After dedicating last year's game to Valentino Rossi and his career in the aptly titled Valentino Rossi: The Game, Milestone is returning to its roots for this year's iteration with MotoGP 17. This means no more Ranch mode, no more Rally mode, no more Flat Track, as this year's iteration is focused entirely on MotoGP, while at the same time offering several new features. During our recent visit to the studio's offices in Milan, lead game designer Andrea Basilio demonstrated the new content and features before we sampled it for ourselves via a brief hands-on (we also got to play it again at a press event here in the UK).
Realism - the feeling of speeding around a championship circuit - is one of the key aims of MotoGP 17, we were told. After listening to feedback from the community, Milestone has introduced a brand-new feature that aims to satisfy even the biggest MotoGP enthusiasts: a garage section before the race starts. Instead of being catapulted directly onto the track after selecting the circuit and the race, then, this allows you to see the rider while he's preparing and discuss things with technicians in an attempt to make the game experience more authentic (not dissimilar to what we saw in last year's F1 2016). While minor, this does break the game up a bit and make it feel more like an experience that just a racing game, lending a touch more humanity to the riders.
This added layer of authenticity extends beyond the pre-race presentation. Many players complained about the flat, almost identical behaviour of the AI-controlled riders, and so devs have made the riders more recognisable, even unique. In fact, as Basilio explained, the devs have tried to recreate their actions while they're riding, and their behaviour on the track, which they hope will make for more enjoyable gameplay.
Adjustments have also been made in the audio and visual departments. For the graphics, Milestone makes use of the same in-house engine as they did with previous games (and not Unreal Engine 4, which is being used for other upcoming games such as MXGP3 and Gravel). The game boasts a solid 60fps, and even in terms of physics MotoGP 17 offers increased fluidity and a new simulation relating to tyre grip. In this specific case, the studio has used technical data to reproduce tyre grip according to different weather conditions, and Milestone also says that they have made further improvements to vehicle controls and physics, again based on user feedback. These physics feel great, especially if you can master them without any assists, where everything from bike wobbling, skidding, and crashing are real dangers (although crashes in the game, we must say, do look a bit funny, as ragdoll physics often do).
This dedication to realism also extends to the audio department, and the devs have recorded real engine sounds directly on circuits, and thanks to the integration of a new granular audio system for the engines, the end result sounds great. Fans complained about outdated audio effects in previous entries, so every effort has been made to update them and make you feel as if you're on a modern bike, racing around a real circuit.
Something that'll no doubt please fans is the work that has gone into the artificial intelligence. During our hands-on session we were able to see the changes introduced here, changes that make for far more aggressive AI that's harder to deal with. We thought that the AI acted with much more credibility, and the behaviour of riders has been completely rewritten in terms of overtaking. There is also a new system in place for management of group behaviours, and substantial tweaks have been made with regards to collisions between riders. Their behaviour now feels much closer to that of their real-life counterparts, and this also comes with new options, so if you feel that the AI setup isn't to your liking, you can tweak these in the menus to make your life a bit easier.
The technical improvements made to MotoGP 17 are just a part of what this year's entry has to offer, though. The true core of this edition is the addition of the Career Team Manager mode, which lands alongside the more classic Career Mode. Here you can race as a rider, but at the same time, you have to manage the team (including five other racers), improving the skills of staff across more than 10 departments (Technicians, PR and Marketing, R&D, Nutritionists, and so on). Just like in any management game, your job is to ensure that everything runs smoothly within the team, strengthening the weaknesses of each team member.