Previews// SBKX: Superbike World Championship

Posted 15 Apr 2010 18:07 by
Motorcycle racing has always been seen as something of a subgenre when compared to the Forza Motorsports and Gran Turismos of the world. As a studio that's familiar with replicating the thrills of the Superbike World Championship, Milan-based Milestone is aware of this more than anyone. So much so, that the latest in its flagship SBK simulation series aims to capture some of the broader racing audience alongside the hardcore Superbike fans.

In fact, SBKX's game director Michele Celetti is so proud of the changes to the setup that he's adopted Roman numerals for the game's title. And get this – the game even has its own mathematical formula: “f(X) = You”, apparently. I mean, that's it right there – Milestone means business, and it's not taking any prisoners (maybe). Clearly passionate about doing the international motorsport justice, Celetti is eager to detail the sheer amount of work put into this year's game.

SBK Legend Carl Fogarty (Top Middle) and Game Director Michele Celetti (Bottom Left)
SBK Legend Carl Fogarty (Top Middle) and Game Director Michele Celetti (Bottom Left)
Having gained experience in expressing the realism of the sport in recent years with SBK07, SBK08 and SBK09, Celetti told me that all three of these past games were simply stepping stones to the ultimate goal that is SBKX. Work on this title, as a result, started about four years ago, with an intention to develop a product that does for motorcycle racing what Gran Turismo did for car simulation.

“We understood from the beginning that we had to broaden our audience, because focusing squarely on hardcore motorsport simulation lovers would have limited our vision, ultimately,” Celetti said. “The main goal with SBKX was to offer game modes and play styles that would feel great for every kind of racing lover. But, we felt that we couldn't compromise the high-spec simulation engine that we had cultivated over the years. The answer was to create two physics engines and separate the two play styles.”

Celetti added that the implementation of the Arcade mode was a significant challenge, but once the game's engine was split in two, it allowed the development team to play around with variables without the fear of destroying the simulation side of the project.

For the user though, it's a pretty straightforward process - SBKX starts with three simple options; Arcade, Simulation and Online. Selecting one will take you into a more involved options menu that specifically ties to that style of play. Now, the idea with this is that utter newbies – like myself – can tackle the unique challenges and game modes within Arcade, and then slowly dive into the Simulation side of things when they feel brave enough.

To begin with though, I figured I'd best try the Arcade mode. There are no complex options here, it's simply a case of picking a particular game – from Story Mode, Quick Race, Quick Championship and Time Attack – selecting a bike and hitting the track. Compared to Simulation mode, the weight of your bike feels very light and you don't have to worry about falling off your vehicle either. You can crash if you smack your face against the side barrier though – don't do that.

Whilst not to cartoon-esque proportions, reality is a little bit exaggerated in Arcade mode. You can drift around corners and you have a boost button that lets you pass your rivals ahead. Don't think it's easy though – it seemed to me like my CPU opponents ahead of me were constantly matching my speed, even when I was boosting. So you really have to learn the courses and know when to zip ahead of others.

The big draw in this half of the game is in the Story Mode, which adds a fair bit of challenge and replayability to the casual proceedings. Essentially, it's a list of specific challenges that you must perform one by one in order to progress to the next league up – you begin in Superstock, and make your way up to Supersport and then Superbike. Each challenge has bronze, silver and gold objectives, so you don't have to worry about sucking too hard on the first go.
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