Nor do the visuals help. As you can see from the screenshots, SBK-08 does two things well, and those are the bike and the rider. MotoGP 07 did both slightly better, but it’s still hard to fault their modelling, texturing or animation – at least until you see the rider’s face up close.
Everything else, from the lighting to the background scenery, is horrifically flat and bland. We all know that real race courses are low on spectacular scenery, but even the grass textures, stands and trees look artificial. In fact, the last appear to have been rendered using the old two flat triangles in a cross technique that should have died out in the PS2 era.
Stands full of inanimate spectators should also have died a death by now, and while it seems like a good idea to show the ‘umbrella girls’ adding glamour to the start of the race, it’s not such a good idea when they look as graceful and lifelike as department store dummies. At times SBK-08 looks less like an Xbox 360 racing game, and more like an upscaled original Xbox effort.
Even the online play is less than perfect. After a field of 22 in the single player game the track looks a little empty with just eight players participating, and while the unpredictability of human opponents gives the game some much needed energy, players are already thin on the ground. What games there are seem to be dominated by hardcore players with a yen for enforcing manual gear changes or higher realism levels. It’s not the most newbie friendly online racer.
Now, fans of the Superbike championships with the time and dedication to master the handling may be willing to turn a blind eye to all this. If they do they can happily concentrate on the genuine strengths of the game: a solid handling model and all the courses, teams and riders of the real championship.
The rest of us will be left nonplussed, and wondering why Black Bean didn’t follow MotoGP’s lead and build in alternative game modes, like MotoGP’s excellent Extreme mode, to keep a wider audience happy. SBK-08 just about has what it takes to please the serious fans, but anyone just looking for a two-wheeled racer would still be better off with MotoGP 07. Anyone just looking for a decent racing game, meanwhile, should definitely look elsewhere.
With its low calibre visuals and poor AI, SBK-08 offers little to anyone outside of the hardcore Superbike audience. MotoGP remains the king of two-wheeled racers.