on May 4, 2014
After playing this for a while, I've come to the conclusion that I agree with other reviewers who said to stick with prior iterations (e.g., SBK aka SBK09)
I was initially a bit irked to find that the manual (all except the "music performed by" page) is entirely in French and I just wanted to let everyone know this, since it's not plainly stated anywhere that I've found.
With regard to modes: there's Arcade, Multiplayer and, the one I'll focus on now, Simulation:
Gone are some of the simulation (Realism) sliders that have basically now been replaced with simulation types: "Low", "Medium" and "Full". You can also select whether to use a manual or automatic transmission and, lastly, you get to decide if rider weight should play into the game or not.
I'm very disappointed that some of the simulation options (previously known as Realism Settings in SBK09) are gone. They've been moved to different places in the game or, as follows, have been removed entirely: Powered Brake% (up to 250%; I'll get to Braking later), Joint Brake (in other words, using 1 button for both brakes versus being forced to manage the front/rear brakes separately) and Collision Severity (Low, Normal and High.) (I will update this review should I find more that are missing, moved, or that I am just plain wrong.)
Simulation mode is a mixed bag. Bike damage is cool - pieces of fiberglass fairings break off, exposing parts of the bike (I'm looking forward to crashing just to see how far it'll go :-)) Riders get road-rash, too. Plus, you get to create your own rider (up to 3), selecting from 20 faces, 10 windscreen colors, cool helmets of which 10 are unlocked at the start and you unlock more as you ride more - earning stuff is cool and it expands on the previous game.
The not so good about the Simulation mode: front/rear brakes strength and application, 1st gear (What? I'll explain) and
First off, the rear brake is nearly useless. No matter what strength you set it to, the rear brake NEVER locks up. The opposite is true for the front brake as it's not difficult to do a "stoppie" or "endo" (for the older audience ;-)) Even on grass, the rear tire never, ever, locks. The hints shown during loading even say to tap the rear brake to, essentially, sharpen your turn should you begin to veer off course. It slightly works to right your way but makes no sense when comparing it to the rear brakes. Ever hit the front brakes on a bike while going around a corner? Well, let's just say that road-rash is the least of your worries. The rear brakes, as any BMX rider can tell you, are everything when it comes to quick cornering and the same goes for motorcycle racing. Locking up the rear brakes won't throw you off the bike, at worst it would slide the rear-end of the bike out from under you. The front tire locking up is like a front-wheel drive with the front tires locked: you start by praying because you can't steer if the wheel(s) that steer aren't - well - steering!
I'll try to get to my point more quickly with the 1st gear issue. 1st gear doesn't kick in (i.e., you start moving) until ~13,000 RPM. At 5,000 RPM you are going somewhere around 50 MPH, depending on your gearing. It's like the clutch is automatically controlled by someone else who isn't going to tell you when they engage the drive shaft. Plus, the sounds are just off - 50 MPH at 5,000 RPMs? The most "stock-like" motorcycle in 1st gear doesn't always sound like it should, and that's important because you need to know when you shift up/down (unless you are using automatic gears.) Also, you can put it into Neutral while you're moving - realistic but unnecessary for racing, of which this is a racing game.
Arcade mode is truly arcade, although the controls are a bit touchy. There's a "boost" button (X) - popping wheelies out of corners and sliding through every corner is encouraged (and kind of fun!) There's no falling although it's possible to go off course - but it's fairly easy to get back into the race and up to speed. I kinda like the silliness in flinging the bike around the track without much care for rider health, bike health or tires.
In Arcade mode, you earn reputation by achieving goals, such as "finish 14th or better for 30 points, 15th for 20 points and get 10 points for 16th place." You earn points to unlock the next track and, eventually, class. It's a small way to add more to the game but I think it's a (little) breath of fresh air for the game.
There are 4 classes of bikes: SuperStock, SuperSport, Legends and the usual big-boy SuperBikes. I like the different classes but I don't feel the need to try each class of bike. I am looking forward to trying the Legends to see what that has in store for me.
Load/Save times have been graciously shortened and gone are the annoying sounds every time the game loads or saves. I won't miss you!
I'm sorry, but I don't bother with the soundtrack so I can't comment on it.
In conclusion, I very much wanted to love this game but, it is with a very heavy heart that I must say that, this version of SBK is just "ok." I was looking for more: a better simulation as well as an upgrade to SBK09, of which some I got, but any extras came at the cost of losing the small tweaks and feeling of control that made the previous installment more customizable and, in the end, inviting.