circuits, but that's still no excuse for the bland environments and dull color palette. Occasionally, you may see some boxes that represent buildings and long rectangles that contain the usual bit-mapped crowd, but most of the time you'll be looking at some ugly trees and protective barriers covered with advertisements.

The biggest fault I have with the game engine is there is no real sense of speed, which is the most important aspect of this type of racing game. The frame rate doesn't feel consistent and there are plenty of moments when slowdown will occur, especially when there are more than a couple of bikes racing side by side. Even the first-person view (one of four views available) failed to convince me that I was racing a high-powered "superbike." Turning is another problem because you'll need to slow to a crawl, or face the consequences of riding off-road, which is very frustrating. This, coupled with the slow frame rate, strips the game of all the excitement and high-speed thrills found in the sport.

Superbike 2000 has some decent animation, namely the way the biker shifts his weight when going into corners and chicanes, but most of the other animations are pretty lame. If another biker happens to bump into you, your rider will angrily shake his fist in the air like an 80-year-old grandma whose purse was robbed. Also, since there is no way to crash your bike in the game, a "wheelie" animation plays out after you "crash" into a wall or object. This is truly pathetic, and the lack of crash animations truly hurt the game.

A replay feature is available at the end of each race, but it doesn't particularly capture the spirit of the race and has limited options (you have no control over camera placement during replays).

Presentation/Audio : 65
The music/sound effects don't fare any better than the graphics and ultimately do a lousy job of convincing the player that he or she is taking part in a daring, high-speed race. The engine sounds are very weak, and the commentary that accompanies the beginning of each race -- which there is very little of -- is rather annoying. The techno-rock music isn't anything special and plays a minimal role in the game.

Interface/Options : 75
Superbike 2000 has a decent interface and a nice selection of options. All of the main menus are clean, easy-to-read, and well laid out. When it comes time to make adjustments to your bike or view statistics, however, you'll find that some of the text is extremely hard to read due to the extremely small and blurry wording. The manual does a nice job of covering all areas of the game, though, so if you need some help setting up your bike, you can find some tips there. You'll also find a diagram of the control settings within the jewel case itself, after you remove the CD from the case. And if one control summary wasn't enough, you'll also see another diagram posted on some of the loading screens (which are very long, incidentally). This demonstrates the pick-up-and-play nature of the game, as the control layout is very simple and basic. Speaking of control, I really like how both analog and digital control can be used to navigate the menu system. The past couple of PlayStation games I have reviewed, which included both analog and digital control, didn't allow me to use the analog stick to navigate through the menus. Superbike 2000's analog/digital control nicety is also carried over to actual gameplay, which allows you to mix and match analog and digital control (i.e., you can use the X button to accelerate and the left analog stick for steering). I appreciated being in analog mode and still having access to the d-pad without having to turn off analog control.

Hardware options include setting the display (i.e., centering the screen), balancing the sound and commentary, selecting from three control presets, and memory card options, which include auto load (automatically loads game settings), load, and save.

Game options include setting the number of laps (2, 3, 5, or 10), changing the difficulty level (easy, medium, or hard), selecting weather conditions (sunny, overcast, wet, auto), and individually toggling bike damage and tire wear on or off. You can also set up your bike to your liking before each race with limited adjustments to the forks, suspension, tires, and gearing.

Gameplay : 65
Superbike 2000's gameplay will disappoint fans who are hoping for a true simulation of the sport, as well as those who are looking for a quick arcade-racing fix. The main problem with the gameplay is there are too few sim elements to please fans of Superbike racing and very little in the way of intense racing action to please fans of arcade-styled racers. The game does accurately represent the 1999 SBK Superbike Season, which features 20 championship riders (including 4-time World Champion Carl Fogarty), all 13 circuits, and bikes from all the big-name manufacturers (Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc.). Yet, even with a variety of ways to play -- Single Race, Championship, and Two Player -- the gameplay is very boring and will hardly appeal to fans of the sport, let alone arcade-racing freaks.

The most obvious problem with the PlayStation version of Superbike 2000 is that it goes out of its way to appeal to beginners and those who are unfamiliar with this type of racing experiencing -- just check out the default settings, which have the difficulty level set to easy and "turn assist" (controls your speed when going into corners and chicanes) turned on. Heck, there isn't even individual front and rear braking included in the game!

All that being said, though, at least the modes of play are decent. The Single and Quick Race modes allow you to jump right into the race, whereas the Championship mode allows you to race a full season, spanning thirteen race weekends. When playing the Championship mode, you essentially have four different races in which you can participate during each race weekend. There's Free Practice, which allows you to try out your bike settings and familiarize yourself with the track without other riders present or the hassle of a time limit; Superpole, which will determine your starting position for Race 1 and Race 2; and the "real" races themselves -- Races 1 & 2, which represent the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend race.

Controlling the bike is tedious with both analog and digital control (analog is still recommended), although, as mentioned before, you can use both simultaneously. The computer-controlled opponents are obviously racing on real "superbikes," since their bikes seem to turn and handle a whole lot better, but you can try to gain a small advantage when it comes time to set up your bike. With a few practice runs and proper bike adjustments, winning races isn't all that difficult.

Replay Value: 65
While there are several different modes of play, Superbike 2000 won't be sitting inside your PlayStation for very long; it's not the type of racing game that most gamers will want to play repeatedly. Fans of the sport, however, may continue to play the game just to make their way through a season, but I doubt even the most hard-core fans of the sport will enjoy doing that.

Overall : 67
The bottom line is this: Superbike 2000 is a so-so simulation, with barely enough excitement and enjoyment to satisfy sim fans, never mind arcade-racing fans. With its sub-par graphics, extremely long load times, and lack of detail (namely the omission of crashes and poor bike physics), Superbike 2000 is barely recommended as a rental. If you're looking for a detailed sim, look elsewhere (you'll find more sim elements in the computer version of Superbike 2000); if some good ol' fashioned arcade-racing is what you're after, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding a better game than this on the PlayStation.

By: Cliff O'Neill 4/4/00
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