The latest title from Milestone brings the same form factor of their more recently releases to a new sport. Off the back of the successful WRC 2 – the Official Game, SBK Generations arrives with the same grand appreciation of its source material: it may not have the budget of Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, but this is racing simulation at its finest. And they’re not afraid to shout about it either.
The unique selling point of SBK Generations is that it represents the official videogame of the FIM Superbike World Championship, and therefore it contains all of the licensed vehicles, riders and tracks from said institution. However, that’s not just from this season: SBK Generations features every SBK Champion, pushing the total number of riders beyond two hundred (and that’s before you create your own). The videogame also features over one hundred teams and sixty motorcycles, presenting an impressively comprehensive package for what is often thought to a somewhat diminutive sport. Additionally, the core gameplay arrangement revolves around playing through four seasons of the FIM Superbike World Championship as opposed to just the current season, resulting in a more enduring videogame experience as you rewrite history with your own wins and losses.
The standard Free Play mode provides your typical exhibition races, customisable to the Nth degree, while the SBK Experience option is a series of challenges dramatically increasing in difficulty with each new step. Competitive multiplayer gameplay is also available via Xbox LIVE (or PlayStation Network on PlayStation 3, of course) offering both one-off races and online championships. The network code is clearly shrewdly implemented as during testing for this review Electronic Theatre did not experience any inconvenient connection issues or lag whatsoever, despite the quick natured pace of the videogame.
The Career feature is the core gameplay mode, founded upon the idea of Reputation Points. As would be expected, Reputation Points are earned by earning podium finishes in races as you venture through your four seasons, but also by other actions in races, such as performing wheelies and slides, and completing objectives set by your team. It should be noted that you can lose points as well as earn them, though not in the same quantities and nowhere near the same regularity. Knowing this, it’s simply a case of choosing which team you’d like sign with from the available offers it’s straight into four seasons of intense simulation.
Even at its default settings, SBK Generations is no Sunday drive. It’s a desperate struggle between man and machine, other men and their machines and, sometimes, against the forces of nature. This is simulation at its most direct: one push of that accelerator too hard or that back wheel hitting the grass and you’re likely to find yourself hitting the tarmac. There’s a small amount of customisation available, but by-and-large players will stick to the three simulation presets available. Needless to say, opting for the ‘Full’ setting is not to be taken lightly.
The lesser budget than the top tier of racing titles is most evident in the visual design of SBK Generations. Lifeless menu screens give way to some immaculately designed vehicles racing on sparsely populated tracks. While the motorbikes, riders and tarmac all look fantastic, there’s no denying that the surrounding environments play host to very little detail; flat backdrops and uninspiring crowds are disappointing accompaniments to the on-track action. The soundscape fares better, with incredibly accurate representations of the motorbikes and their impact upon the tarmac.
The current-generation consoles have not been kind to realistic motorbike simulations. THQ’s stunning Moto GP series was soon pushed by the wayside as Capcom turned their hand to the sport, only to find themselves undermined by the expectations THQ had already installed in their fanbase. SBK Generations isn’t the first offering in the genre by Milestone, but it is arguably their best. Given the lack of competition this year it’ll hopefully gain the audience that THQ and Capcom couldn’t make work for them, and deliver an even higher calibre production in years to come.