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Platforms: Xbox 360, PSP, PC, PS2, PS3 due Sept - Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Look - I'm not suggesting for a minute that there isn't room for another motorcycle racing game to compete against Climax's moderately successful MotoGP series. What I would say is that I'm not sure Black Bean Games has gone the right way about it. Somewhere out there there's a space for a bike version of Gran Turismo or Forza, a biker GRID, even a bikes only take on Project Gotham Racing.
Anyone who has ever seen the Isle of Man TT in action will be aware that motorcycle racing is a sport with serious video game potential. But is there a huge audience waiting for a painstakingly accurate simulation of this one particular motorcycle racing championship? I'm sure there is, but I'm not sure it's going to be all that big.
To be fair, SBK-08 makes some effort to be accessible. It has instant action and quick race modes, while the handling by default is a little more accessible than it is in MotoGP - you're not being asked to handle the motion of bike and rider simultaneously straight off. Even so, with the realism settings dialled down and all of the driving aids switched on this still isn't a game you can pick up and play in the way you can, say, a Forza 2 or GT5 Prologue. It takes time to get used to the less forgiving cornering of your bike, and the unnerving possibility that you might actually have to slow down to take tighter bends.
Of course it might help if the driving aids were as effective as they were in Forza, and if the tutorial was actually a tutorial and not a series of racing tests that prove you can't play the game without informing you how you might get better. If you've never played MotoGP or any other bike racing game, you can expect the first one or two hours of play to be a mildly dispiriting experience that fits somewhere between watching your team lose and having someone you've asked out ignore your phone calls in the index of human misery.
Still, you might get good at it eventually. If so, the heart of the single player mode is the 2008 Superbike World Championship, played out over a series of race weekends (which you can enjoy independently should you wish). If you're a Superbike nut you'll be delighted to find the whole experience replicated in some detail, with multiple qualifying, practice and warm up sessions to work your way through before competing in two actual races, and all the teams and riders of the official 2008 season. Those of us who aren't Superbike nuts will find it all a little bit dull. After all, how many hours do you want to spend racing around the same track before you get sick and want to skip a session or two. Luckily, you can do exactly that.
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