Motorbike racing may not instantly appeal to everyone, and when you consider that many of the previous bike racers have been a bit iffy to say the least, then you'd be quite right to shy away from yet another title in the genre expecting it to be a poor imitation of F1 on two wheels - but give THQ's Moto GP Ultimate Racing Technology a chance, and you'll almost definitely be hooked for months.
The first thing you'll notice when you start up Moto GP is the stunning graphics and presentation, and although graphics don't make a game great on their own, the outstanding work that has gone in to this title makes the graphics one of the most talked about features when anyone sees the game in action.
To start with you've got real footage from Moto GP races on the intro movie and menu screens, of which are very easy to navigate and quickly get to where you want, making getting in to the racing action as easy as could be. Once you're on the track you'll instantly notice how stunning the representation of the bike, scenery, track and sky really is, with every bump in the tarmac visible in the high resolution textures, the sun reflecting off the bikes immaculate paintwork, and generally looking like you've been treated to a visual box of delights.
Control of your bike is initially very tricky, with the left direction pad used to make the rider either lean forward or sit upright and the right direction stick used for accelerating and braking. Added to this you've got the left and right trigger buttons being used to control the front and rear brakes independently, meaning there's quite a combination of controls to learn, but once you do you'll find that there's immense satisfaction that can be sought from controlling your bike around the tricky corners and through the tightly packed action that your fellow opponents put up.
Racing action takes place in several modes including quick race, arcade championship, grand prix series, training, and time trial, plus the multiplayer option which allows for either split screen action or LAN link-up with 16 consoles - that's if you can find 16 mates who are prepared to lug their Xbox and TV screen over for a few hours gaming. Of course Xbox Live's broadband gaming service will solve this sort of thing and allow you to play 16 consoles without needing everyone in the same room, but sadly Moto GP doesn't support online play with this version - maybe (hopefully) we'll see this in a sequel.
Before you can crown yourself as world champion you have to do a series of training tasks, which involve everything from basic bike riding aspects, right up to some more tricky racing which will take several attempts to get right.
In game music is acceptable, but you'll probably find that you either want to hear the roar of your bike and the other competitors, or rip a selection of tracks from CD to your Xbox's hard drive and listen to those instead. The bike sounds seem fairly good, and there's full surround sound with you able to hear which side competitors bikes are approaching from, however the engines don't seem to scream past you quite as they seem to in real life, and sound slightly too dull and weak in comparison.
Moto GP Ultimate Racing Technology is a stunning game which appears to really use the Xbox's full technical features to the maximum, with the most impressive aspect being that of the visuals which are simply stunning, and become even more so as you progress further through the game unlocking the hidden filters and modes such as wireframe, cel-shaded, sepia tint, and a mind blowingly great sketch effect, and videos of real-life racing action.
Xbox owners have already been treated to the stunning RalliSport Challenge, so it seems like we're being spoilt by having another racer which is so excellent in every way possible - the amount of extra hidden features in Moto GP really do make the game one that you'll want to play until your thumbs almost fall off, and then pass the pad to your mates to show them the stunning things your Xbox can do when developers like Climax really put their heads together and deliver something as stunning as Moto GP.Overall score: 9 out of 10
Players: 4 (plus console LAN link-up)
Recommended Price: £44.99
Available: NowBuy Moto GP for the Xbox from Amazon