The Xbox Live demo of SBKX is now available to download for Xbox Live, PSN and PC– featuring a choice of Cal Crutchlow on his World Supersport-winning Yamaha R6 from 2009 or Max Biaggi on the 2010 Aprilia RSV 4 – racing around the Portimao circuit in Portugal.
I was a fan of the original SBK game – although it wasn’t perfect the handling model was a reasonable attempt at replicating the experience of riding a motorcycle – something sadly lacking from the MotoGP games of the same era (Probably the closest game so far has been Jester Interactives’ TT Superbikes). It had some flaws, the menu system was a little clunky, and graphically it wasn’t comparable to the more mass-market and more heavily supported car games, but it was pretty enjoyable whether you were racing on or off-line.
So I was pretty excited to see what Milestone had achieved with their new update (published by Black Bean).
The demo download is under 500MB, and it’s apparent from the intro video that this is very much an update with new bikes, riders and improved graphics. The same visual styling and clues are readily apparent, although the menus seem slightly easier to navigate.
Jumping straight into a quick race , things were a little disconcerting. For one thing, the demo doesn’t allow you to check or change your controls – with the first game I spent a good couple of minutes finding out how to unlink the front and rear brakes and tweak the difficulty settings to get it just right.
The demo forces you to work things out for yourself, and after a quick blast I can say that it still defaults to the infuriating braking system. Steering is still fairly good, although it seems that wheelies are oddly difficult for a powerful race bike, and the linked brakes mean embarrassment when your attempt at a stoppie sees you slowly roll off the track with two wheels on the floor.
Annoyingly they’ve also kept the unpredictable and punishing way in which the rear tyre doesn’t slide under braking, but only under acceleration, and it seems to have been modelled on a 500cc two-stroke given that it goes from slide to crash in a split-second. While this may be realistic for mere mortals, it’s disappointing not to be able to replicate the likes of Noriyuki Haga, who have been sliding superbikes for the last decade or so.
And suddenly there’s a ‘Boost’ button.
At certain points (Seemingly full acceleration), you get the prompt to press the A button taking over your screen. Rather than being a boost in the engine management or nitrous style, it prompts your rider to tuck in to reduce drag.
So, erm, the same as if you tuck your rider in using the normal rider control in simulation mode then. And less of a ‘Boost’ button, and more of a ‘Duck’ button.
The simulation mode always improved things, and this is no exception. Suddenly you’re able to use a front brake, which means plenty of stoppies, although it appears that the steel front discs have all the stopping power of a lump of mouldy cheddar.
Personally I’d skip arcade mode and just tweak the sim mode to your individual taste and skill level – with everything set to full it can provide a pretty tense challenge. Especially with the possibility of wrecking your bike – and your rider.
There were enough people with the demo to try a bit of online racing – the default seemed to be arcade mode, which could be a major problem for longterm online appeal, and allowing better racers to stand out from the crowd. But the system works reasonably well enough, and once the race has started, the frame rate and graphics held up well.
Judging by the first game, the drop-off in SBK players was pretty fast, but that’s a good reason to kick start some regular ORD superbike races.
Sadly replays won’t be available. And there’s no two-player split-screen either.
Will it be worth getting the game?
If you’re a pure World Superbikes fan, then it’s definitely worth picking up. If you’re only going to be choosing from either MotoGP or WSB, then it’s a tougher call – the MotoGP series has had a chequered past, with two developers and publishers (THQ and Capcom), and previous versions of the Xbox series resulted in bikes that handled like a sack of potatoes or a ship from Wip3out – either way, it definitely wasn’t like a motorcycle. But the recent demo version suggests they may have found their way again. We’ll have to wait for both games to ship to make the final decision.
May 21 (Italy only): Standard Edition released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. You’ll need to buy the Legends Pack as DLC from Xbox Marketplace/PlayStation store at a later date.
May 28 (Italy only): Special Edition for Xbox 360 and PS3 in ‘Steel Box’ packaging, the standard edition, a key to download DLC, a poster, and a special DVD featuring 2009 World Superbike champion Ben Spies.
June 4: Both versions come to Europe, South Africa, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and Australia.
And if you’re wondering about who is included in the Legends list, there’s the slightly bizarre selection of legends including good riders who never really succeeded (Fujiwara, Bostrom, Kagayama, Lanzi, Sykes), and the omission of earlier more successful riders – Fred Merkel, Doug Polen, Giancarlo Falappa, Scott Russell for example. Oh and why have Slight on the SP1 not the RC45 for example? And where’s Gobert if you’re including the Kawasaki?:
- Pierfrancesco Chili, Suzuki GSX750R 2000
- Katsuaki Fujiwara, Suzuki GSX750R 2000
- Max Biaggi, Suzuki GSX1000R K7 2007
- Yukio Kagayama, Suzuki GSX1000R K7 2007
- Aaron Slight, Honda VTR1000 SP1 2000
- Colin Edwards, Honda VTR1000 SP1 2000
- Ben Bostrom, Ducati 996 2001
- James Toseland, Ducati 996 2001
- Neil Hodgson, Ducati 996 2001
- Carl Fogarty, Ducati 996 1999
- Troy Corser, Ducati 996 1999
- Troy Bayliss, Ducati 999 2006
- Lorenzo Lanzi, Ducati 999 2006
- Ben Spies, Yamaha R1 2009
- Tom Sykes, Yamaha R1 2009
- Akira Yanagawa, Kawasaki ZX7RR 2000
- Gregorio Lavilla, Kawasaki ZX7RR 2000