I don’t think I’ve seen a motorsport as unpredictable as MotoGP in the last couple of years. Even without the pandemic, Marc Márquez’s self-inflicted arm injury has led to a genuine power vacuum at the top of motorcycle racing. Combine this with Valentino Rossi’s retirement and you have a grid full of opportunists that could all potentially pick up race wins. It should be exciting but the clockwork nature of Milestone’s MotoGP 22 means that the madness doesn’t quite carry over.
As an annualised sports game, there’s not much room to get crazy with it and incremental changes are the order of business. With MotoGP 22, the changes are small but welcome. It’s still a decently handling game. On the bike, you have to be really considerate with your braking and the lines you take. Kerbs are now useable to get better exits from corners. Pushing your luck still gets a wobble going but it’s less severe than last year.
I still consider it a tricky thing to master but the bikes all handle pretty well. Between classes, the power difference is stark and it does make the premier bikes feel like untamed monsters. There’s still a couple of anomalies, mind. I find a couple of the heavy braking zones can result in a brake lever that doesn’t really react how it should. I’ve hit the brakes with a settled bike and seen very little reaction but it doesn’t always seem wholly consistent.
Riding aids certainly help out. You can have the game handle braking entirely or assist with the front brakes. Braking modulation can be assisted to smooth things out and it’s largely an accessible experience. These options are fairly well explained so novice players have some idea of what these options can do for them. New for this year is the ride height device which allows riders to compress the suspension when accelerating. This can be activated using triangle and works in much the same way DRS works in Formula 1. It deactivates when you hit the brakes but you can prime it, ready for the next big corner exit. It adds another thing to think about when riding and can be deployed tactically to gain advantage out of corners.
Riding in the wet seems precarious but there’s a lack of any changeable conditions. I’d have loved to see them implement flag-to-flag races, as rare as these tend to be. The difference in grip is noticeable and there’s good reflection work on wet surfaces. It should be noted that the triggers and rumble on the DualSense give good feedback. You can really feel the point where grip disappears and spinning the rear up really jerks those motors into action.
New content is usually hard to come by but MotoGP 22‘s new mode is based around the 2009 season. This was Valentino Rossi’s ninth and last world championship title and this mode retells almost every moment of that season. These are effectively challenges based around all 17 of that season’s races. It focuses primarily around the title hunt but some other standout performances are recognised.
It’s a very full-featured mode that is smartly presented with interviews, real footage and it’s directed by Mark Neale. He’s a prolific documentary maker who’s spent the last 20 years making some quality films devoted to bikes and speed. You can see that work shine through as each episode is given the right sense of anticipation and the right narratives are developed. I am a little disappointed how some race events are told out of order but it’s a great way to showcase historical content.
The rest of the modes are largely standard with the usual time trials and grand prix modes available. Career mode continues in the same fashion with a couple of conveniences. As a new rider, you can choose to join an existing team from the Moto3, Moto2 or MotoGP grid and meet performance objectives for better contracts. There’s a simple tech tree when it comes to developing your bike but you can now automatically assign staff, rather than manually assess who would be best to carry out the work. Developmental tests can be ran over race weekends to gain extra resources and test new upgrades, too.
You have other management aspects from hiring new assistants to look for contracts and bringing new faces to the head of your engineering team. Compared to other racing games, it’s stripped back and simplified but it does at least make you feel involved. Annoyingly, there is no goals in relation to your teammates and you don’t have to replace someone at an existing team. They simply bring you in on a third bike. You can pick your starting point, for anyone wanting to skip straight to the big bikes.
You can see where a mode like career mode can improve and it’s a pity Milestone haven’t taken it up a notch. At least the presentation seems spot on. Bike liveries and leathers are accurate, although rider likenesses only extend to the MotoGP grid. That’s a shame if you’re a fan of the support categories.
The tracks are really well done. Circuit racing can look dull at the best of times but the whole 2022 and 2009 calendar is there, making for 26 tracks in total. It’s great to revisit Laguna Seca and Estoril and the Nine mode does keep period appropriate TV graphics. It can feel repetitive as the commentary lines repeat, but it does bring me back to watching broadcasts on a Sunday morning.
The sound of the bikes could be a little better. They mostly sound fine but there’s a lack of audible difference between manufacturers. It can make some of the bikes, like the KTM machines lose their personality and come off sounding generic. Music is sparingly used but the main theme that swells over the menus is good at drumming up excitement.
I do find yearly sports titles can be very hard to judge. On their timescales, they don’t really have much room for manoeuvre. On the other hand, they’re catering to a specific crowd that has a specific fandom. MotoGP 22 is a decent racer saddled with the inevitable baby steps that follow a regular release schedule. Small tweaks and conveniences do make it better than last year and the Nine mode smartly presents some nostalgic content. It doesn’t feel essential but still feels like a step forward.
+ The DualSense gives you plenty of relevant feedback.
+ The Nine campaign is a great nostalgia trip and well presented.
+ Accessible for newcomers.
- No likenesses for the feeder categories.
- Braking can feel a little off in a couple of the heavy braking zones.
- The career mode can feel a little basic in options.