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Castrol Honda Superbikes
"This game is by far the best of its type on the market at the moment" Image Loading...
Developer: Interactive
Distributor: THQ
Game Type: Racing
Review Date: Sept 99
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Setting the Scene:
 
      Motorbike fans around the world can rejoice in the first true PC-style simulation of this motorsport on our console. The game has been officially licensed and developed with assistance from the Castrol Honda team, so the game should hopefully feel very close to the real thing - minus the wind in your hair and bugs on your visor.
 
Sound and Vision:
 
      The visuals are similar in style to the Jet Moto series of racers in that they both look like the TV contrast has been turned right up to maximum. The amount of detail in the background is stunning and easily matches that present in Gran Turismo. However this is where the G.T similarities end as there are virtually no trackside objects to speak of, while the small amount that does bother to show up 'pops up' from nowhere and then 'breaks up' at will.

The feeling of speed that the graphics engine generates is only acceptable because of the limitations within the game, but its nothing like the bullet-like pace of games such as Moto Racer.

Image Loading...The racing views offered are: On the bike (looking at the instruments), on the riders shoulder, just behind the bike (at low level), behind the bike (at a raised level). I found the last option offered the best vision for cornering.

Everything about the in-game graphics is functional rather than smooth. The bikes themselves look fine, but glitch and twitch as they are animated. The 'fall-off' the bike animations took me back to those days of Road Rash on the old 16 bit systems of the early nineties - delayed, rigid and a real disappointment for a 32 bit system.

The sounds are basically limited to the engine noises of the bikes. These are great until hitting maximum revs where they begin to whine in a short sample loop that becomes annoying after a while.
 
Playability:
 
      Immediately noticeable is that Castrol Honda Superbike World Champions has been ported from the PC version. The game has all of those extra little details that are usually glossed over in PlayStation simulations.

Image Loading...There's as a pre-game set-up screen that allows the race difficulty to be tailored to suit your ability. Forget EASY, MEDIUM or HARD - opponents ability can be manually selected (5 steps) as can the length of race (3,5, 10 or Full Race Laps).

There are on/off switches for computer assistance on braking and steering. Damage can also be toggled on/off or be limited to a minor amount. This includes problems such as prevention of performing wheelies under hard acceleration, stopping the back wheel from stepping out and kicking the rider off the bike like an angry mule, and preventing the engine from overheating when left at high revs for too long.

You can even choose to have arrows showing which direction the next corner turns (which is a great help when learning new tracks), and prevent all timed stop/go penalties for illegal driving being requested.

Image Loading...As the opponents' difficulty levels are changed from Rookie through to Pro, the computer will automatically adjust all of the above settings. The idea is that more control of the bike is gradually given as competence is gained, with the lower settings providing an almost arcade feel to the game.

A word of warning… if you regard yourself as even a moderately good racer, then make sure the manually override for the BRAKE and STEERING assistance is switched OFF immediately. These do little more than completely ruin the 'simulation' aspect of the game, which may be fine for younger gamers and blind players, but it almost turned me off this game for good..!

Image Loading...When finished playing around with all of these options it's time to move on to selecting a game mode. New gamers should go straight to the TRAINER option, pick a track and then follow an instructor around the track a few times to learn the racing line and braking zones. I haven't seen anything like this on the PlayStation before and would recommend that other game developers take note of this highly useful feature.

The PRACTICE option caters for racing around an empty track, but as it doesn't feature the standard ghost racer (best lap copied and ridden by an opaque drive-thru' image) it's a pretty pointless option to have included.

Image Loading...SINGLE RACE and CHAMPIONSHIP are of course the main options. They offer the chance to race against a friend (split screen mode), or seven computer controlled racers around each of the 13 different tracks from across the world. Selecting one of these areas moves forward to yet another options screen to PRACTICE, QUALIFY or RACE. More essentially it allows time to adjust the specific set-up of the bike for each track.

Modifications range from an AUTO or MANUAL gearbox, 10 different tire compounds and 21 slightly altered gear ratios. Your favourite setting for each track may be saved onto memory card so as to minimise track-testing time in the future.

Image Loading...The 2 PLAYER mode is a one-on-one split screen affair. As with most racers that offer this mode, lack of any computer riders mean that unless both players are of a similar ability, they may never see each other on the track once the race has started.

As we have come to expect from a racing game, the Analog controller works much better that the standard digital pad (and eases the thumb strain).

Damage and tire wear indicators will offer a basic idea of the bikes current condition. Minor scrapes usually mean that it starts constantly leaning over to one side making cornering more difficult. Another smash will see the actual power output of the bike begin to reduce, with further damage resulting in slower gear changes and occasional power cut-outs.

Track design is great, offering a nice mixture between all-out top speed raceways (there's even an oval) and tight twisting tracks, which demand breaking points to be memorised at each corner or suffer the consequences.
 
Game Options:
 
      This is a single disk game for 1or 2 Players. It is compatable with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).

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Staff Opinions  
Jim: "The biggest thrill of actually racing a motorbike has to be taking tight corners at high speed and controlling the inevitable 'kick' from the bike as the rubber starts to loose grip on the tarmac. This level of realism has been wonderfully incorporated into the game and greatly adds to its playability.

Unfortunately though, there are far too many signs that this game has been rushed out. The 'crash' animations and collision detection are both moronic, resulting in a massive amount of frustration and cries of 'No Way' as the rider is flung from his bike like a twitching mannequin, simply for touching a kerb that was rideable on the very last lap. What makes matters worse is when an obstruction is hit full on at high speed and the rider somehow manages to stay glued to his bike..!

The other major gripe is that due to the wide tracks and the fact that the bikes are so skinny, your opponents may as well not even be there, as they are overtaken with ease. Worse still is that you can blast ahead of them at the start and never see them again (when staying on the track yourself) for the entire race. Alternatively, after a couple of crashes the bike becomes so damaged that there is no chance to compete the race leaving retirement as the only option. All in all, it felt more like a mental battle against the game programmers rather than other racers.

This game is by far the best of its type on the market at the moment, but it could have been a classic if all of the glitches had been ironed out... Roll on Castrol Honda Superbikes 2 "
Graphics: 14/20
Playability: 39/50
Sound: 4/10
Lastability: 18/20
Overall: 75%
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Reader Opinions  
     

 
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