Motorcycle lovers each year look forward to the duel between the MotoGP series of Climax and the Superbike (SBK) games from Milestone. As MotoGP 08 is still heavily being worked on, SBK 08 managed to take pole position this year but whether that will be enough to in the end drive under the chequered flag with the hands up is certainly question.
Although I’ve got the questionable gift to be able to watch the even most boring sports with unusually high interest, that’s not the case for Superbike Racing. Hi-speed racing on two wheels is cool, but it has to be in sand or mud. The almost clinical wobbling over an asphalted circuit can hardly keep me interested and also the games I’ve let me pass by for years. The last time I sat on a digital Ducati even dates back from the age of Sega’s Super Hang-On. You know, the red racing monster that had its place in each arcade hall.
It’s clear I’m not the best placed person to give a decent judgment on a game like this but we can always try – The Terminator after all has become governor as well – and I was kinda interested to see how these niche games would keep up anno 2008 compared to fourwheel driven top titles like Forza 2, GT5 or GRID.
What immediately gets noticed is the average looks of the game. The bikes, drivers and animations are quite alrihght but the rest all feels quite dated. And that’s quite a scare when you’ve just been playing GT5: Prologue. Where the asphalt in that game is so smooth that you get weak and hungry – I immediately want some chocolat mousse when playing that shit – it all looks a lot less in SBK 08. Of course the comparison with Polyphonic’s racing sim isn’t an honest one, but can it next time be a little more please?
And then I haven’t spoken about the boring environments. The few trees, buildings and podiums that stand next to the circuit come flickering onto you like if it were Christmas. Also the paddock can hardly be called impressive and the babes present are as sexy as editor b|0-0|n, jumping on a trampoline in a latex string. Unfortunately also the audio in SBK 08 doesn’t manage to create a hyped up atmosphere. True purists probably only want to hear engine sounds coming from the speakers, but personally I like a bit of music while racing.
Luckily the makers did pay some more attention to the racing itself. After a while muddling around in the grindbox you can keep control of all the horsepower and will notice that going fast is quite good in SBK 08. The feeling of speed and the AI are good, the bikes react as they should and the twelve official tracks bring just enough variation. I do miss a real career mode next to the usual stuff (including championship, quick race, time attack, challenge mode and online multiplayer).
Also the tuning part is well done, although the Superbikes (the real factory models by the way) can not be changed visually. To get the desired driving behaviour from your machine you can tweak a ton of adjustments, going from the stiffness of the compression springs to the length of each independent gear. For the novice it’s advised to have a chat with the engineer of your team. He’ll teach you which adjustments are the best in certain circumstances. The advises depend also from team to team and if you’re truly hardcore you can always turn off the many aids like traction control, ABS, joint brake and others. Racing in this simulation setting is, however, extremely difficult and will push even the biggest freaks to their limits.
SBK ’08 is the official game of the Superbike World Championship and therefore all known names, teams and circuits are present. The racing and customising are well done although the realism gets a major blow due to the oldfashioned graphics. Superbike fans that can live with the thin dressing will certainly have fun with this racing sim.