Our first impressions of MotoGP 14 are certainly not positive. Our expectations were not very high, as we weren't very impressed with MotoGP 09/10 and MotoGP 10/11, but since then the license has changed hands, and with both new publisher and developer on board, one might have hoped for something better.
But no, MotoGP 14 does not impress at first sight. We jump straight into an Instant Race, and see that everything is as we expected: the graphics look like something from the last console generation, the sound effects of the engines seem like they were made with an angry synthesiser, the bike understeers massively, and the ideal trajectory, which racing line that tells you how to corner and whether you should brake or accelerate, is often outright wrong. In addition, the overall racing experience is rather bland.
Things get better as we enter the game's career mode. Here, you start out in the Moto3 class, and work your way up to MotoGP over several seasons, hopefully winning the championship at the end. Along the way you get offers from other teams, research upgrades to your bike and tackle in-race goals (beat your teammate, get a particular location as a minimum) and unlock collectibles in the form of videos and pictures.
And as soon as we hit the track, things begin to happen. The smaller Moto3 bikes are somewhat more manageable than the big MotoGP beasts. All impressions of understeer vanish with the slower speed, and after we get hired by a better team and get a few upgrades to the bike, we begin to grab podium spots. Things are going well.
The experience still leaves much to be desired, though. Everything that happens off the track seems superficial. After a few races we got the offer to switch to another team. They drive a different brand of motorcycles and their "Team Performance" stat (the only stat that a team has) is clearly better than that of our current team. Switching is a no-brainer, there's nothing to think about or consider. Later our agent offers to find an even better team, and we pick our favorite on the list. Then you just have to wait. There are no major considerations to make, no strengths and weaknesses to consider. Any team is unequivocally and measurably better or worse than the next.
The system for upgrading your bike is also highly superficial, to an almost foolish degree. There are four parts of your bike that can be upgraded several times: brakes, suspension, chassis, engine. The first and last of those seem self-explanatory, but what the other two are good for, we don't know - the game doesn't give us the slightest indication. There's no mention of how much extra power an engine upgrade provides. No stats. No visible or measurable results of an upgrade.
Coming from games like Forza or Gran Turismo, it is an unforgivable omission. There is not a shred of evidence or explanation - all you know is that you have upgraded your chassis two out of three possible times. Uh, okay.
An upgrade costs one or more of the so-called 'data packs' that you collect by running a lap either in training, qualification or in a race. In other words - if you are a little patient - you can earn up to three data packs on a race weekend. However, that just seems like an excuse to pressure you into doing the qualification and practice segments in order inflate the playtime. And, given the amount of time you're offered to get your qualifying lap - over half an hour of track time, more than the actual race - the practice laps feel a little pointless.
When you're on the track, it's a different story. There are some really great circuits included in the campaign, and as we start getting better results and enter into more and more close duels with our strongest competitors, we begin to enjoy it all the more. But the fun doesn't last. After a few hours, excitement makes way for boredom. MotoGP 14 is simply too monotonous and lacks the variety needed for extended play.
Sure, there's a selection of game types besides Instant Race and Career, including the ability to race in stand-alone championships and Grand Prix, but there is little reason to engage in them - it's just more of the same. Put succinctly, the driving physics are too boring and generic for MotoGP 14 to ever become properly entertaining. It's lacking in feedback, the steering is a bit stiff and it's hard to get an idea of how much you can open the throttle before the massive understeer makes a return (or how slow you can run before it oversteers).
Combined with the tedious and sketchy graphics (the small tufts of grass in replays look like a joke considering that this is a PS4 game) and the boring audio, MotoGP 14 ends up as a game that neither manages to impress or excite after more than a few hours. So even if your PlayStation 4 is screaming for a racing game, there's no compelling argument for giving MotoGP 14 a closer look.