When it comes to two wheeled thrills in gaming, Italian developer Milestone are the master and it’s a statement I’ll stand by all day long. It’s also fair to say with the MotoGP series being a yearly affair, that some years are not as… let’s say impactful as other. MotoGP 22 was an OK instalment, but never really did anything game changing or ground breaking; which is a shame given how other titles in the motorsport ecosphere have started to mix thing up a little bit. As is the way with an official licenced series we are 12 months (well, 14 months if you’re counting) on from then and it’s time for this year’s instalment to take its place on the grid. MotoGP 23 hits the track well with a host of new features and a few overhauled modes – this if nothing else will make this instalment actually feel different from the last few titles.
Of course the core of the game is the same, as you get the official bikes, riders and racing calendar from the MotoGP 2023 season for the Moto 3, Moto 2 and of course the Moto GP classes. Though oddly, this year there are now historical modes like last year’s 09 mode. You’ll start your 23 journey with the career mode – Rising Star, which has been greatly improved this year. It’s still not on the level of F1’s Breaking Point, but it’s getting there… sort of. You start out in Moto 3 and have to battle your way through the classes, trying to secure ever better rides season on season with your ultimate goal… being World Champion. Throughout your career they are a number of different turning points which acts like key cornerstones in where your journey heads next. Which adds a real risk and reward feel to find, if you win a race you could go up a class or become the teams lead rider, if not you may have to talk to another team. These are fun additions that add something extra to the season, but impact is questionable, as ultimately by hook or crook you’ll get to where you’re going. It would be much more interesting if you were not delivering for the team and getting the results, if this would lead to losing your ride with them and even not getting a ride for a season or two. There is also a light social system in the career mode with management elements as well. It’s OK, but it’s a bit basic when you look at other titles handling of things.
Races follow the standard format so a mix of practice and qualifying over the weekend, before getting stuck into the main event on the Sunday. New to the format is sprint races, generally run on the Saturday and helps to add a bit of spice to the season as you can bank extra points towards the championship. Also worth a shout is the track selection, it’s very good… so good in fact, it features tracks that the actual series have never visited… yet. Like Sokol in Kazakhstan (which was cancelled) and India’s Buddh International Circuit (will not take place till late September). Gameplay in MotoGP 23 has taken a step back in ways, as its fair to say 22 made some odd changes and upped the AI difficulty just a bit too much. They have added in new elements like the flag to flag rule, that sees dynamic weather being added to the game for the first time. Seeing you having to pit mid-race and switch bikes to a wet weather outfit adds an interesting new element to the racing action as well as an extra layer of authenticity to it all. This is a feature fans have been crying out for, so it’s great to see Milestone have added it into the mix.
Handling wise it is as challenging as ever, with what only feels like a few small tweaks – like having a bit more control on the front end. Bear in mind this is a sim title, so arcade thrill seekers will have to gear their expectations or will likely be going sideways heading for the kitty litter more often than not. AI is as hungry as ever, though not quite as vicious, but still brutal. MotoGP 23 does feature a new “AI powered support system” Neural Assist – that will help even the greenest of riders get to grips with things, where it will assist you if you’re missing apexes or about to crash with auto breaking and even steering. It’s a great addition for teaching newcomers, but for seasoned riders it’s very odd to feel the game trying to counter your race line or braking point based on what it thinks is right. Though if you ride as it wants, you’ll never know it’s there as it’ll never step in.
Online has also seen a few upgrades with ranked progression through the LiveGP options – where you get a set timed number of races over the space of a week and doing well on these will see you rising through the 13 ranking levels. As you rise you’ll face off against similarly ranked players, meaning there is always a feeling of challenge. Visually, I’ll be honest if you showed me 22 and 23 side by side I would be hard pressed to tell them apart, though as always… bikes look great and the world beyond the track is still a bit lifeless. The riders have had a fair bit of work now, giving little movements when on the bike that added to the overall believability. The HUD has also seen a nice redesign and now is easier to read at a glance. MotoGP 23 is a mixed bag – on one hand it’s fresh and has new elements, but on the other the core gameplay hasn’t really changed. If you’re a newcomer this is the perfect stepping on point within new assists system and options, whereas returning fans may feel like there just isn’t another fundamental change to make it worth splashing the cash.
An Xbox review copy of MotoGP 23 was provided by Milestone’s PR team, and the game is out now on Xbox, PC, Switch and PlayStation for around £50.