If I’m honest I’d forgotten all about the Moto Racer franchise and with good reason, it’s been over 15 years since the third game was released (although there was apparently a Nintendo DS version of the game from the same developers as this). Since then motor racing games have come a long way – be it as side-scrolling stunt games a la Trials HD; or more arcade titles like MX vs. ATV, another survivor of the PS2 era that has been resurrected (somewhat successfully, at least in terms of gameplay) by THQ Nordic; and even motorbike simulations like Ride 2 and Valentino Rossi: The Game – which means Moto Racer 4 has a lot of ground to cover.
Developed under the supervision of the original Moto Racer designer Paul Cuisset, Moto Racer 4 delivers high-speed races and a white-knuckle ride that gleefully ignores the rules of fair play in favour of ruthless aggression – think Tron‘s light cycles meets Road Rash! I mention those two icons of motorbike racing as those have seemingly had a huge influence on this new racing title: the action is as fast and furious as Road Rash and in a strange design choice, hitting turbo (activated by pulling a wheelie, aka a simple one button press) sees weird light beams fly out the back of your racers outfit a la Tron. And ehen it comes to racing outfits… well, the suits look like they’ve stepped straight out of a Power Rangers/Super Sentai show, right down to a very familiar red body suit and mask!
Speaking of graphics, they are Moto Racer 4‘s biggest downfall. Whilst ths game has been released on current-gen consoles (and works with PSVR for those lucky enough to afford it) it doesn’t even slightly push current technology – in fact graphically this racer looks like it has been ported over from iOS or Android platforms, it’s that simplistic. In fact Gameloft’s Asphalt 8, made for mobile and tablets, looks more impressive! And the graphics are nothing compared to the terrible controls – oversteering is COMPLETELY unavoidable – and odd physics, which mean that sometimes your bike feels like it’s floating above/off the road and out of your control.
Thankfully, if the graphics leave something to be desired there is at least plenty of game modes, besides the standard career and quick play/arcade, to go at (not including the VR aspects of the game available to those with PSVR):
- KING OF THE HILL – Each rider starts with the same time on the clock. While time runs down for the leader, the other racers get extra turbo. The first player to get their counter down to zero wins the race.
- LAST MAN STANDING – The last player to pass each checkpoint is eliminated.
- SURVIVAL – The race starts with very little time on the clock. Players gain time by passing the checkpoints. In single-player mode, the aim is to survive for a specific length of time. In multi-player mode, the winner is the last player with time left on their clock.
- CATCH-UP – The player’s opponents begin the race with a head start and the player must be in first place at a specific time.
- WOLF PACK – The player begins the race with a head start and must maintain it for a certain length of time without being overtaken.
- GHOST BIKE – The player starts the race in last place and is not allowed to deviate from the road or collide with others. Finishing in a specified minimum place.
- GOLDEN HELMET – Competitors must earn the one golden helmet up for grabs during the race. To do this, they must be first past the initial checkpoint. If the player wearing the golden helmet is knocked by another player, s/he surrenders it to that player. If a player falls off their bike, s/he loses the helmet and it is automatically sent to the next checkpoint.
Unfortunately – thanks to the games simple graphics, bizarre physics and dodgy controls – it would seem Moto Racer 4 might be the end of this just-resurrected franchise. If you’re a motorbike game fan and REALLY want to give this one a go, wait till it hits the bargain bins at least.
Moto Racer 4 is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.