Superbike World Championship
Although it could hardly be described as 'what the world is waiting for', it's fair to say that a few people have been wondering what had become of Superbike World Championship. Originally touted as a great white hope for the floundering Virgin Interactive, the recent fragmentation of the publisher left the game with an uncertain future. Not to worry, the behemoth that is Electronic Arts took up the reins in the aftermath of the multi-billion dollar acquisition of Westwood Studios and other development resources. It certainly wasn't a deal clincher, but Superbike World Championship slots quite comfortably into the EA Sports portfolio, offering an officially endorsed product that accurately recreates a real sport, with real riders, real teams and, of course, the obligatory real licence.
Do you care? Probably not. Although you may laconically raise an eyebrow on learning that the game has been developed by Milan-based Milestone, purveyors of a trio of highly rated Screamer games. Having proven their worth on four wheels, the big question is whether they can replicate their success on two. Four wheels good, two wheels bad, if you like. Obviously, the first difficulty to overcome is that car games are clearly better than bike games.
As scientific proof of this fact, how many classic car games can you name? Loads. And how many classic bike games? None, although 3D Death Chase on the Spectrum comes close. Oh yeah, and Motocross Madness, but that's different. The fact still remains that, in general, car games poke a sharp stick in the eyes of their twowheeled counterparts. Why? Because you can't fall off a car.
It's as simple as that, it really is. In a car you can skid, powerslide, wheelspin, perform handbrake turns, and generally clown about to your heart's content. Try any of the above on a superbike and you're violently flipped into the air and tossed around like a rag doll, skimming off the tarmac like a latter-day Barry Sheene. All of which may be very realistic, but offers little in the way of enjoyment.
Such are the problems faced by anyone attempting to come up with a decent superbike game. However, Milestone have set their stall out, and this is a creditable attempt to redress the balance. To counter the problem of falling off every ten seconds, getting really annoyed, and turning off the PC and doing something more interesting instead, a number of idiot-proof options have been included. Varying degrees of help are offered in terms of regulating acceleration and braking, the computer taking over while you're negotiating bends, leaving you with little more than the fairly rudimentary task of turning either left or right. With maximum help switched on, it's a fairly detached experience, with the game requiring scarcely any manual dexterity. For all the control you have you might as well be a chimpanzee.
However, at the other end of the scale, in full simulation mode it's a farce, the bike bucking uncontrollably and sliding off the track at every available opportunity. Make no mistake, despite its arcadey possibilities, Supertike World Championship is 'proper', offering a bewildering array of adjustments to sprockets, gear ratios, suspension and tyres - even providing gauges of their temperature and wear. Clearly, to dive in at this level of involvement would be an act of sheer folly. Obviously the idea is to start tentatively, learn the nuances of every track, and then eventually take the stabilisers off. It's a long-term investment, and one that may be beyond the patience of all but the most dedicated of gamers. The rewards are tangible though, and the authenticity is second to none.
Holidays In The Sun
The full championship mode consists of 12 race weekends, taking in such exotic locations as Monza in Italy, Phillip Island in Australia, and the USA's Laguna Seca. Britain is also represented in the shape of the classic Brands Hatch circuit, and, for those about to rock, Donington. Each event incorporates practice and qualifying sessions, and culminates in a pair of races, with points doled out in the traditional fashion.
Inevitably, what this means is that you spend half an hour securing pole position, and then proceed to leather it into the turf at the first bend. The only solution is to try harder. Without the margin for error offered by a car game, you simply have to get it right. Getting on the racing line is imperative, and it can be an exhilarating thing to swoop into the apex of a bend, grazing the outside of the track before accelerating past a hapless opponent.
All well and good. However, in common with several racing games, the AI of the other riders is somewhat restricted. They largely stick to the racing line, and rarely crash by themselves, preferring to slew violently into your path, seemingly oblivious to your presence. This can be annoying, and you can make it even more so by opting for the full crash mode, whereby you have to walk back to your stricken bike, haul it from the turf, point it in the direction of the rack, and hop back on. Which, depending on your disposition, is either a very nice touch or a tooth-grinding irritation. Ultimately though, it has k to be said that Superbike World Championship is a triumph. The engine is sound, the authenticity is commendable, and, naturally, the graphics are up to scratch. The flexibility makes it accessible to pretty much anyone with basic motor neurone functions, and the depth of the game also suggests a degree of longevity. At the end of the day, it's the best superbike game available. But let's not have any more.
Download Superbike World Championship
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Superbike World Championship Screenshots and Media
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