When we started MotoGP 19 up for the first time we were thinking we'd quickly become the next Valentino Rossi with little to no effort. The legendary Italian is getting older, after all. Shortly after that, however, we noticed that it would be a lot harder than we anticipated when, in the first race, we ended ten seconds behind the next to last racer. MotoGP 19 really does punish its players for everything and the saying "easy to learn, hard to master" can most definitely be used as an introductory quote in this game.
MotoGP is, much like in the actual motorsport, completely based on skill, timing, and speed. To take on even the slightest of turns you need to get to and line up to the curve just right. As previously mentioned, you will be punished for nine out of ten moves you make, because nothing other than perfect will do. If you're a racing game veteran you'll likely be shocked as well, because everything is different on a bike. If you push on your breaks or lean a tenth of a second too late before a turn you'll land face first in the grass or gravel.
Go too fast and you'll end up outside of the track; put the pedal to the metal when braking and you'll fly off your bike; lean an inch too far to one side or go too slow and you'll flip your bike - the hardships of the MotoGP 19 racer go on and on unless he or she performs to perfection. A precise run isn't an easy feat either. You'll have to practice hard and keep repeating the required steps to learn when to hit the breaks, turn and hit the gas. There is an upside to this though, as you'll feel mighty satisfied when you cross the finish line in good time and with your body free from bruises. If you want to make the game easier, you can. You can lower the base difficulty or enable the various help mechanics like automatic breaking if you need to. We'd recommend you try the base difficulty to learn the basics before doing this, though.
A good way to practice this is competing in the game's career mode. In it you can choose to start in the Rookies Cup where every racer handles the same type of bike, putting all the focus on skill. If you get through it, you might get an offer from a Moto3 team ahead of the following season. You can also choose to start in Moto 3, Moto2 or MotoGP if you don't want to work your way up. As you work through the different classes you'll unlock more content, like upgrade points for your bike. You get these points by clearing various challenges and you can then use these to upgrade your vehicle.
You have to keep track of your character as you can actually get kicked from the team if you're not doing enough to stay on top. The career mode is really well put together and a lot of hours can be spent within. Sadly, however, the character creation isn't very deep. A lot of countries aren't available as nationalities and there are very few faces to choose from (only two if you want to play as a female character). You can, however, design your own helmet, so at least you can add some personality to your avatar that way.
The other single-player mode is called Historic Challenges. Here, you'll find 60 different challenges based on real races in four different categories: 500CC Heroes (1993-2001), The Dawn of the MotoGP (2002-2006), Great Rivalries (2001-2013) and The Modern Era (2006-2013). Here, you'll control a simulated motorcyclist and try to match their lap times or get them across the finish line before a rival in a race. If you succeed in doing whatever the challenge at hand wants you to do, you'll unlock that racer to use in other game modes and in online play.
These challenges are hard though, and if you get to the last turn too late you'll have wasted 2.5 minutes of your life and are prompted to start again. One thing that had us confused was the fact that there are no challenges simulating any events later than 2013. On the other hand, those of you who just want to play as Valentino Rossi are in luck. There are ten versions of the Italian in this game mode and one is unlocked from the start. Play as a young Rossi, an old Rossi, and everything in-between. If you prefer multiplayer modes, there's the classic online mode but also the MotoGP eSport Championship.
In terms of the graphics, we were somewhat confused. The game looks great for the most part but from time to time, something odd would catch our eye. Why is that tire so strange-looking? Why does the bike seem to be hovering? The overall feel and the usual sharp physics of the game are ruined a bit by some visual aspects that just don't look right. The audio is great and the bikes sound like they should, but we couldn't help but wonder why Milestone chose such a horrible soundtrack for the game. The menu music, for example, is a generic techno-pop track and didn't exactly get us pumped for what was to come. Luckily, you won't notice this too much if you're planning on spending more time on the track than in the menus.
MotoGP is a truly reliable simulation series, but this instalment just doesn't take enough steps forward to reach the next level and to keep it fresh. The career mode isn't anything that'll revolutionise the market, but it's still a mode we could spend countless hours in. The game is incredibly challenging and you won't get anything without putting a great amount of effort in, but when you reach a good level of skill by practising, Valentino Rossi himself couldn't even ruin the fun you'll have.