The end of an era.
If car racing is the sport of men then bike racing is undoubtedly the sport of gods. Think about it… there’s no chassis protection for riders, who lean into corners often with their knees hovering inches from the ground, and their machines regularly clock near to 200mph.
It’s no wonder that MotoGP has been increasing in popularity over the years, but SBK Generations unsurprisingly ignores that ‘other’ racing championship, instead chronicling the past four seasons of the Superbike World Championship with legendary riders like Carl Fogarty thrown in for good measure. In total the license equates to 17 tracks, 60 bikes and a mind-blowing 220 riders. In raw content terms, SBK Generations puts most other sport titles to shame, but all that loving attention-to-detail would be for nothing if the on-track action wasn’t any good.
Milestone have been producing games utilising the SBK license for several years now, and it’s no doubt been a fairly rough ride for them as, frankly, some efforts haven’t been up to standard. At times the handling felt wrong, the visuals bland and the presentation lagged far behind that of other licensed racers, like Codemasters’ F1 2011.
Generations is a considerable step-up from the previous year’s attempts though, with three different handling models once again featuring, ranging from casual to hardcore, and wide-ranging AI settings so that even newbies to this motorsport will be able to find a level they’re comfortable with, and the same goes for seasoned veterans. There are many more options than there were previously, with all HUD elements now able to be switched off entirely, and there’s plenty of racing aids available to enable a more approachable experience.
The camera modes too are numerous and affective, ranging from a handy over-the-shoulder view to two different helmet cams which are so immersive that it’s almost impossible not to move your body in time with your rider as he leans into corners. When you select the ‘Full Realism’ option, the handling model feels exactly as it should with the bike nervously twitching when over-breaking or squirming when the accelerator is pressed too quickly, and any venture off-track usually ends in your rider being thrown from his vehicle. We can’t comment on how realistic the handling model is, but we will say that it requires plenty of skill.
Unfortunately the AI isn’t quite so convincing with a similar ‘follow the leader’ style of racing that was shown in previous games. Computer riders just feel like they’re on rails, with mistakes rarely scuppering their chances. This is a real shame, as it leads races to feel stale and causes the player to take more risks as they know the guy in-front isn’t going to put a wheel wrong. This leads to you bumping wheels, muscling into apexes which again breaks the immersion, as your bike can often absorb quite a lot of contact before causing a wobble.
While the AI may let this game down, there’s still plenty of content to sift through. There’s the career mode which involves players creating a rider and guiding them through different classes and seasons from 2009 to the modern day, as well as lots of ‘SBK Experience’ events. This involves one-on-one races, time trials, different weather events and other activities which make a good tutorial to the FIM Superbike discipline.
Despite the appeal of the highly authentic career mode, we actually had the most amount of fun in this mode, as the short and varied nature of the challenges made the most of what makes SBK Generation enjoyable, like the engaging handling model and competing against legendary riders. On the periphery there are also some nifty features like a new highlight-specific replay mode which shows you all the action worth watching from a race, on-track marshals and podium ceremonies which help to sell the game’s authenticity that bit more.
Regardless of its few flaws, SBK Generations is still a love letter to the Superbike Championship and undoubtedly the best iteration in the series. It’s a shame Milestone won’t be working with the license any more, but they can move onto pastures new with their heads held high.
The best iteration of SBK to date, but still flawed in key areas.
Tags: SBK Generations
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