Bikes are dangerous. And that's a fact. The people who ride them - with complete disregard for their own mortality -don't help, but it's the actual bikes that are lethal. Why anyone would want to ride something that can't stand up unaided is open to debate, but to do so at 140mph with nothing but a leather suit protecting your manhood seems like recklessness in the extreme.
Nonetheless, the riders and teams of the FIM-sponsored GP500 Championship recently returned for another season of international track-based racing, having licensed their antics to Hasbro Interactive. The game has been scripted by veteran codeshop Melbourne House, and our kangaroo-loving cousins are clearly obsessive abo type of two-wheeled shenanigans on offer here - the anal retentiveness of the adjustable bike features should leave you in no doubt that we're in trainspotting territory.
Losing Your Grip
Despite this, it all seems straightforward enough - and you'll no doubt forego reading the manual as a result. Leaving 'simulation mode' switched on, you're on the grid and pulling away in seconds. Quite why you 'wheelie' when you accelerate, the manual no doubt explains - if you opened the cellophane wrapper, that is.
To the first bend and, showing true sportsmanship, your opponents have kindly moved out of your way, allowing you to... crash unceremoniously (they took the racing line while you forfeited your genitals). Repeated failed attempts to negotiate that first bend throw up two possible solutions, the most obvious being to study the manual. If you choose to ignore this sensible advice, you'll be reduced to the equivalent of slapping on L-plates and cruising the courses at 30mph. If it sounds daunting, it is, because what we've got here is the biking equivalent of TOCA. So, providing you salivate uncontrollably at the mere mention of gear ratios, brake manipulation, suspension adjustments, engine configurations and sprockets, then congratulations, your ride has arrived - prepare to race like Bambi on ice. However, given that EA have already satiated sim freaks with Superbike World Championship, Hasbro have thoughtfully catered for newbies by including a more accessible, if less rewarding, arcade mode that reduces the game to Redline Racer proportions.
Once into the game proper, you'll find a 'by numbers' reprisal of the standard racing formula -time trial, practice, one-off race or the full championship season. Providing you have the necessary hardware, you'll find that the 3D engine offers a superb draw distance and arcade-quality graphics (low-end users can reduce the visual splendour to suit their needs). Your proximity to the ground - especially when using the 'head cam' view - gives an adrenalin-inducing sensation of speed that will have you swaying in your seat in scenes reminiscent of 3D Deathchase on the Spectrum.
The design of the 14 courses is downright evil and makes Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction look like a two-piece jigsaw. The treachery of the track design is compounded by the lacklustre movies which preview them -compared to the superbly implemented replay system (see Time After Time panel, right) they're no help at all. As if to compensate, your computer opponents can be 'dumbed down', but you'll find that playing God causes its own problems. Over-crank the AI and you'll face lap after lonely lap of playing catch up, but retard your fellow competitors too much and they'll disregard the racing line and drive like crash test dummies -achieving the right balance is vital to avoid frustration.
Don't Lose Your Head
Speaking of crashes, they're rather spectacular - if not permanently damaging to rider or bike. Now, we're not demanding blood-soaked Tarmac or Saving Private ftyan-style dismemberment, but some degree of visible injury and fender bending would have added to the visual splendour and the strategy.
The pits are a letdown, too, devoid as they are of animation -a cut-scene of harried mechanics repairing and replacing various items would have added some spice to the atmosphere, which otherwise relies on some excellent engine noises and an excitable crowd.
If it sounds like we're moaning, it's only because such niceties would have been wonderful additions to an already sound package. It's certainly on a technical par with Superbike World Championship, and surpasses it in many gameplay areas, offering a sterner challenge and greater rewards.
You won't warm to GP500 instantly, but perseverance brings with it a growing appreciation of its finer points. And, because winning the championship will elude you for months, once you are hooked you'll certainly keep coming back for more. Now then, where's that bloody manual?
Time After Time
Do that to me Baby one more time...
GP500 isn't the first racing game to include a replay mode -but what's on offer here is more than simple eye candy (gorgeous though it is). The replay options are as comprehensive as they are useful, allowing you to view the action from a variety of static cameras situated around the courses, or monitor your performance from behind your bike or from a 'helmet cam' perspective. Given the unforgiving nature of the racing, you'll find the ability to hijack other bikes - to watch how they tackled certain aspects of the race - can lend a tactical edge, too.
Download GP 500
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
- Moto Racer
- Moto Racer 2
- Motocross Championship
- Road Rash
- Road Rash 2
- Road Rash 3
- Superbike 2000
- Superbike World Championship
2019-01-25 GP 500 game added.